American Citizens – Foreclosure Limbo

Are all these financial institutions, that were directly, or indirectly named in the $700 Billion dollar bailout process, gambling or holding on to the result of their “tin can greed”, while turning around and in fact demanding money or foreclosure of the American people?

In other words, they killed two birds with one stone. They got their money in holding for themselves, and then instead of helping people in foreclosure, some are demanding payment from the American people while boldly threatening foreclosure.

Washington Mutual is named specifically in the following article.

This is just one example of what is really going on while Americans fight to save their homes.

Jacksonville, Fl…

Lewis is not a real estate speculator, house flipper or rental-property investor. She did not lie about her income or buy more house than she could afford. She was not lured into an adjustable mortgage with a teaser rate that later went through the roof. She has never tapped her equity with a second mortgage or a refi. She even has about 20 percent equity left in her home.

No, what happened to Vickie Lewis could happen to anyone: She got sick, lost her job and fell behind on her house payments…Lewis’ struggle to save her home…part of what began as a “giant Ponzi scheme” by the financial sector that has now progressed to a “looting of the country.”

Charney, attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid,

defense of Lewis has been based largely on claims that Washington Mutual did not follow federal regulations by offering her a “reasonable opportunity to get current” and “a face-to-face meeting” before three monthly mortgage installments went unpaid, among other requirements.

According to court filings, prior to foreclosure, WaMu never discussed any options with Lewis other than demanding all back mortgage payments in full. The bank is now demanding the entire balance, which had since ballooned by thousands of dollars with the addition of “illegal and outrageous” charges for attorney’s fees, collection costs and insurance, the filings allege.

A Message You Will Never Forget

Christmas Carol For Illinois

To the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

Wake up, old Rod Blagojevich, the Feds just rang your bell.

Just step outside … and take a ride … no time for extra gel.

They heard the tape … there’s no mistake …

This state’s half-way to Hell.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, save Illinois! Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

How could you, Rod Blagojevich, this really has me beat.

It wasn’t nice … to put a price …. on that there Senate seat

The way you threatened Wrigley Field

How can the Cubs compete?

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, save Illinois! Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Get real there, Rod Blagojevich, you’re much too smart a man

Remember what this state has done to Otto, George and Dan.

If Durbin doesn’t write a note

You’ll join them in the can.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, save Illinois! Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

Source: Willie3411, Matchdoctor

“…a fly in the ointment…by the way, we want your firstborn…”

America – Stand Up For Our Future Generations

Americans need to continue voicing their opinions…if not for themselves, then do it for our future generations.
david-475776 The Obese 3 did go to the Financial Institutions that were Bailed Out, but were denied Loans due to Lack of Credibility. No viable Restructuring Plans. Especially, when the Financial Institutions found out that 20% of Budget was for “executive compensation opportunities”.
Also stated to Congress the “price tag” to implement their Restructuring Plans is 150 Billion USD after they submit their Restructuring Plans, March 2009.
And yes, this a Bailout not a Loan. Their Credit History indicates that ever since the 1970s they have defaulted on the Terms, Conditions, Agreements of all Loans. Even the one’s like changing from (US Only) SAE to (International) Metric so that they could save money by building only a International Standard model, instead of two models US Specification Model and International Model.
Additionally, that previous US Bailout have been used to “RETOOL” by building new Factories, Plants at Toluca, Mexico and Machau, China and everywhere except the US. While Closing US Plants/Factories.
Example: With Bailout, ask for 150 Billion USD to implement their Restructuring Plan. Close 1/3 US Factories/Plants, Layoff 1/3 US Work Force while retaining Mexican/Canadian/Chinese Plants/Factories and associated “Work Force”.
Please do not make this an “I TOLD YOU SO!” (Dec. 15)
They want a Bailout, OK:
Abolish NAFTA, CAFTA, AFTA, SAFTA, and tell the WTO go to hadies. And no more US funding to WTO.
Close all foreign plants/factories and bring them back to the United States of America.
Build one International model. No more International Models and US Only Specification Models.
Change to Metric as promised by previous US Bailouts.
Adhere to the Terms, Conditions, Agreements of previous US Bailouts. Since the 1970 Oil Crisis, no more BS excuses or Lobbying by Michigan Congressional Representatives.
Change the Quality Standard from the Fault Tolerance US Only Specification of .7mm to the International Fault Tolerance Standard of 0.5mm or less.
No more burying technology, example: cylindrical gear constant velocity transmission, enabling 80 miles per gallon, created by Engineering Students, Florida, shown and demonstrated to Congress, buried by FMC, 1970s.
No more Lobbyists that only reflect or benefit Corporate Policy and screw over US Citizens.
Buy American means exactly that: Parts, Made in the US by US Citizens, Cars and Trucks assembled by US Citizens in the US from those Parts. No more of this baloney parts Made In China, Mexico, China sent to the US for US Citizens to assemble, or preassemble cars or trucks being sent from a foreign sources to have one or two nuts, bolts or fastners made in china, claiming that they are Made In US.
Bruce F. David you’re my hero…. I couldn’t have said it any better. The problem with your logic, is that it’s logical, and after all, who listens to mere logic. The world would be a better place.

Fisherman144 The taxpayer DIDN’T authorize the bailout of the banks and brokerage houses, Congress did with the guidance of Henry Paulson – a man grown and breed by Wall St.. The banks have gotten money to help the foreclosure market, but they haven’t. They are keeping that money to shore up their own bottom lines. Wall St. not Main St. has been getting the bulk of the TARP money. We, the little guys on the street, have had nothing to say about it. $700 Billion of our money has been given away to self-serving institutions. Once again the taxpaying middle class is left holding the bag. Paulson is as bad as the greed of the Illinois Governor.
No, we should not bail out the auto makers. They will be back again and again with their hands out for more money. Let the bankruptcy begin and the Federal Court oversight may drive these guys into being responsible business owners. By the way, why shouldn’t the auto workers (union) be made to earn a salary in parody (the same as) the foreign auto workers right here in the U.S.?
Brian Schneck The fact as I see them… First the big three focused on the less fuel efficient gas hogs, the bigger the better. Second, the big three paid their shareholders and executives and did not save for a rainy day. Third, the big three has made junk the last 20 plus years. Why do you think imports are more popular? Finally, the UAW did not help. The unions demanded more and more but the big three were not selling the cars. How do they think they will get paid? Both the automakers and auto workers are responsible for the mess they are in. Neither thought about the big three’s future and survival until it was too late. Sadly unions have become as greedy and corrupt as the businesses they deal with. Corporate mismanagement and excessive union demands will lead to more failed businesses. We need reform for both businesses and unions whether they like it or not. Sorry, no $100 million pay for your CEO. … and no $30 an hour for a Union worker if the company is going under. Sorry, reality check.
America needs some COMMON SENSE. (All of Newsvine)

Katrina – Federal Aid Corruption

KATRINA: Louisiana Tires of Its Rogues

Now that Katrina has spawned its first graft case, angry residents see the state’s reputation for corruption corroding its ability to get federal aid.

by Miguel Bustillo, Los Angeles Times
January 27th, 2006

Joseph Impastato conceded he took the two cashier’s checks worth $85,000. The whole thing was captured on tape by the FBI, so it would have been difficult to deny.

But it was no kickback, the councilman from St. Tammany Parish said. It was business.

When he cut a deal to receive half the money from a government contract to haul away hurricane debris, Impastato said, he was acting as a private businessman, not a public official.

Federal prosecutors are not buying it — and neither apparently is the Louisiana public. After a federal grand jury indicted Impastato on felony extortion charges last month, making him the first Louisiana politician accused of Hurricane Katrina corruption, citizens condemned him in newspapers and on talk radio and the Internet as an embarrassment to his home state.

“He’s got to be a real lowlife to do something like that at a time like this,” Frank White, a 62-year-old retired fire captain from the suburb of Chalmette, said in an interview. “It’s the Louisiana way of doing business, I guess. But there is a quiet majority now that’s sick and tired of this. People are fed up with these crooks.”

In Louisiana, which has a history of political shenanigans so rich and colorful that it has become a part of American folklore, people long have laughed off misbehaving politicians as a fact of life, every bit as inevitable as death and taxes.

But as the state lobbies Washington for more money to rebuild ravaged towns and cities, citizens are realizing that Louisiana’s well-earned penchant for dirty politics has exacted a steep price: It has badly damaged the credibility of the recovery effort.

“Frankly, the reputation in Washington is, if we send money down there, it will just get stolen,” said political handicapper Charles E. Cook, a Louisiana native who has worked in the nation’s capital for more than three decades. “It is a caricature of Louisiana politics that is not entirely undeserved but is grossly exaggerated. No one cared about it much before Katrina. But right now, it’s hurting the state enormously.”

A major turning point in public attitude came in 2001 when Edwin Edwards, the former four-term Democratic governor, received a 10-year sentence for taking bribes for riverboat gambling licenses. In the last governor’s race, both candidates — Democrat Kathleen Babineaux Blanco beat Republican Bobby Jindal — were considered squeaky clean, and promised government reforms. The distaste for dirty government has really picked up momentum since last summer.

“What was tolerated before Katrina is not necessarily tolerated now,” said pollster Silas Lee III, a professor at Xavier University here. “Nerves are raw. People have lost their sense of security and direction. They are living a day-to-day existence, and they have little patience for any politician who is perceived as being corrupt.”

In addition to Edwards, in the last decade Louisiana has seen an attorney general, a congressman, a state Senate president, a federal judge and countless local officials convicted of corruption. Louisiana’s last three state insurance commissioners wound up in prison for offenses that include lying to the FBI, accepting $2 million in illegal campaign contributions and taking bribes — prompting jokes that future candidates should make sure they look good in stripes.

Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney for eastern Louisiana and the lead prosecutor in the Edwards case, sees the convictions as a sign of progress. Wherever he goes, he said, he is greeted by people — black, white, Latino, Asian — who tell him Louisiana needs to clean up its act.

“I am not sure that Louisiana has measurably more corruption than other [regions], but surely we have a reputation for being tolerant of it,” said Letten, a member of the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, a team of federal, state and local law enforcement officials investigating scams and corruption.

Until recently, Louisiana politicians proved that charisma trumped scruples. Their repeated election victories, despite corruption allegations in many instances, showed that Louisiana voters viewed the ethical transgressions of their elected officials as an amusing spectacle.

T. Wayne Parent, a political science professor at Louisiana State University and author of “Inside the Carnival: Unmasking Louisiana Politics,” said citizens accepted corrupt politicians because they were effective in providing government services, and the cash they were pocketing was not believed to be taxpayer money.

“Maybe some politician was making a deal with the devil, but that was money from some oil and gas company, or so people thought. By the late 1980s, people realized, maybe it was our money,” said Parent, who believes the change in attitude has been slowly building over the last quarter-century.

Huey Long, the Depression-era demagogue who dominated every level of Louisiana government by bullying or buying off anyone who got in his way, joked that “one of these days the people of Louisiana are going to get good government — and they aren’t going to like it.”

Known as the Kingfish, Long was impeached as governor in 1929 on charges of bribery and gross misconduct but narrowly avoided punishment — reportedly by bribing several state senators. Elected a U.S. senator in 1930, he was assassinated in 1935 in Baton Rouge by the son of a judge who was about to be gerrymandered out of a job.

Earl Long, his eccentric brother, kept the family’s Democratic political machine running into the 1960s. He once remarked that Louisiana voters “don’t want good government; they want good entertainment.”

He served three terms as governor, spending some of the last term in a mental hospital, where his wife had him committed after he took up with Blaze Starr, a stripper.

Edwards, who survived two trials and 22 grand jury investigations in his four terms as governor, boasted that the only way he could lose was if he were “caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.”

When he ran against former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, the Republican candidate, in 1991, Edwards supporters printed bumper stickers saying: “Vote for the crook. It’s important.”

The “crook” handily won. But he was eventually sent to prison for taking bribes after Eddie DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, testified that he had paid Edwards $400,000 to land a casino license.

Even now, during the state’s ultimate hour of need, some Louisiana citizens say they could stomach a crooked politician — as long as he was competent.

“I’ll tell you what, I’d take Edwin Edwards in a minute to get us out of this mess,” said Gid Brill, 65, a tool salesman from Belle Chasse. “He might skim off $10 million for himself, but he’d know what to do with the rest of the money.”

Such attitudes do not go over well in Washington, where some Republican lawmakers speak of Louisiana as if it were a banana republic.

Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), who sits on the pivotal appropriations committee which oversees all major spending bills, compared fraud in Louisiana to fraud in Iraq. During town hall meetings in his home state last year, he repeatedly said that Louisiana and New Orleans had “the most corrupt governments in our country.”

State lawmakers last year sought $250 billion from Congress for recovery and reconstruction in a proposal criticized as a grab-bag of pork-barrel projects. President Bush said Thursday the federal government had approved $85 billion in aid to the Gulf Coast. Louisiana’s congressional delegation has contended that is not nearly enough, and continues to press for more.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) said that the corruption, while historically accurate, has been magnified by Republicans in Washington who do not want to help Louisiana. “I don’t want to discount that the image carries the scars of our past. But we have emphatically turned the corner,” Landrieu said.

Citing the corruption scandal in the nation’s capital centering on GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Landrieu added, “Republicans in Washington should clean up their own house before using Louisiana’s past reputation an excuse for not wanting to rebuild the Gulf Coast.”

Not surprisingly, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) sized up the situation differently.

“It’s not fiction — we have had some real corruption issues here in the past, and to some extent we still do today,” Vitter said. “My colleagues in Washington want assurances that money is going to be spent wisely, given those issues, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”

Government statistics indicate that Louisiana is one of the most corrupt states in the country. From 1995 to 2004, federal prosecutors won 310 corruption convictions involving public servants and citizens in Louisiana, said a report by the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department. That was far from the highest total: California prosecutors logged 871. But California is a state of 36 million people, nine times the population of Louisiana.

In the last month alone, federal prosecutors have been busy bringing corruption charges against Louisiana public servants. Two sheriffs deputies who worked at a Gretna jail were sentenced last week after confessing to taking bribes — part of an ongoing federal probe dubbed “Operation Wrinkled Robe,” which seeks to ferret out jail and courthouse corruption. The investigation already has resulted in the conviction of a former state judge.

Last Friday, a federal grand jury indicted a former New Orleans police officer caught driving a stolen pickup, one of about 200 Cadillacs and Chevys looted from a dealership after Katrina. Witnesses reported seeing officers drive away in the vehicles. A state grand jury is also investigating the case, along with other allegations of looting by law enforcement officers.

Brett Pfeffer, a former aide to Rep. William Jefferson, a New Orleans Democrat, pleaded guilty two weeks ago to bribing an unnamed congressman on behalf of a small telecommunications company. Jefferson has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Impastato’s trial is scheduled to begin next month. He pleaded not guilty Jan. 10 to federal charges that he extorted money from a businessman after helping him land a contract to remove debris. If convicted of the charge, as well as related counts of conspiracy and money laundering, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

The indictment said Impastato arranged with Lee Paul Mauberret of the Pontchartrain Chipping Yard to split the $200,000 contract. A relative of Mauberret’s balked at paying the kickback, and Mauberret called the FBI, which set up the sting.

Impastato, 33, continues to serve his second term on the council in St. Tammany Parish, next to New Orleans on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. He declined to discuss the case when reached at Sal & Judy’s, his family’s Italian restaurant, where he makes a living running a business selling tomato sauces and olive oil.

His lawyer, Karl Koch, said Impastato did not “use his official capacity in any way” to enrich himself, and witnesses would testify that Impastato did a fair amount of the hurricane cleanup work himself. Impastato’s critics said his actions — legal or not — set back the state’s efforts to repair its reputation.

“Impastato should have avoided this at all costs. Especially given the current climate and attitude in Washington toward Louisiana,” St. Tammany resident Dana Deris wrote on a blog carried on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website. “He IS guilty of furthering the negative image of Louisiana.”

Outside a grocery store a few blocks from Sal & Judy’s, Robert Keys, 72, shook his head.

“I’d love to be the judge on that one,” said Keys, a 41-year resident of St. Tammany Parish. “A snake is going to take advantage of this opportunity right now, because there’s a lot of money flying around loose. I guess the question is whether it was a legal shakedown or not. But either way, he’s still a snake.”

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Executive Pay Loophole

Executive Pay Limits May Prove Toothless
Loophole in Bailout Provision Leaves Enforcement in Doubt
By Amit R. Paley, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, December 15, 2008; A01

Congress wanted to guarantee that the $700 billion financial bailout would limit the eye-popping pay of Wall Street executives, so lawmakers included a mechanism for reviewing executive compensation and penalizing firms that break the rules.

But at the last minute, the Bush administration insisted on a one-sentence change to the provision, congressional aides said. The change stipulated that the penalty would apply only to firms that received bailout funds by selling troubled assets to the government in an auction, which was the way the Treasury Department had said it planned to use the money.

Now, however, the small change looks more like a giant loophole, according to lawmakers and legal experts. In a reversal, the Bush administration has not used auctions for any of the $335 billion committed so far from the rescue package, nor does it plan to use them in the future. Lawmakers and legal experts say the change has effectively repealed the only enforcement mechanism in the law dealing with lavish pay for top executives.

“The flimsy executive-compensation restrictions in the original bill are now all but gone,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), ranking Republican on of the Senate Finance Committee.

The modification reflects how the rapidly shifting nature of the crisis and the government’s response to it have led to unexpected results that are just now beginning to be understood. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, issued a critical report this month about the financial industry rescue package that said it was unclear how the Treasury would determine whether banks were following the executive-compensation rules.

Michele A. Davis, spokeswoman for the Treasury, said the agency is working to develop a policy for how it will enforce the executive-compensation rules. She would not say when the guidance would be issued or what penalties it might impose. But she said the companies promised to follow the rules in contracts with the department.

The final legislation contained unprecedented restrictions on executive compensation for firms accepting money from the bailout fund. The rules limited incentives that encourage top executives to take excessive risks, provided for the recovery of bonuses based on earnings that never materialize and prohibited “golden parachute” severance pay. But several analysts said that perhaps the most effective provision was the ban on companies deducting more than $500,000 a year from their taxable income for compensation paid to their top five executives.

That tax provision, which amended the Internal Revenue Code, was the only part of the law that contained an explicit enforcement mechanism. The provision means the IRS must review the pay of those executives as part of its normal review of tax filings. If a company does not comply, the IRS can impose a tax penalty. The law did not create an enforcement mechanism for reviewing the other restrictions on executive pay.

If a firm violates the executive-compensation limits, department officials said, the Treasury could seek damages, go to court to force compliance, or even rescind the contracts and recover the bailout money. “We therefore have all the remedies available to us for a breach of contract,” Davis wrote in an e-mail.

Legal experts said those efforts could be complicated if the Treasury outlines the penalties after companies have received bailout money. David M. Lynn, former chief counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of corporation finance, said courts have sometimes placed limits on the government’s ability to impose penalties if there was no fair warning.

“Treasury might find its hands tied down the road,” said Lynn, who is also co-author of “The Executive Compensation Disclosure Treatise and Reporting Guide.”

Congressional leaders are also concerned that the Treasury might simply choose not to enforce the rules or be unwilling to impose financial penalties that could further weaken a firm and send the economy deeper into a tailspin.

The Bush administration at first opposed any restrictions on executive pay, congressional aides said. The original three-page bailout proposal presented to lawmakers in September contained no mention of such limits. “Treasury was pretty clear that they thought doing this exec-comp stuff would limit the effectiveness of the program,” said a Democratic congressional aide involved in the negotiations, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity. “They felt companies might not take part if we put in these rules.”

Congressional leaders disagreed. By the morning of Saturday, Sept. 27, the final day of marathon negotiations on the bill, draft language relating to taxes and containing the enforcement provision applied to all companies participating in the bailout programs, Democratic and Republican congressional aides said. But then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and his deputies began pushing for the compensation rules to differentiate between companies whose assets are purchased at auction and those whose assets or equity are purchased directly by the government, the aides said.

Congressional leaders from both parties thought Paulson wanted the distinction for extraordinary cases like American International Group, which the government seized in September. He wanted to be able to push executives out of companies that the government controlled and have the flexibility to bring in strong new executives, said one senior congressional aide.

“The argument that they were making at the time is that the direct investment was going to be used only in circumstances where the company was AIGed, so to speak,” said a senior Democratic congressional aide.

Davis, the Treasury spokeswoman, confirmed that the Treasury pushed to place fewer restrictions on executives at companies receiving capital infusions, but she gave a different explanation. She said many of those firms are more stable and are being encouraged to participate in the bailout to strengthen the overall system. “The provisions for failing institutions should come with more onerous conditions than those for healthy institutions whose participation benefits the entire system,” she said.

Lawmakers agreed to the Treasury’s request that the measure apply only to executives at companies whose assets were bought by the government through auctions. In the executive-compensation tax section, a new sentence saying that eventually was inserted.

Meanwhile, Paulson repeatedly told lawmakers that he did not plan to use bailout funds to inject capital directly into financial institutions. Privately, however, his staff was developing plans to do just that, Paulson acknowledged in an interview.

Although lawmakers hailed the rules as unprecedented new limits on executive pay, several were unhappy that the law was not stricter.

Under pressure from Congress, the Treasury issued regulations in October on executive compensation and applied the tax-deduction limits to all companies receiving bailout funds, although the legislation did not require it for firms that received direct capital injections. But the Treasury failed to issue guidelines requiring the IRS or any other agency to enforce the rules, and it also failed to explain how the restrictions would be enforced.

The Treasury’s regulations also instructed firms to disclose more compensation information to the Securities and Exchange Commission. But officials at the SEC do not think they have the authority to force companies to disclose the kind of pay information required by the bailout law, according to people familiar with the matter, though they hope companies will cooperate. John Nester, an SEC spokesman, declined to comment.

Senators on the Finance Committee have expressed concern to Paulson and are now considering whether they should amend the law to apply the enforcement mechanism to all firms participating in the bailout…

The Big 3 Advertisement – or NOT

No Matter How You See It, Or Say It, seems to sum up the arrogance of CEO’s.


CEO Wants 10 Million Bonus – The Nerve of “His BALLS”!!

Merrill’s Thain seeking $10 million bonus
Report: Ailing company’s compensation committee is resisting request
updated 10:49 a.m. CT, Mon., Dec. 8, 2008

NEW YORK – Merrill Lynch & Co Chief Executive John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the battered company’s compensation committee is resisting his request, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation.

The compensation committee has not reached a decision, but is leaning toward denying Thain and other senior executives bonuses for this year, the people told the paper.

Merrill could not be immediately reached for comment.

Shareholders on Friday approved Bank of America Corp’s takeover of Merrill, a deal fraught with risk but one that would create a banking giant with a leading position in almost every major area of the financial system.

Merrill was arguably saved from extinction when it agreed to merge on September 15, an hour before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy. The fear was that Merrill could be next if shareholders and trading partners fled, as many did at Lehman and the former Bear Stearns Cos.

Thain has said he deserves a bonus because he helped avert what could have been a much larger crisis at the firm, people familiar with his thinking told the WSJ.

Members of Merrill’s compensation committee agree with Thain that the takeover is in shareholders’ best interest, but believe it would be foolish to ignore strong public sentiment against large compensation packages, the paper said, citing people familiar with their thinking.

Committee members are also weighing the fact that other Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, which did better than Merrill this year, are not giving out bonuses to top executives, the paper said.

Thain, who became Merrill’s chief executive after losses in mortgage-related investments led to the October 2007 ouster of Stanley O’Neal, has also run NYSE Euronext, after a long career at Goldman.

After the Bank of America-Merrill deal is completed, he will run the merged company’s global banking, securities and wealth management businesses. Thain will not be joining Bank of America’s board.

Copyright 2008 Reuters…

Onward to Depression: History Repeats Itself… “A 1930’s Dad-Perspective”

DAY OF RECKONING…but…Washington says it’s all for a good cause…but…it’s beyond the threshold of the absurd…The most aggressive buyer, investor and lender of all is Uncle Sam; the decline cannot truly end until he abandons his efforts to stop it.

…Our leaders themselves are sounding the alarm. Unless they act swiftly, they say, the world as we know it today will fall apart. Thus, to avert what they fear could be the ultimate disaster, the governments of the richest countries have embarked on the most expensive financial rescue operations of all time. The U.S. government alone has spent, lent, committed or guaranteed $7.8 trillion, fourteen times its biggest-ever federal deficit. European governments have jumped in with another $2 trillion; China, $586 billion.

They’re bailing out bankrupt banks, broken brokerage firms, insolvent insurers and any company they deem essential to the economy. They’re pumping resources into mortgage markets, consumer credit markets and stock markets. They’re prodding lenders to lend, consumers to consume and investors to invest. They’re doing everything in their power to prevent a Second Great Depression.
Martin and Irving Weiss

But will they succeed in this endeavor?

A not-so-long time ago, while Dad and I reviewed the historical charts and data, here’s the answer he gave me to a similar question.

“In the 1930s, I was tracking the numbers as they were being released — to figure out what might happen next. I was an analyst and that was my job. That’s why I remember them well.

“Years later, economists like Milton Friedman and my young friend Alan Greenspan looked back at those days to decipher what went wrong. They concluded that it was mostly the government’s fault, especially the Federal Reserve’s. They developed the theory that the next time we’re on the brink of a depression, the government has got to step in and nip it in the bud.

“Bah! Those guys weren’t there back then. When I first went to Wall Street, Friedman was in junior high and Greenspan was in diapers.

“I saw exactly what the Fed was doing in the 1930s: They did everything in their power to stop the panic. They coddled the banks. They pumped in billions of dollars. But it was no use. They eventually figured out they were just throwing good money after bad.

“The real roots of the 1930s bust were in the 1920s boom. That’s when the Fed gave cheap money to the banks like there was no tomorrow. That’s why the banks loaned the money to the brokers, the brokers loaned it to speculators, and the speculation created the stock market bubble. That was the true cause of the Crash and the Depression! Not the government’s ‘inaction’ in the 1930s!

“In 1929, our economy was a house of cards. It didn’t matter which cards we propped up or which ones we let fall. We obviously couldn’t save them all. So no matter what we did, it was going to come down anyway. The longer we denied that reality and tried to fight it, the worse it was for everyone. The sooner we accepted it, the sooner we could get started on a real recovery.”

Today, however, it seems the governments of the world have yet to learn the lesson Dad had learned from real experience. They’re still trying to bail out nearly every major institution and market on the planet. Again, the big question: Will they succeed?

The quick answer: Yes, for a while, perhaps. They can kick the can down the road. They can buy time and postpone the day of reckoning. They can stimulate stock market rallies and even flurries of economic recovery. But that’s not the same as assuming responsibility for our future. It doesn’t resolve the next crisis and the one after that. It does little for you and me; even less for our children or theirs.

The better answer is contained in the white paper Mike Larson and I submitted to the U.S. Congress on September 25: The government bailouts are too little, too late to end the debt crisis; too much, too soon for those who will have to foot the bill.

Even as the government sweeps piles of bad debts under the carpet, mountains of new debts go bad — another flood of mortgages that can’t be paid, a new raft of credit cards falling behind, a new line-up of big companies on the verge of bankruptcy.

Even as the government commits new billions to be spent on financial rescues, trillions in wealth are wiped out in sinking real estate, stocks, bonds and commodities.

Even as the government promises prosperity around the corner, we see more factories closing, more jobs lost.

The primary reason is simple and quite obvious: Our society is addicted to debt.

As long as government could keep the credit flowing — and as long as borrowers could get their regular debt fix — everyone continued to spend to their heart’s content. But now that credit has stopped flowing, the American economy is sinking rapidly into depression.

The Threshold of the Absurd

We saw the first telltale warning of America’s Second Great Depression when a credit crunch hit in full force in August 2007. Banks all over the world announced multibillion losses in subprime (high-risk) mortgages. Investors recoiled in horror. And it looked like the world’s financial markets were about to collapse.

They didn’t, but only because the U.S. Federal Reserve and European central banks intervened. They injected unprecedented amounts of cash into the world’s largest banks; the credit crunch subsided; and everyone breathed a great sigh of relief. But in early 2008, the crunch struck anew — this time in a more virulent and violent form, this time impacting a much wider range of players.

Now, the big question was no longer: Which big Wall Street firm will post the worst losses? It was: Which big firm will be the first to go bankrupt? The answer: Bear Stearns, one of the largest investment banks in the world.

Again, the folks at the Fed intervened. Not only did they finance a giant buyout for Bear Stearns, but for the first time in history, they also decided to lend hundreds of billions to any other major Wall Street firm that needed the money. Again, the crisis subsided temporarily. Again, Wall Street cheered and the authorities won their battle.

But the war continued. Despite all the Fed’s special lending operations, another Wall Street firm — almost three times larger than Bear Stearns — was going down. Its name: Lehman Brothers.

Over a single weekend in mid-September 2008, the Fed Chairman, the Treasury Secretary and other high officials huddled at the New York Fed’s offices in downtown Manhattan. They seriously considered bailing out Lehman, but they ran into two serious hurdles: First, Lehman’s assets were too sick — so diseased, in fact, even the federal government didn’t want to touch them with a ten-foot pole. Second, there was a new sentiment on Wall Street that was previously unheard of. A small, but vocal minority was getting sick and tired of bailouts. “Let them fail,” they said. “Teach those bastards a lesson!” was the new rallying cry.

For the Fed Chairman and Treasury Secretary, it was the long-dreaded day of reckoning. It was the fateful moment in history that demanded a life-or-death decision regarding one of the biggest financial institutions in the world — bigger than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler put together. Should they save it? Or should they let it fail? Their decision: To do something they had never done before. They let Lehman fail.

“Here’s what you’re going to do,” was the basic message from the federal authorities to Lehman’s highest officials. “Tomorrow morning, you’re going to take a trip down to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court at One Bowling Green. You’re going to file for Chapter 11. Then you’re going to fire your staff. And before the end of the day, you’re going to pack up your own boxes and clear out.”

It was the financial earthquake that changed the financial world.

Until that day, nearly everyone assumed that giant firms like Lehman were “too big to fail,” that the government would always step in to save them. That myth was shattered on the late summer weekend when the U.S. government decided to abandon its long tradition of largesse and let Lehman go under.

All over the world, bank lending froze. Borrowing costs went through the roof. Global stock markets collapsed. Corporate bonds tanked. The entire global banking system seemed like it was coming unglued.

“I guess we goofed!” were, in essence, the words of admission heard at the Fed and Treasury. “Now, instead of just a bailout for Lehman, what we’re really going to need is the Mother of All Bailouts — for the entire financial system.” The U.S. government immediately complied, delivering precisely what they asked for — a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), rushed through Congress and signed into law by the president in record time.

In addition, the U.S. government has loaned, invested or committed $200 billion to nationalize the world’s two largest mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac … $25 billion for the Big Three auto manufacturers … $29 billion for Bear Stearns, $150 billion for AIG and $350 billion for Citigroup … $300 billion for the Federal Housing Administration Rescue Bill to refinance bad mortgages … $87 billion to pay back JPMorgan Chase for bad Lehman Brothers trades … $200 billion in loans to banks under the Fed’s Reserve Term Auction Facility (TAF) … $50 billion to support short-term corporate IOUs held by money market mutual funds … $500 billion to rescue various credit markets … $620 billion for industrial nations, including the Bank of Canada, Bank of England, Bank of Japan, National Bank of Denmark, European Central Bank, Bank of Norway, Reserve Bank of Australia, Bank of Sweden and the Swiss National Bank … $120 billion in aid for emerging markets, including the central banks of Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore … trillions to guarantee the FDIC’s new, expanded bank deposit insurance coverage from $100,000 to $250,000 … plus trillions more for other sweeping guarantees.

Grand total: $7.8 trillion and counting, eleven times more than the hotly debated and widely opposed $700 billion bailout package passed just 66 days ago. And that excludes a new bailout for Detroit in the works, a new $500 billion stimulus package expected early next year, plus hundreds of billions for at least 19 states running out of money for unemployment benefits.

Washington says it’s all for a good cause — to save the world from depression. But it is obviously reaching a level that’s beyond the threshold of the absurd.

Here’s why it will fail …

#1 Too Much Debt
#2 Nobody Wants to Pick Up the Tab
#3 Sinking Confidence
#4 The Vicious Cycle of Debt and Deflation

… “One of the greatest blunders people made in the 1930s was to blindly assume that prices were already so low, they couldn’t possibly go any lower. In reality, the value of their real estate, stocks, commodities and virtually every other asset didn’t stop going down at some particular level that appeared to be ‘cheap.’ Nor did it stop falling just because it matched some historical price that was considered low. The end of the price declines came only when buyers, investors and lenders capitulated; when most of the bad debts were liquidated; and when the powerful vicious cycles were exhausted. Until then, huge losses were still possible and you needed to sell. Only AFTER we saw those climactic conditions was it time to buy or hold.”

In America’s Second Great Depression, the same will be true, with one key addition: The most aggressive buyer, investor and lender of all is Uncle Sam; the decline cannot truly end until he abandons his efforts to stop it.