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Banking Bandits Get Their Reward

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Posted on Aug 4, 2009
banking protest
AP / Mark Lennihan

Good luck with that: A protest sign is held up outside the Bank of America Tower, left, in New York on April 28.

By Robert Scheer

By now everybody must know that the top banking executives responsible for our economic meltdown have no shame. Otherwise they would not have dared give themselves such hefty bonuses as a deeply perverse reward for actions that caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs and homes. The $33 billion that the executives of the nine banks bailed out with taxpayer funds paid themselves in 2008 is all one needs to know about the depth of their amorality.   

But it also speaks volumes about the inefficiency of a system of rewards that has nothing to do with performance. “No Rhyme or Reason: the ‘Heads I Win, Tails You Lose’ Bank Bonus Culture” is the title of the report by New York’s Attorney Gen. Andrew M. Cuomo unmasking this scandal. It concludes: “ ... compensation for bank employees has become unmoored from the banks’ financial performance.”

That would not be of public concern if bank executives and their stockholders would bear the full price of such folly. But not one of those top nine banks that distributed bonuses of at least $1 million to each of 5,000 top executives faced the consequences on their own. Instead, taxpayers were called upon to pony up what will eventually be trillions of dollars to save the banks and the nation from this disaster. As the Cuomo report notes:

“Two firms, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch suffered massive loses of more than $27 billion at each firm. Nevertheless, Citigroup paid out $5.33 billion, in bonuses, and Merrill paid $3.6 billion in bonuses. Together, they lost $54 billion, paid out nearly $9 billion in bonuses and then received TARP bailouts totaling $55 billion. For three other firms—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and J.P. Morgan Chase—2008 bonus payments were substantially greater than the banks’ net income.”

In each instance, those bonuses on average more than doubled earnings and were in turn more than doubled by the government bailout in TARP funds. Those funds, and the nonrefundable tens of billions passed on through the AIG bailout and other government programs, come from the very taxpayers already reeling from a banking collapse brought on by reckless lending practices.

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Yet the $306 billion in toxic assets that Citigroup—a leader in the irresponsible practices that created such “assets”—managed to pile up are also now guaranteed by taxpayer funds. And being on the public dole didn’t prevent Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit from “earning” $38 million last year.

The Merrill Lynch bonuses were paid as the company was about to collapse. It was saved at the last minute by being purchased for $50 billion by Bank of America in a deal engineered by the federal government and facilitated by $45 billion in bailout funds to BofA. On Monday, Bank of America agreed to pay $33 million in penalties to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle an SEC complaint that BofA had deceived shareholders about those billions in bonuses.

One of those handsomely rewarded was Thomas Montag, now with BofA, who received a $39.4 million bonus for his work at Merrill Lynch, a reward for his performance as Merrill’s trading and sales chief, a position in which he presided over the billions in mortgage acquisitions that fueled the company’s downfall.

The banks, considered “too big to fail,” were quickly showered with enormous amounts of money, contributing to a U.S. deficit expected to grow to $1.86 trillion this year. But homeowners are not too big to fail, and they were left to the tender mercies of the very bankers who swindled them with flaky mortgages.

On Tuesday, the Treasury Department criticized the major banks for their abysmally weak effort to aid distressed homeowners who are more than 60 days delinquent on their mortgages. Only 9 percent of those who qualify for assistance under President Obama’s foreclosure prevention plan have been entered into trial programs to determine whether their mortgages will be modified. BofA, one of the major holders of distressed mortgages, has entered only a scant 4 percent of its eligible mortgage holders in the program.

Citigroup has managed to begin the process with 15 percent of those eligible, while Wells Fargo has begun with only 6 percent of its eligible borrowers. Compare that snail speed in helping folks keep their homes with the alacrity with which the federal government responded in bailing out the banks when they got into trouble.

The choice from the beginning of this debacle has been: Do we bail out the banks that caused the problem in the hopes that they will help ordinary folks or do we start with government relief for distressed mortgage holders? The decision to aid the bankers first was based on the assumption that for the first time in their lives they would do the honorable thing and surrender space in the lifeboats to those most vulnerable. 

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”


Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at www.truthdig.com/robert_scheer.



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By j_obee, February 2, 2010 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

The actions of the bank ceo’s has been a disgrace.  Just another example of the rich getting richer because of power, not performance.  They take these huge bonuses and will not help bailout a homeowner looking to modify their home mortgage because that is too risky.  How these people sleep at night, I don’t know.

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By Virginia777, August 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm Link to this comment

to TAO Walker:

I think that Robert Sheer is a member of the species homo excellentus!!

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By Virginia777, August 7, 2009 at 11:44 pm Link to this comment

to the beer doctor:

thanks so much for the link! I had not read Emma Goldman in a long time, and this is a great essay.

Look what she says here about her favorite philosophy, Anarchism:

“Anarchism alone stresses the importance of the individual, his possibilities and needs in a free society. Instead of telling him that he must fall down and worship before institutions, live and die for abstractions, break his heart and stunt his life for taboos, Anarchism insists that the center of gravity in society is the individual—that he must think for himself, act freely, and live fully…Freedom is, therefore, the cornerstone of the Anarchist philosophy.”

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By doublestandards/glasshoues, August 6, 2009 at 11:31 am Link to this comment

Jobs recovery may take years: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/
Instant relief for wall street; someday maybe for main street.  After signing over Fort Knox and the public treasury to wall street, congress is “considering” an extension of benefits for those whose unemployment compensation is running out.

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By liecatcher, August 6, 2009 at 9:47 am Link to this comment

To:  Dabbie, August 5 at 6:24 pm

Hey Dabbie:

If Charley Reese was available I’d ask him what about the 300 who pull the strings of the 545.

A lot of time has passed, & some things have changed since this article written by Reese for the

Orlando Sentinel newspaper on March 7, 1985 under the title Looking For Someone To Blame?

Congress Is Good Place To Start .

One thing that hasn’t changed is the desire & plan for world domination which has been well

researched & documented by John Coleman in his book: “THE CONSPIRATORS HIERARCHY:

THE COMMITTEE OF 300, 4TH EDITION”.

If you read this book, you would understand why Charley Reese’s statement :

“Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!” is unrealistic.

While it’s too late for the truth to set us free, the Coleman book will at the very least identify

the villains & explain how they achieved their goals.

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By oldhip, August 6, 2009 at 7:51 am Link to this comment

 
Just keep the “allowing” up, and we will all deserve what is coming.

In fact, here is just a taste of what is coming.

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By prole, August 6, 2009 at 12:04 am Link to this comment

“The choice from the beginning of this debacle has been: Do we bail out the banks that caused the problem in the hopes that they will help ordinary folks or do we start with government”...nationalization of the banks as a giant first step in socializing the entire economy. To pose the choice as to “surrender space in the lifeboats to those most vulnerable” is a pathetic dimunition of what is an historical opportunity to wrest control of the levers of financial and political power from the tiny capitalist clique at the top. Instead of talking socialism here, we’re fretting over band-aid bailouts for either usurious lenders or reckless borrowers. Perhaps we should all get out of the metaphorical lifeboat mentality and start thinking about steering the whole ship of state in a much different direction. Face it, if you bail out a bunch of deadbeat consumers who can’t manage their mortgage payments, the public money is just going to wind up back in the hands of private bankers in the end, anyway.  Capitalism is not an honorable system based on honorable intentions and there’s no reason in the world to expect any of its prominent practioners to behave in their official capacities according to any such motives. According to the warped ideology of free-marketeers, pursuing one’s own self-interest is supposed to result in the best social outcomes through the legerdemain of the famous ‘invisible hand’ of the market. It’s never been any secret that capitalism is inherently “amoral” and “the $33 billion that the executives of the nine banks bailed out with taxpayer funds paid themselves in 2008” should come as no surprise. New York’s Attorney Gen. Andrew M. Cuomo - or any other ambitious NY pol - won’t do anything about it any more serious than issuing muckraking reports with corny titles like, ‘Heads I Win, Tails You Lose’. He might just as well have titled his report ‘Republicans, bankers win - Democrats, public lose’. So the gullible public will always be left to the “tender mercies of the very bankers who swindled them” as long as the amoral system itself remains intact. That’s what the bailout is all about, not just saving Citigroup and Merrill and BoA - but about saving the system itself. And bailing out flaky homeowmers wouldn’t touch that. You can think big or you can stay trapped in the same vicious amoral system. Despite isolated calls to nationalize the banks there is one big obstacle now that stands in the way, and his name is Barack Obama. In an ABC interview in Feb., Obama nixed the suggestion, explaining, “Sweden, on the other hand, had a problem like this. They took over the banks, nationalized them, got rid of the bad assets, resold the banks and, a couple years later, they were going again. So you’d think looking at it, Sweden looks like a good model. Here’s the problem; Sweden had like five banks. We’ve got thousands of banks. You know, the scale of the U.S. economy and the capital markets are so vast and the problems in terms of managing and overseeing anything of that scale, I think, would — our assessment was that it wouldn’t make sense. And we also have different traditions in this country.Obviously, Sweden has a different set of cultures in terms of how the government relates to markets and America’s different. And we want to retain a strong sense of that private capital fulfilling the core — core investment needs of this country.And so, what we’ve tried to do is to apply some of the tough love that’s going to be necessary, but do it in a way that’s also recognizing we’ve got big private capital markets and ultimately that’s going to be the key to getting credit flowing again.” Private capital markets are presumbly also the key to getting re-elected. So if we’re ever going to overcome the amorality of the present system, we’ll have to overcome the amorality of Obama’s “tough love” philosophy in this and many other policy areas.
.  .

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By rottencommierat, August 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment

I liked the piece until I got to the end and read “The decision to aid the bankers first was based on the assumption that for the first time in their lives they would do the honorable thing and surrender space in the lifeboats to those most vulnerable.”

The actual reason to aid the bankers was, of course, campaign funding from Wall Street which let the Congress and the President (who receive more from Wall Street than any other political candidate in history)know who really runs the country.

I was let down Robert, hoping for a better concluding line.  This one could have been written by a White House speechwriter

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By Dabbie, August 5, 2009 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

545 PEOPLE by Charley Reese, journalist for 49 years.
Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.
Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits? Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.
One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress.  In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority.  They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing.  I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.
Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault.  They cooperate in this common con regardless of party. What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.  No normal human being would have the gall of a speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The president can only propose a budget.  He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.  Who is the speaker of the House?  Nancy Pelosi.  She is the leader of the majority party.  She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.
It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million can not replace 545 people who stand convicted—by present facts—of incompetence and irresponsibility.  I can’t think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.  When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.  If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red .If the Army & Marines are in IRAQ , it’s because they want them in IRAQ
If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way. There are no insoluble government problems.
Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.  Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do. Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.They, and they alone, have the power.
Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees. We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

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By truedigger3, August 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm Link to this comment

By “G"utless “W"itless Hitler, August 5 at 3:49 pm #


RE DMFD:

So you’d rather bail out a millionaire banker for being dishonest or reckless than an average citizen for being stupid?  Man!!  You are the classic waterboy-for-the-wealthy sucker!!  They love your bent-over ass.  Keep taking that broom handle and believing in that American dream, because it’s all about the puuuuuuuure merit.  I bet you own the collected works of Ayn Rand too!  What a retard!

_____________________________________________________

G&W&H,

You hit the nail right on the head.  What a sharp and to the point comment. I agree with you 100%.
But the average citizen was not stupid. He was deceived by orchestrated effort by devious, corrupt and clever banksters, real state brokers and unprecedented hype by the media.

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By SteveL, August 5, 2009 at 2:56 pm Link to this comment

Why would any private investor invest in these corporations where they actually reward themselves for failure?

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By liecatcher, August 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

Banking Bandits Get Their Reward

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090804_banking_bandits_get_their_reward/

Posted on Aug 4, 2009 By Robert Scheer

Hey Robert Scheer: You said:

“By now everybody must know that the top banking executives responsible for our economic

meltdown have no shame. Otherwise they would not have dared give themselves such hefty bonuses

as a deeply perverse reward for actions that caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs and homes.”

This is a classic non sequitur, and sadly misses the big picture.

Furthermore, the average citizen doesn’t have a clue about what is going on & who is in charge.

These banking bandits stole with arrogance & impunity, knowing they were protected

from the White House to the Out House by cabal members & corruption.

These FASCIST bankster miscreants were rewarded as they created the bubble, as they burst it,

as they destroyed their competition, & most important of all, as they watched the planned enslavement

of America take place.

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By TAO Walker, August 5, 2009 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

Robert Scheer’s latest rhetorical guided tour of a short stretch of “the rabbit hole” suffers from the gross disorientation he shares with pretty much every “individual” member of the subspecies homo domesticus.  Completely enmeshed in manufactured illusion, these hapless inmates have no way to tell exactly where they are (let alone what their exact ‘status’ is) in the industrial-strength digestive process to which they all are subject from birth….bankers and beggars alike.

So various well-meant suggestions here about “what-to-do” lack, among other things, the very critical element of clarity….admittedly not easy to come-by in the midst of so much intentionally-generated (and ‘profit’-motivated) CONfusion.  Anyone seeking some firm ground beneath their feet, from which to form and follow some organically reliable impressions of their actual circumstance (as distinguished from the toxic virtuality they’ve been induced to ‘inhabit’ in its stead), might start with a plain biological fact.  Human Beings do not occur and are not viable in Nature as “individuals.”

So-called “nuclear” families share the same fatal flaw.  These unstable faux “elements-of-society” have been CONstructed and exist only to throw-off billions of radio-activated ‘rogue’ particles (“individuals”) which are themselves designed to effect the dismemberment and eventual obliteration of the Natural Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth….and to eliminate their own pseudo-“selves,” too, in the ‘bargain’.

Of course that’s not the bill-of-goods they’re all being sold CONstantly….quite the CONtrary.  So they cling ferociously to their make-believe ‘autonomous’ IDentities, and are thus kept from coalescing into the Living Communities which are the true and only natural organic (and viable) form of Humanity.  Instead the milling masses stumble-and-stampede-around in artificial darkness, trampling each other and everything their lives depend-on into a bloody morass of increasingly poisonous sludge.

It’s bad enough our tame Sisters and Brothers are mostly so wilfully ignorant of the implications and CONsequences of the natural fact that they ARE what they eat.  They haven’t a clue what it is that’s eating them, either.

HokaHey!

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By bobbycotter1, August 5, 2009 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

I don’t understand how the government can let some banks fail, then give money to the competitors of the banks that were shut down….... The skit on the Colbert Report explained the whole situation perfectly… if anyone can find it that would be great

Adventure Travel

Travel jobs

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By Sheldon Lichter, August 5, 2009 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Scheer, you call what the banking sharpshooters have done “amoral.”  I beg to differ.  It is immoral — flat out, pure, and simple.  Of the people, by the people, and for the people?  No way.  It’s of the people’s money, by the people’s money, and for the (exploitation of) the people’s money!  Social justice is but a thin veneer.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment

RE DMFD:

So you’d rather bail out a millionaire banker for being dishonest or reckless than an average citizen for being stupid?  Man!!  You are the classic waterboy-for-the-wealthy sucker!!  They love your bent-over ass.  Keep taking that broom handle and believing in that American dream, because it’s all about the puuuuuuuure merit.  I bet you own the collected works of Ayn Rand too!  What a retard!

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By felicity, August 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm Link to this comment

DMFD - Feels good doesn’t it when all those lazy, indolent, free-lunch slackers with their fancy houses and fancy cars finally get their comeuppance.  Makes one feel so right.  And now they’re whining about losing their fancy houses?  Music to the ears. 

Be careful.  Pride is a sin.

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By truedigger3, August 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

As usual Scheer and Hedges describe a situation, most of the time very well but then, most of time say nothing on the causes and any suggested solutions.??!!
What Scheer has described is a tragedy with touch of comedy and irony.

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By Rontruth, August 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

OK DMFD. Let’s all get this straight: I advertise, online that I am offering you a loan on a single-family home. I say in my advertisements that you can have low credit scores, BK’s, even a foreclosure in your credit history. But, that doesn’t make any difference to me. One big reason I’m offering you this loan at an astounding interest rate (as of about 2 or 2 and 1/2 years ago), of 14.5% fixed.

The monthly payments are low because I offer you an interest only loan, and do not tell you so that you can understand it, that at the end of the two year period, the interest rate will switch over to an ajustable rate. Your payments will increase to whatever adustable rate is supported by your credit score, and payment history is at that time. The rates all go up, and credit score requirements also go up. You cannot quality for the adustable rate, since it is like a refinance in a way.

The lender sees that your credit scores have not gone up, even though the underwriting for such a loan has “tightened up.” You have lived in the home for at least 2 years now, maybe longer if you rented before purchasing it. You go for a “hard-money loan” that was offered to you at a considerably higher interest rate. Within a few months, you have missed a couple of payments because the hard equity lender didn’t give a crap that he financed his fees into the deal and has alreay been paid his fat-assed check, and you get the notice of default slip.

Since so many people like you have experienced similar situations, housing values have gone down as people have sold their properties to real estate “opportunity” investors, and you have now a deficiency balance that you may never be able to pay off. You are, let’s say a nurse, teacher, social worker, dietition, or some other highly educated specialist, but know little about dirty lender’s lying tricks. You lose your home through the lying advertisements of the rotten and filthy scumbag, wealthy lenders. There now. How’s that?

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By Zack Benarad, August 5, 2009 at 11:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let me get this straight, I want a place to live so I’m lied to by a loan shark about what I can afford, he’s a professional, is liscensed and knows full well that if I can’t pay it back he still earns a massive bonus. I guess I should believe him, he’s screaming that interest only, reverse mortgage, balloon scam is simply my chance for ownership of the fabled ‘Murican dream. Well he’s gotta be right, besides it’s a place to live, much better the back of my car or some run down apartment.
The realtor, the loan originator, the bank, they couldn’t have cared less because they know after they’ve earned their money, their commissions, their bonuses, it’s all going to be nicely bundled up so other people can make more money, and then when that collapses the Goverment will come and rescue us and hopefully, with enough foreclosures we can get the housing market goin’ again. Foreclosuers are more profitable and occasionally suing the stool pidgeon who signed on the fraudulent bottom line just might be worth it, we f@cked him over once, let’s grab ahold of the rest of his assests.
At the end of the big ponzi scheme the banks can rely on good ol’ American hatred to allow us the moral high ground. It was the Homeowner and their greed for a second bathroom that was immoral and anti-American. It’s the victim’s fault, they’ve caused most of the problems in this countries entire history according to the Heritage Foundation. Let me get this straight, we give big banks trillions in no strings attached welfare, but the poor SOBs who are losing huge amounts of money as well as a place to live can go to hell?

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By Sallyport, August 5, 2009 at 11:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To ask, has any ONE got the power to turn things around? is to ask the wrong question. NoONE does, but people working together can accomplish great things.  Don’t say “I can’t do anything;” go out and talk to our neighbors & friends & family; pick up a sign, get out on a street corner & wave to people. It’s a great experience and the first important positive step toward the changes that we need.

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By DMFD, August 5, 2009 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

Let me get this straight;  I want a house that I know I can’t afford, I get a loan from a bank I know I can’t pay back and then get foreclosed on and forced to move out of my house.  And I’m the victim because my dumb ass couldn’t pay it back? No.  Just because you live in America doesn’t mean you deserve anything.  Do I have a big house, boat, vacation home?  Hell no, because I can’t afford it right now. But I’m not sitting on my ass whining about someone else taking care of me either.  I’ve fought hard to get where I am and I know I’m going to have to fight harder if I want to keep succeeding.  Why is that such a bad thing.  Worrying about someone having more takes your focus off of what you need to do to make it.  Is it hard, hell yes it’s hard, but if it was easy none of you would have anything to bitch about.  Peace

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By BobZ, August 5, 2009 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Of course bankers have no shame - they will go after a dollar the way a dog goes after a steak dropped on the floor. That’s why they need regulation. Bring back the Glass- Steagel act for starters. The problem today is that we have ex-Wall Streeters monitoring current Wall Streeters. You would think the Democrats would be able to find competent help outside of lower Manhatten. We have a government run by Wall Street. Which makes the GOP claims of “socialism” look so stupid. We are getting further and further from “socialism” into something akin to “fascism-lite”.  Obama still has a lot of work ahead of him to undo the damage from the Bush Administration. Us progressives are waiting.

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By thebeerdoctor, August 5, 2009 at 11:25 am Link to this comment

re: Virginia777

To say that we are not going to take it anymore is one thing, but I am sadly reminded of that remarkable essay by Emma Goldman published in Harper’s, December 1934. A remarkable true libertarian viewpoint, radical and profoundly honest, which seems quite prophetic, when addressing this present predicament. Here is the link:
http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/Writings/Essays/lifework.html

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By Kesey Seven, August 5, 2009 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

Yo hippie4ever,

“Last night the wife said ‘oh boy when you’re dead you can’t take nothing with you but your soul.’”

I’m with you but tend to disagree on a point or two.  Your public talk of a revolution is counter-productive in the sense that it could bring a clampdown the likes of which this country has never seen.  We’re just not there yet.  This country is in bad shape but talk of revolution implies violence and we have too much of that already.

What we can do is get a plank in any party—Democratic, Republican, Independent, Green, The Memory of Ross Perot, whatever—to break up the corporate television news media. Everyone hates them. It’s a given.  And with good reason: They have abdicated their constitutional responsibility and privilege to be the final check on the checks and balances system.

A simple law would make things much better:  One company per national television news outlet.  We could see how that works, then start breaking up the rest of the media conglomerates.  It needs to happen. 

Make a distinction, though: It’s the media corporations, not the journalists, that are the problem. Journalists suffer from the same rules as the rest of us. They need income, insurance, education; they sell their souls to work in a despicable industry.

But there are many good journalists and the television news media does not have to be despicable.  It just needs to be comprised of smaller, independent companies that have the editorial leeway to reject flat-earth journalism.

“The newspapers said: ‘She’s gone to his head. They look just like to Gurus in drag.’ Christ you know it ain’t easy.”

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By felicity, August 5, 2009 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

For some reason this whole bonus etc. debacle reminds of something that occurred in California many years ago.  Union 76 was being fined by the state $30,000/day for polluting the environment.  The corporation stated publically that accepting the fine(s) was a lot cheaper than what it would cost to clean up their act so they declined to do so.

Apparently the corporation assumed that their ‘disclosure’ would do little or no damage to their public image and thus their profits.  And apparently today’s banks have made the same assumption. It’s up to us to make that ‘assumption’ wrong.  (I still won’t buy Union gas.)

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By dr wu, August 5, 2009 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

Our only hope: Wall Street collapses from its inability to keep its penis in its pants; the Pentagon dies from imperial overreach and a bad case of full-sprectrum dominance blues, and the vampiric Health Care industry chokes on the blood from its last few living subscribers.

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By Shenonymous, August 5, 2009 at 10:31 am Link to this comment

Oh crap, I messed up…again.  Hope springs eternal and I hope I fixed the bolding blunder, sorry.

hippie4ever, as a former hippie (if that is even possible, since former might refer to a husband but never hippie status), a revolution is only slightly possible in America with a group like those fanatical right-wing militia, mainly because the have nutjobs with guns and robot members.  There are different kinds of revolutions though.  First get rid of the ersatz Democrats.  That will take a local level revolution.  Their names need to be listed and all effort by Real Democrats made to remove them and replace them with Real Democrats (but first you have to find them).

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By Shenonymous, August 5, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

hippie4ever, as a former hippie (if that is even possible, since former might refer to a husband but never to hippie status), a revolution is only slightly possible in drowsy America with a group like those fanatical right-wing militia, mainly because the have nutjobs with guns and robot members.  There are different kinds of revolutions though.  First get rid of the ersatz Democrats.  That will take a local level revolution.  Their names need to be listed and all effort by Real Democrats made to remove them and replace them with Real Democrats (but first you have to find them).

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By doublestandards/glasshoues, August 5, 2009 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

http://www.troubletown.com

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By richard roe, August 5, 2009 at 10:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

when los angeles and new york reach unemployment levels comparable to detroit then the proverbial sh*t will hit the fan.  too many are still too comfortable to do anything other than complain.  when the pain becomes more than they can stand, the public will act.

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By Ivan hentschel, August 5, 2009 at 10:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m sorry, but by now, this story is so old that it has mold growing on it. There are no revelations here. OK, fine, we all know this stuff. My question is, what and when are we going to do something about it? It’s time to have a full-scale revolt against the robber barons of Wall Street and our corrupt “elected ” officials and burn down a few metaphorical buildings, then start over with some of this.  Mr. Scheer, with all due respect, stop re-pontificating and come up with an action plan that we can all sign on to. My ears hurt from the droning.

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By Eric L. Prentis, August 5, 2009 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

If Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were captain of the RMS Titanic on that fateful April night he would have made the following announcement to the 2,200 frightened passengers and crew, “I contacted Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke who checked with his steering committee, comprised of Obama/Schumer/Dodd/Frank, and the best way to handle this crisis is to save all the Wall Street bank passengers, first. Additionally, all credit cards on file have been taxed $10,000,000,000 dollars because these bankers have catastrophic CDS gambling debts and have run up a huge CDO tab at the bar. In addition, payments for the naming rights to the Mets baseball stadium, a blowout convention in Las Vegas and a professional golf tournament in Los Angeles, all sponsored by bankers, require payment. Also, your money goes toward banker employment bonuses and so that they can give out loans, only if they wish, when they are safely rescued.” Dr. L. Summers Pangloss, although an academic, boarded a lifeboat early by banker invitation, was asked to comment upon leaving and uttered, “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” Captain Geithner declared that he expected Titanic’s fortunes to improve in the second half of 2009, and amazingly, the doomed passengers and crew foolishly believed him. 

President Obama, let the old loser banks die, start a new bank with the new money, don’t throw good money after bad.

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By hippie4ever, August 5, 2009 at 10:09 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, what you propose happened after Watergate; Congress was douched and the scum ran off to Vegas and elsewhere. The problem we now face is different because the Democratic Party is now Republican Lite, and without a true opposition party, reform is impossible. Only revolution can now effect change in this country, and I doubt the Americans are informed enough to take such a step.

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By Shenonymous, August 5, 2009 at 9:40 am Link to this comment

Congress is gutless on behalf of the people.  They make up stories of the entire population (like when then say, The American People then act on their stories rather than what the majority of Real Americans want.  If a large number of Americans wailed loud enough, these law and policy makers would be drowned out, maybe drowned (just a thought since I am not a violent person!).

I still say that to get politicians to yield to the will of the people, an organized effort to remove (yank) them from office must be created.  Vote boycotters, demonstrations, actual participation rather than writing letters that do not get read, emails that get dumped upon receipt (they have a software that does that you know), and phone calls that only gets a busy signal because the phone was taken off the hook!  Are we cynical or what? 

Sheer made a perfect description of what the Washington reality is and it should not be taken mildly by the American people.  I haven’t heard of any way to get those megamoneymakers to give back the obscene amounts they made off the so-called stimulus.  The only stimulus that has happened is their pockets have been stimulated, that is beyond what they usually do when they put their hands in their pockets.

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By cognitis, August 5, 2009 at 9:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Using childish name-calling such as the Pop-Psychology “sociopaths” detects in the name-caller despair and intellectual diffidence. Those unconscious illiterate followers of Pop Psychology define as “Human” those who “Bond” well with others or those who are governed for most part only by animal emotions; while the followers define as “Sociopath” those who disjoin themselves from others in order to act rationally or those who are for most part governed by super-animal Reason. As Aristotle observed over 2000 years ago, reason disjoins Man from Beast; and Aristotle also postulated the superior Rulers to be those governed by Virtue and Reason and not beastly animal instincts or emotions. Aristotle was clearly right, since even the followers today concede the US to be governed by rational humans or “sociopaths” rather than emotional “warm and fuzzy (another Pop Psychology term)” persons; so those who childishly name-call detect their sense of inferiority and also their envy of Rational Humans.

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By Virginia777, August 5, 2009 at 9:09 am Link to this comment

to the beer doctor:

“but is anyone remotely near the kind of power needed to do something about it?”

Yes, WE are! (we have that kind of power to say we are not going to take it anymore)

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By hippie4ever, August 5, 2009 at 9:04 am Link to this comment

Americans are mostly like the Borg: they are completely dominated by the uber-culture and rely upon their enemies for nearly everything, including information. Unless the corporate media turns in on itself (and why would they?) and dispenses actual information, along with a manufactured “community outrage” the people will do nothing. After all, they’ve been conditioned since childhood via grammar school & church NOT to think for themselves. And the so-called American Dream was an isolating house in suburbia, the antithesis of community. How many Americans even know who their neighbours are, much less feel any bond?

Their experience as employees was modified from Nazi concentration camps and modeled on slavery, and voila! May I serve you more efficiently, Master? Most Americans learned their lessons well, and exist as citizens in name only.

As for these bankers being sociopaths, yes, obviously; in fact the Corporation itself is a “person” and an organized, connected sociopath. And don’t fool yourselves, the BofA is still connected to the “family” as are other criminal enterprises.

We exist to serve them, and when there’s too many of us, a disease is manufactured or a war “for democracy” is rolled out in a fanfare of media type and “righteous indignation.”

“If you think the system is working, ask someone who isn’t” was a popular phrase during the economic slump of the 1970s; it is even more pertinent in the economic collapse of our times.

Only one thought gives me comfort, and that is the hope of liberation from outside this beast called America. I hope the insurrection of individuals in free nations has a calming effect on our sociopathic system of economics and government. Yes I know it’s unlikely but it’s better than the cold comfort of “democracy.”

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By doublestandards/glasshoues, August 5, 2009 at 9:01 am Link to this comment

Citizens of this country are hostages of these corporate thugs just as the citizens of the former Soviet Union were hostages of the communist party, and we need to regain our freedom the same way they did.

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By AT, August 5, 2009 at 8:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What to do with “the snakes in suits”? They would love to hear you criticized them on paper, while they are counting their"money” or bonus from the taxpayers!

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By WriterOnTheStorm, August 5, 2009 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

For those not quite ready to storm the gates, I suggest reading Matt Taibbi’s brilliant expose of Goldman Sachs:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/28816321/the_great_american_bubble_machine

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By msgmi, August 5, 2009 at 8:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

K Street controls Captol Hill and Wall Sreet controls the Federal Reserve. Each entity operates for the benefit of the other. A concentric maize of who’s who where money talks and Main Street pays to the hilt.

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By thebeerdoctor, August 5, 2009 at 8:21 am Link to this comment

A good article to point out the outrageous, but is anyone remotely near the kind of power needed to do something about it? Certainly not President Obama, who stills buy into the idea that Summers, Geithner, Robert Rubin, are very smart guys indeed.
It is truly revolting to view television ads where banks throw out the “we are here to help you” nonsense, night after night. Very similar to the bloody health care “system”, where making a profit is more important than life itself… something taken directly from the military-industrial play book, where “cost plus” sometimes includes unknown people being shot into hamburger.
It is difficult for those marching to the beat of the corporate master drum, to grasp how cheap life is to these bastards. It is all about increasing profits. That is the beauty of socialist corporate capitalism: we have to sit and here watch how cleverly they stole all that money.

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By Rontruth, August 5, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

May I be so bold as to both agree, and disagree with what this article seems to be saying?

On one hand, the bailed out banks are making loans, but generally today in the form of either A credit, purchase money loans with greater down-payments required. On the other hand, they are refinancing people into lower monthly payment loans, which might help spending in other areas of the economy.

The obvious problem then is what can be done to help the many millions of Americans who have been tossed out of their homes because the greedy Wall Street lenders who are now the new “Welfare Queens” (or, maybe I should say “Welfare Kings” I wouldn’t want to insult them. Or, would I?) And now, now that those who still have their jobs, are paying taxes of which a portion goes to the Welfare Queens of this new economic age.

Right now, the best option would be for our government to simply educate the public, through the media that they love so much, about seller-financing in which property owners, with help from real estate brokers for a somewhat smaller fee than they normally charge, could take a down-payment and create a land contract. This is a situation where the property seller keeps the title to his property until the contract note is paid in full.

Real estate brokers and agents are usually directly connected to, and therefore could easily consult with mortgage brokers, who, if the property seller provides owner (seller) financing for a particular real estate purchaser, can advise the property seller on the best ways to set up the structure of any particular land contract note. This can be done in such ways as to benefit both the property buyer, and the property seller who will hold the contract and title to what is still his property.

There are yet, and if enough privately held real estate first position notes are created, will be more well funded note buyers who will compete to offer the highest price to purchase the note(s) from the note holder who sold his property and “took back” (holds) a first lien, recorded, contract note.
This is called “cashing-out,” or selling your interest in a note and contract, or a first mortgage or trust deed if those two options have been used to create the first lien note

Under the land contract, because the hote holder owns title until the debt is paid off in full, in many states though not all, it is somewhat easier to evict a payer who is not making the monthly payments.
By the same token, the land contract gives the note holder greater flexibility in allowing the note holder ways to work with the payer to help the payer out in various ways.

The above suggestions, and ideas, are not to be considered legal advice in any way. They are just thougts and ideas that I have read about and known others who had sold their homes to people who could not get financing from lenders.

Such note buyers always discount the value of such notes to some degree to allow for the risk inherant in owning a note that was created by an individual rather than a bank or institutional lender.

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By Kay Johnson, August 5, 2009 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

From NC-Tom: “Just in case there was any doubt, this is some pretty strong evidence that the people running these banks are probably sociopaths.”

I agree—I would add to your list, exceptionalism, elitism and narcissism. They are the “masters of the universe,” according to them—aided and abetted by our very own elected officials. 

Snakes In Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work, written by. Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., was published in May of 2006.

The numbers of sociopaths is growing in the United States. 50% of the trend is attributed to genes, and the other 50% is attributed to environment. First, the competitive marketplace encourages the behavior, and then, the players are rewarded for their behavior.

They are “snakes in suits.”

Enough said.

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By angiee79, August 5, 2009 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

Here is a quote that I think is most appropriate given the topic of this article:

“I sincerely believe… that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”—Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, 1816.

Jefferson fought HARD against the establishment of banks in this country. He knew even way back then that banks would only end up screwing people over - and we’re seeing now how right he was.

Here’s an idea for all of you who are fed up with this system - Don’t use banks. Take your money and hide it in your matress like Grandma used to. Cut up your credit cards. Buy your houses on “Land Contract” instead of mortgaging.

If you don’t agree with the way a system works then remove yourself from that system…We stopped dealing with banks years ago.

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By godistwaddle, August 5, 2009 at 7:46 am Link to this comment

Yet Americans, supine and docile, let them live.

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By Mark, August 5, 2009 at 7:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The real owners are the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians, they’re an irrelevancy. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the statehouses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so that they control just about all of the news and information you hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying—lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else,”

George Carlin, may he rest in peace.

Per Carlin, the reason they call it the American dream is that you have to be asleep to believe it.

Alas, truer words were never spoke.

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By jhm, August 5, 2009 at 6:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Without wanting to sound like I’m disagreeing with these sentiments, I suggest that these results are an inevitable consequence of the modern corporate charter.  We must accept that whatever good we think comes from the corporation, this must be acknowledged as part of the price that must be paid.

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By NC-Tom, August 5, 2009 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

Just in case there was any doubt, this is some pretty strong evidence that the people running these banks are probably sociopaths.  Some of the sociopathic traits they demonstrate by taking these bonuses are:

Grandiose self worth
Lack of remorse or guilt
Conning and manipulativeness
Callousness and lack of empathy
parasitic lifestyle
lack of realistic long-term goals
Irresponsibility
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions.

IMHO most of these people shouldn’t be given bonuses they should be locked up before the do any more damage!

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By Jim Yell, August 5, 2009 at 6:38 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the American Taliban should be pardoned and released. The real treason in this country is to be found amongst the political enablers of the theft of America’s wealth and by the banking and investment and other corporate heads who have destroyed the jobs and wages of the American Worker.

The next big military push in this country will probably be against the American People, as even the most disengaged will begin to resent losing their jobs and not having grocery or rent money. While the government can’t do even the basics as the tax money has been given away for the next 50 years to the people who caused the mess in the first place. You don’t have to be a smarty to notice this.

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By bogi666, August 5, 2009 at 6:11 am Link to this comment

DBM what an astute comment, thanks. Since 1978 the Republican Party’s unofficial ;policy goal is to transform the USA into an Indonesia type country.In politics it’s the unofficial policies which are important. Official policies are for public relation purposes only, propaganda.

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By DBM, August 5, 2009 at 6:03 am Link to this comment

It seems that the U.S. is now like Suharto’s Indonesia.  The powerful rig the economy to make themselves fantastically rich while the rest of the population slide into poverty.

The American population is richer to start with so it will take a little longer.  But the main point is that the political system is so corrupt that there is nothing that can stop it.

Genuine campaign finance reform so draconian that it shut down the “K” Street lobbyists would make an impact but the lobbyists would presumably fight that measure harder than any other ...

No Exit it seems.

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By bogi666, August 5, 2009 at 5:54 am Link to this comment

Don’t count on the gun culture to be heroes. Code Pink has been more courageous than the “gun culture” can even imagine. The gunners are just a bunch of blowhard phonies who have done nothing except whine. They are the epitome of ignorant, gullible, self professed heroes of self congratulation who have done nothing but tremble because of the insane ranting of the likes of Beck, Hannity, Dobbs who are 10th rate psycho’s. The Gunners don’t even have the intelligence to follow the 1st rate psycho’s like Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler now they were 1st rate psycho’s that today’s 10th rate psycho’s can’t hold a candle too.The 1st rate NAZI psycho’s didn’t display their clinical psychosis in public like obviously manic depressive Beck who has a following of idiots, fools and other ignorant illiterates.

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By h4020, August 5, 2009 at 5:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Wall Street bankers are the leeches of America. No matter how small or how remote the sums of money are these primitive life forms can detect it and suck it from the circulation of higher animals. When they create major disasters which effect millions of people the government steps in and rewards them with massive amounts of capital. The less fortunate victims lose their homes, jobs and health insurance. The bankers are rewarded for their outrageous behavior by receiving massive bonuses for defecating in their own nests. These are the guiding principles of unfettered capitalism. One of the benifits of our system is that all but the undiserving rich can be screwed and no serious efforts are made by a corrupt Congress or the craven citizens to change this shameful situation. It’s business as usual in the Land of the Free and the home of the Sheep.

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By Paul_GA, August 5, 2009 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

Well, “G” “W”, as Claire Wolfe said, “It’s too late to use the democratic process for change, but too early to start shooting the b_st_rds.”  wink

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, August 5, 2009 at 5:28 am Link to this comment

Well, since the government won’t do anything about it, my question is when will the shooting start?  In this gun culture, those responsible in the financial industry must surely have made someone’s list by now.

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By bogi666, August 5, 2009 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

The banks attribute their profits to their stock trading divisions. The government gave them money at 1% interest for the purpose of lending and the banks used the money to trade in the various exchange markets instead. On top of that just this week it is just revealed that THE FEDERAL RESERVE IS ACTIVE IN THE STOCK MARKETS which would serve to boost stock prices THAT THE BANKS HAD PURCHASED,in all likelihood.Remember ,the money the banks TARP funds are borrowed and the individual taxpayers are paying the interest and principle for the proceeds given the to the banks. It gets more obscene the longer it goes on.

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By THE SNED, August 5, 2009 at 4:20 am Link to this comment

PS (continued from below)

By shipping and or building factories off shore..these C EO’s helped America to manufacture….less and less….bringing us close to NOTHING. Kiss the middle class goodbye. The American dreamis OVER…thanks to the worship of NOTHINGLESS..me me me and greed….apparently the new Amecian Way!

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By THE SNED, August 5, 2009 at 4:16 am Link to this comment

The sad part is that these people create and manufacture NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!

One man just earned a $100,000,000 bonus for essentially hoarding oil. He bought low….stored it and by doing so made oil less available which raised gthe price of gas an oil. The net was in the billions.

He manufactured NOTHING. And he made Americans pay him to gamble.

Smart countries don’t permit this specific type of hoarding.

The banks stole from us by creating mythical money. They manufactured NOTHING.

And CEO bonuses in stock options led to our dear leaders to ship our factories overseas….to produce more profits and to make stock options far more lucrative than salary. It is a sick society.

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By Fat Freddy, August 5, 2009 at 3:45 am Link to this comment

Do we bail out the banks that caused the problem in the hopes that they will help ordinary folks or do we start with government relief for distressed mortgage holders?

Well, let’s look at the “cash for clunkers” program. GM and Chrysler were given billions of dollars. And what did they do? They closed plants, closed dealerships and laid off workers.  Give the American people a measly billion dollars (pocket change compared to TARP and Stimulus) to trade in their old cars, and dealers can’t keep these cars on the lot. Half of the new sales went to the distressed Big 3. Ford showed an increase in sales for the first time in 2 years.  Not to mention what it has done for all of the small businesses (dealerships).

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2009/08/july_auto_sales_us_makers_up_f.html

Now, this program was designed to just get people into cars with better fuel efficiency. Imagine if they had actually been trying to stimulate the economy.

When you compare the results and costs of “cash for clunkers” to TARP and Stimulus combined, which is a better deal for the economy, small businesses, big corporations and individuals?
But try to help individuals with their mortgages and you get assholes like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEZB4taSEoA

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By Charles Braam, August 5, 2009 at 3:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Americans have been brainwashed into thiking that socialism is the devil’s work, by the very devils asisted their helpers the media and the religious establishment. Wake up America, capitalism is the real devil’s work. These people should be in prison and you should demand for payable health service and education. Strive for real socialsm (not the fake socialsm of the Soviet Union and China) and the world might yet have a change to survive the 21st century.

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By Druthers, August 5, 2009 at 3:36 am Link to this comment

These are people who now have nothing left but money.  They have stipped themselves of every decent human quality and this in public for all to see.
They are now clad in dollar bills and had better hope there is no one striking matches.

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By ardee, August 5, 2009 at 3:20 am Link to this comment

I would echo the sad fact of our nations ennui in the face of such outright robbery. These unscrupulous crooks invented securities (credit default swaps), ensured that they were beyond govt oversight with the assistance of Phil Gramm, and crashed the economy while making billions upon billions in profit.

Yet we see little if anything in the way of outrage about our politicians mortgaging our children’s future in giving these bastards billions more. What has happened to this nation?

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By knobcreekfarmer, August 5, 2009 at 2:18 am Link to this comment

robert, good work as usual.

i am absolutely amazed that the zombified american public has not picked up pitchforks and charged the golden gates on wall street.

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