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11.15  The long read:  The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? [the world wants to throw-up...]

11.15 Claws out: crab fishermen sue 30 oil firms over climate change [workers are waking-up...]

11.15 Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks

11.14 Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested in Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

11.13 What would a smog-free city look like?

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11.13 Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

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11.12 Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]

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11.16 As 'Green New Deal' Demand Grows, Democrats Have Choice: Confront and Defeat Fossil Fuel Industry or Take Credit for 'Doomed' Planet [Two choices: Save life-on-Earth or help Republicans let it die?]

11.16 Trump’s latest interview shows a president who’s in way over his head

11.16 Why the political fight in Georgia is far from over

11.16 Florida judge sides with Democrats, giving thousands a second chance to fix their ballots

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11.15 Pentagon Officials Forced to Make Fewer Public Appearances to Avoid Provoking Trump [...by revealing Trump's huuuge ignorance]

11.15 REPUBLICANS USED A BILL ABOUT WOLVES TO AVOID A VOTE ON YEMEN WAR [if there are 'defense industry' profits to be made—including congress-critter insider-trading—and political 'donations' to be had, we mustn't stop killing innocent civilians!]

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11.16 Trump doesn’t want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. [George W. Bush made a similar immoral decision for the same oily reasons after 9-11, protecting Saudi defense contracts while facilitating the slaughter of poorer Arab "terrorists" in the region.]

11.15 The Earth is in a death spiral. It will take radical action to save us [fossil fuel burning, un-recyclable plastic production/use and methane gas release must cease ASAP.]

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11.14 Mueller seeking more details on Nigel Farage, key Russia inquiry target says

11.13 Austin's Fix for Homelessness: Tiny Houses, and Lots of Neighbors

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11.13 Caravan marks one month on the road: ‘We keep on going, laughing or crying’

11.13 Letter Shows Einstein’s Prescient Concerns About ‘Dark Times’ in Germany

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  Was the Bailout Itself a Scam?
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ECONOMIC COMMENTARY:

Was the Bailout Itself a Scam?

A Program of Financial Concentration

by Paul Craig Roberts
Thursday, 19 March 2009
The Bush/Obama bailouts require serious investigation. Were these bailouts necessary, or were they a scam, like “weapons of mass destruction,” used to advance a private agenda behind a wall of fear?
Professor Michael Hudson (CounterPunch, March 18) is correct that the orchestrated  outrage over the $165 million AIG bonuses is a diversion from the thousand times greater theft from taxpayers of the approximately $200 billion “bailout” of AIG.  Nevertheless, it is a diversion that serves an important purpose.  It has taught an inattentive American public that the elites run the government in their own private interests.

Americans are angry that AIG executives are paying themselves millions of dollars in bonuses after having cost the taxpayers an exorbitant sum.  Senator Charles Grassley put a proper face on the anger when he suggested that the AIG executives “follow the Japanese example and resign or go commit suicide.”

Yet, Obama’s White House economist, Larry Summers, on whose watch as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration financial deregulation got out of control, invoked the “sanctity of contracts” in defense of the AIG bonuses.

But the Obama administration does not regard other contracts as sacred.  Specifically: labor unions had to agree to give-backs in order for the auto companies to obtain federal help;  CNN reports that “Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday [March 10] that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance”;  the Washington Post reports that the Obama team has set its sights on downsizing Social Security and Medicare.  

According to the Post, Obama said that “it is impossible to separate the country’s financial ills from the long-term need to rein in health-care costs, stabilize Social Security and prevent the Medicare program from bankrupting the government.”

After Washington’s trillion dollar bank bailouts and trillion dollar gratuitous wars for the sake of the military industry’s profits and Israeli territorial expansion, there is no money for Social Security and Medicare.

The US government breaks its contracts with US citizens on a daily basis, but AIG’s bonus contracts are sacrosanct.  The Social Security contract was broken when the government decided to tax 85% of the benefits.  It was broken again when the Clinton administration rigged the inflation measure in order to beat retirees out of their cost-of-living adjustments.  To have any real Medicare coverage, a person has to give up part of his Social Security check to pay Medicare Part B premium and then take out a private supplemental policy.  The true cost of Medicare to beneficiaries is about $6,000 annually in premiums, plus deductibles and the Medicare tax if the person is still earning.

Treasury Secretary Geithner, the fox in charge of the hen house, has resolved the problem for us.  He is going to withhold $165 million (the amount of the AIG bonuses) from the next taxpayer payment to AIG of $30,000 million. If someone handed you $30,000 dollars, would you mind if they held back $165?

PR flaks have rechristened the bonus payments “retention payments” necessary if AIG is to retain crucial employees.  This lie was shot down by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who informed the House Committee on Financial Services that the payments went to members of AIG’s Financial Products subsidiary, “the unit of AIG that was principally responsible for the firm’s meltdown.”  As for retention, Cuomo pointed out that ”numerous individuals who received large ‘retention’ bonuses are no longer at the firm” .

Eliot Spitzer, the former New York Governor who was set-up in a sex scandal to prevent him investigating Wall Street’s financial gangsterism, pointed out on March 17 that the real scandal is the billions of taxpayer dollars paid to the counter-parties of AIG’s financial deals.  These payments, Spitzer writes, are “a way to hide an enormous second round of cash to the same group that had received TARP money already.”

Goldman Sachs, for example, had already received a taxpayer cash infusion of $25 billion and was sitting on more than $100 billion in cash when the Wall Street firm received another $13 billion via the AIG bailout.

Moreover, in my opinion, most of the billions of dollars in AIG counter-party payments were unnecessary.  They represent gravy paid to firms that had made risk-free bets, the non-payment of which constituted no threat to financial solvency.

Spitzer identifies a conflict of interest that could possibly be criminal self-dealing.  According to reports, the AIG bailout decision involved Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, formerly of Goldman Sachs, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and Timothy Geithner, former New York Federal Reserve president and currently Secretary of the Treasury.  No doubt the incestuous relationships are the reason the original bailout deal had no oversight or transparency.

The Bush/Obama bailouts require serious investigation.  Were these bailouts necessary, or were they a scam, like “weapons of mass destruction,” used to advance a private agenda behind a wall of fear?  Recently I heard Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, a member of a congressional bailout oversight panel, say on NPR that the US has far too many banks.  Out of the financial crisis, she said, should come consolidation with the financial sector consisting of a few mega-banks.  Was the whole point of the bailout to supply taxpayer money for a program of financial concentration?


Paul Craig RobertsPaul Craig Roberts is an economist who served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration earning fame as the "Father of Reaganomics". He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution: An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy: The Collapse of the Socialist Era and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.

This article is published in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on March 20, 2009.

 

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