Tag Archives: lobbyists

Why Occupy Wall Street? Here’s why.

The surprise $5.00 debit card fee banks recently imposed on their customers is going away.  Bank of American, Sun Trust, JP Morgan Chase and others are now trying to tiptoe off the front pages.

We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee,” David Darnell, the bank’s co-chief operating officer, said in a statement.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co last week decided to cancel test programs, while SunTrust Banks Inc and Regions Financial Corp said on Monday they would end monthly charges and reimburse customers.

For most Americans, the fee was a step too far from those ‘job creators’ who earlier wallowed in ugly, amoral behaviors screwing not just us but each other, and sent us into a four year trailspin of a recession that could take as long as a decade to repair.

This time, I think those ‘bankers’ peeked out their windows and were a bit frightened by what they saw.  So I’ll call this a victory for Occupy Wall Streeters around the nation and around the world.

Thomas Friedman (forever the inspiration for the wartime Friedman Unit, or the F.U. for short), reminds us this week about one Citigroup transgression for which they’ve just been fined $285million (chump change these days), a transgression emblematic of the duplicitous and amoral behavior that hurt us all so badly.

. . .  with one hand, Citibank sold a package of toxic mortgage-backed securities to unsuspecting customers — securities that it knew were likely to go bust — and, with the other hand, shorted the same securities — that is, bet millions of dollars that they would go bust.     

According to the SEC complaint:

. . . Citigroup exercised “significant influence” over choosing which $500 million of the $1 billion worth of assets in the deal, and the global bank deliberately chose collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.’s, built from mortgage loans almost sure to fail. According to The Wall Street Journal, the S.E.C. complaint quoted one unnamed C.D.O. trader outside Citigroup as describing the portfolio as resembling something your dog leaves on your neighbor’s lawn. “The deal became largely worthless within months of its creation,” The Journal added. “As a result, about 15 hedge funds, investment managers and other firms that invested in the deal lost hundreds of millions of dollars, while Citigroup made $160 million in fees and trading profits.”

For decades we’ve let them indulge in the worst form of crony capitalism without the rule of law that should govern such institutions. Unbridled greed took hold. And it’s been destroying capitalism. It is anti-capitalist.

Friedman goes on:

. . . .what happened to us? Our financial industry has grown so large and rich it has corrupted our real institutions through political donations. As Senator Richard Durbin. . .  bluntly said in a 2009 radio interview, despite having caused this crisis, these same financial firms “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they, frankly, own the place.”       

Our Congress today is a forum for legalized bribery. One consumer group using information from Opensecrets.org calculates that the financial services industry spent $2.3 billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990 to 2010, which was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined.

We can’t afford this any longer.

Indeed we cannot. We now stand witness to the destruction of what it took us 250 years to build.

I don’t see anyone with power stepping up, leaving it up to the people.  And, no matter the tired 1960’s stereotypes the right is so enthralled with, that is why we have Occupy Wall Street.

Weiner’s a fool but there’s more here than meets the eye

The bigotbasher at The Conservative Lie had a good post this week on the scandal-de-jour as it relates to other interesting events in our national life – he speculates about why Weiner’s predilection for adolescent sexual behavior came out at this time and what that might have to do with Justice Thomas and Obamacare and Citizens’ United and a recent letter Weiner wrote Thomas saying he should recuse himself on the Obamacare and charging him with a financial conflict of interest on Citizens’ United.

Speaking truth to power can have terrible consequences (power of course means the monied interests). For instance, I’ve always believed:

  • Elliot Spitzer’s fascination with prostitutes was known in political and financial circles, but it wasn’t till the old  Sheriff of Wall Street gained some regulatory power as Governor that it all hit the front pages.
  • Julian Assange’s transformation from internet bad boy to international criminal happened after he announced the pending release of damning documents relating to the practices of Bank of America.

Also, while looking for an image  to use here, I came across this story at NEWS ONE: For Black America.

For months, Rep. Weiner has prompted Thomas to disclose the money his wife, Virginia Thomas made working for Liberty Central, a political organization that has openly opposed President Obama’s health care reform agenda. According to Weiner, Mrs. Thomas’ political affiliations put the justice’s impartiality on the bench in question.

Details of Virginia Thomas’ salary and other payments were disclosed Friday night as the press and most Americans prepared for the Memorial Day weekend.

But guess what happened the next day and dominated the news cycle for the next week? Yup. Never really saw that Ginny Thomas story anywhere.

Here’s the letter Weiner wrote Thomas that precipitated the document release by Ginny Thomas.

The Honorable Justice Clarence Thomas
United States Supreme Court Building
1 First Street Northeast
Washington D.C., DC 20543
Dear Justice Thomas:

As an Associate Justice, you are entrusted with the responsibility to exercise the highest degree of discretion and impartiality when deciding a case. As Members Continue reading