Sunday, October 19, 2008

CRASH TALK SUNDAY OCT 19

Tony Benn, Znet - "THE great inter-war slumps were not acts of God or of blind forces. They were the sure and certain result of the concentration of too much economic power in the hands of too few men. These men had only learned how to act in the interest of their own bureaucratically-run private monopolies which may be likened to totalitarian oligarchies within our democratic state, They had and they felt no responsibility to the nation."

These words are from the 1945 Labour manifesto Let Us Face The Future which brilliantly identified the very same crisis which is now described as a "credit crunch" as if it were a mere hiccup in an otherwise wonderful neo-liberal globalized world which could be corrected with a vast subsidy from the taxpayers to put the Wall Street casino and its partners worldwide back into profit. It reminded me of the fact that when slavery was abolished it was the slave owners, and not the slaves, who received compensation from the government of the day.

Perhaps more important - and never mentioned in the media - is that all the news we get every day and every hour is all about the bankers while presidents, prime ministers and other elected leaders of the world have been reduced to the role of mere commentators who are expected to supply taxpayers' money whenever it is needed to bail out the wealthy.

Indeed, what we are watching is nothing less than the steady transfer of real political power from the polling station to the market and from the ballot to the wallet - reversing the democratic gains we have made over the last century when we were able, increasingly, to use our votes to shape our economic future. . .

We have been told every day by the media that we should put our faith in the market and that elected governments are the problem and not the answer and, for that reason, should not interfere.

These ideas began to emerge in the political mainstream when Margaret Thatcher came to power and in 1994 "new" Labor adopted them as the basis of its own approach which explains why she once described "new" Labor as her "greatest achievement".. . .

Carl Bloice, Black Commentator - An estimated 7,000 people are losing their homes every day. The number are scary enough but it's not hard to imagine the fear and anxiety that grips the individuals and families that have lost, or are about to lose, their living space and with it - for most - their financial resources built up over their working lives. Millions of people who have never missed a mortgage payment are threatened with the loss of the value their homes. As economist Dean Baker recently noted, 'A whole cohort of workers is now facing retirement with no wealth.'. . .

And, it's not just homeowners that are affected. When the sheriff in Chicago recently announced he was suspending evictions of people being ordered out of their dwelling it was mostly renters he was concerned about, people living in apartment building that had been foreclosed upon. . .

As the powers-that-be steadfastly fail to summon up the political will (courage) to effectively confront the foreclosure crisis, efforts are being stepped up to divert attention from its actual cause and direct blame away from those responsible. The most pernicious of these efforts is the assertion that working class people of color are responsible for the situation. . .

Working class African Americans, Latinos and Asians are not the source of this crisis; they are its victims. The perpetrators of the massive con game played with the nation's economy at stake are the banks and mortgage companies and the agencies of government that encouraged them in their nefarious activity. President Bush was only partly right; the country didn't 'build too many houses,' it built more houses than people could afford and the only way to get people to purchase them was to entice or trick them into credit arrangements that could not be sustained.

And make no mistake about it, black people were targeted for 'subprime' mortgages. Even when they could afford better loan terms they were often directed toward the riskier variety because these were more profitable for the creditors and their agents. . .

'If a quick consensus is required, why not include provisions to stop the source of bleeding, to aid the millions of Americans that are losing their homes?' wrote economist Joseph Stiglitz October 1 in a TheNation.com article: 'Here's a Better Bailout Plan.' 'Why not spend as much on them as on Wall Street? Do they still believe in trickle-down economics, when for the past eight years money has been trickling up to the wizards of Wall Street? Why not enact bankruptcy reform, to help Americans write down the value of the mortgage on their overvalued home? No one benefits from these costly foreclosures.'

'It's unacceptable that lawmakers have yet to come out squarely in favor of bold homeowner relief in the bailout bill,' The New York Times said editorially last month as the Department of the Treasury bailout bill was making it torturous way through Congress. . .

'Many of the assets that Mr. Paulson wants to buy with the $700 billion have gone sour because they are tied to mortgages that have defaulted or are at risk of default. Unless homeowners get some help - and it's a pittance compared to what Mr. Paulson wants to give to bankers - the downward spiral of defaults, foreclosures and tumbling home prices will continue, which could push down the value of those assets even further.'

Bloomberg - Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. is the subject of three federal criminal probes and at least 12 subpoenas of individuals to testify before grand juries, according to a lawyer for the bank that last month filed the largest bankruptcy in history. Lead Lehman bankruptcy lawyer Harvey Miller said Oct. 16 in federal court in Manhattan that the investigations were launched by New York U.S. attorneys in Brooklyn and Manhattan as well as in Newark, New Jersey. They are focusing in part on Lehman's role in the $330 billion auction-rate securities market and possible crimes associated with its $6 billion June stock issue, according to a person familiar with the case who requested anonymity. . . "There's been an outcry from people in the streets, and that puts pressure on prosecutors to do something,'' said Todd Harrison, a former New York federal prosecutor now with Washington-based Patton Boggs. "They're going to be looking at all aspects of the credit crisis, including the rating agencies and the mortgage lenders who packaged and sold securities.''


NY Times - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is struggling to find enough agents and resources to investigate criminal wrongdoing tied to the country's economic crisis, according to current and former bureau officials. The bureau slashed its criminal investigative work force to expand its national security role after the Sept. 11 attacks, shifting more than 1,800 agents, or nearly one-third of all agents in criminal programs, to terrorism and intelligence duties. Current and former officials say the cutbacks have left the bureau seriously exposed in investigating areas like white-collar crime, which has taken on urgent importance in recent weeks because of the nation's economic woes. . . Since 2004, F.B.I. officials have warned that mortgage fraud posed a looming threat, and the bureau has repeatedly asked the Bush administration for more money to replenish the ranks of agents handling non-terrorism investigations, according to records and interviews. But each year, the requests have been denied, with no new agents approved for financial crimes, as policy makers focused on counterterrorism.

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