Sunday, September 21, 2008

Obama's Economic Adviser Caused the Present Economic Calamity

Obama economic adviser Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's treasury secretary, caused the present economic calamity by repealing the of the Glass-Steagall Act, passed during the Great Depression.

Fred Martinez



http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_14732.cfm

"Near the end of his eight years in office, Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, one of the most far-reaching banking reforms since the Great Depression. It swept aside parts of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that had provided significant regulatory firewalls between commercial banks, insurance companies, securities firms, and investment banks. . .

Wall Street had been lobbying for years for an end to Glass-Steagall, but it had not received much support before Clinton. Among those with a personal interest in the demise of Glass-Steagall was Robert Rubin, who had months earlier stepped down as treasury secretary to become chair of Citigroup, a financial-services conglomerate that was facing the possibility of having to sell off its insurance underwriting subsidiary. . .

History should deal harshly with Bill Clinton. Throughout his terms, real wages stagnated, manufacturing and service jobs moved overseas in large numbers, and the middle class was squeezed. With the federal government asleep at the wheel, there was a significant rise in predatory lending practices by banks and mortgage companies. By Clinton's final years in office, all of these trends had contributed to an ominous rise in delinquencies and foreclosures on subprime mortgage loans."

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_14732.cfm

Why the Democrats Haven't Been More Helpful in the Fiscal Crisis
UNDERNEWS, September 18, 2008
Straight to the Source


The Democrats seem slightly befuddled how to react to the current fiscal crisis. One reason is that they helped to cause it. Starting with the Clinton administration, there was a conscious effort by Democrats to cozy up to Wall Street and to this day Barack Obama is being advised by those with deep involvement in the policies and practices that led to the current disaster. You can't well complain about Bush's Treasury Secretary having been with Goldman Sachs, when Clinton's was as well and now the guy has Obama's ear. And during the period liberals have largely looked the other way as the economic principles of the New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society were steadily unraveled.

The Prowler, American Spectator - http://overthehilloracles.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/the-ob... When President George W. Bush nominated Henry Paulson to serve as Treasury Secretary, Republicans raised a red flag that Paulson, who, along with his wife, has strong ties to the Democrat party, would not be an honest broker with Republicans.

That seems to have been borne out, with sources inside of Treasury reporting that Paulson briefed Sen. Barack Obama and his campaign advisers on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout plan before offering such a briefing to the McCain campaign.

In fact, the McCain campaign had sought a similar briefing several days ago as word spread that a bailout plan was to be unveiled and had been turned down by Paulson's senior staff.

The next question is: Why was the Obama campaign so keen on getting advanced word about the bailout?

"They have a huge problem with the mortgage and housing market story, and everyone is missing it," says a Republican political media consultant with ties to the Obama campaign due to the bipartisan nature of the firm he does work with.

"You look at Obama's economic advisers, the guys he has counted on from day one and who have raised him a ton -- and I mean a ton -- of money: Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, both of them are waist to neck deep in the mortgage debacle."

Both Raines and Johnson have served as CEO of Fannie Mae, with Raines taking over from Johnson. Both are key political and economic advisers to Obama.

"How can Obama go out with a straight face and saw it was Republicans who made this mess, when it is his key advisers who ran the agencies that made the big mess what it is?" says a Democrat House member who supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. "It's his people who are responsible for what may well be the single largest government bailout in history. And every single one of them made millions off the collapse that are lining Obama's campaign coffers. . .

It isn't just Fannie Mae where Obama has a problem. Another close political adviser, in fact the one man responsible for rallying support for Obama early on among Congressional Democrats, is Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who served on the Board of Directors for Freddie Mac after leaving the Clinton White House. . .

Emanuel claimed to be neutral in the primary race between the wife of his old boss and his longtime Chicago acquaintance, Obama. But the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, who would be first in line for the vacated Senate seat of Obama should he win the presidency, quickly dumped Clinton when it was clear Obama had a head of steam for the nomination. . .

Both Raines and Johnson have served as CEO of Fannie Mae, with Raines taking over from Johnson. Both are key political and economic advisers to Obama.

Protein Wisdom http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=12161 - [In a] May 6th speech, [Obama] said that we "need a government that stands up for families who are being tricked out of their homes by Wall Street predators." What Obama failed to mention was that by the end of March 2008, he had taken $1,180,103 http://www.observer.com/2008/clinton-campaign-unimpressed... from people and groups associated with the top ten http://www.usatoday.com/money/perfi/housing/2004-12-07-su... issuers of subprime loans. . . Indeed, Swiss banking giant UBS http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/22/business/worldbusiness/... , which has written off more debt from the subprime crisis than any other bank, has contributed $363,257 not included in that total. . .

Obama failed to mention that his fundraising bundlers http://www.whitehouseforsale.org/candidate.cfm?CandidateI... include:
Louis Susman, Michael Froman and J. Michael Schell of Citigroup;
Steve Koch of Credit Suisse;
Bruce Hayman, David Heller, Eric Schwartz, and Todd Williams of Goldman Sachs;
Mark Gilbert, Christine Forester, John Rhea, Nadja Fidelia, and Theodore Janulis of Lehman; and
Robert Wolf of UBS Americas.
These folks raised an additional $1,800,000 for Obama. . .

One bundler who deserves special mention is Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker, who happens to be Obama's national Finance Chair. Pritzker was an owner and board member of Superior Bank of Chicago, which went bust in 2001 with over $1 billion in deposits. Timothy Anderson http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/022708a.html - who obsessively pursued http://www.motherjones.com/commentary/columns/1996/11/hel... the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) over his role in the failure of Clyde Federal Savings & Loan - has been quoted as saying that "Superior's owners were to sub-prime lending what Michael Milken was to junk bonds."

In January, Max Fraser of The Nation http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080211/fraser compared the Democratic presidential candidates' plans to address the subprime lending issue, concluding that Obama had staked out a position to the right of not only populist Edwards but Clinton as well. Fraser blamed Obama's economic advisers, primarily Austan Goolsbee. Since January, however, we have seen that Obama knows how to ignore http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=11247 Goolsbee and even suggest he was never a senior adviser http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=11375 .

Contributions to members of Congress from Lehman Brothers - http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2008/09/brothers-grim-is-... Top five recipients in the past 20 years: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Charles Schumer, Christopher Dodd, Joe Lieberman

Obama advisor Austin Goolsbee's defense of subprime mortgages http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/29/business/29scene.html?e...
land&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

Bob Feldman, Nation (letter) - http://www.thenation.com/bletters/20080211/fraser
One reason Barack Obama might not want to talk about the role of financially irresponsible bank board members in creating the subprime mortgage foreclosure financial disaster is that the national finance chair of Obama's campaign, Penny Pritzker, is a former board member of the failed Superior Bank S&L that engaged in irresponsible subprime mortgage lending during the 1990s.

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Obama campaign's national finance chair, Pritzker "served as chairman of the Superior Bank from 1989 to 1994, but the savings and loan institution collapsed" in July 2001. Created at the end of 1988 as the successor bank to the failed Lyons Savings Bank, the Oakbrook Terrace/Hinsdale, Illinois-based Superior Bank was 50 percent owned by Chicago's billionaire Pritzker family. . . In a December 2002 Chicago magazine article, Shane Tritsch noted that for investing $42.5 million in the failed Lyons Savings Bank before it was reopened as Superior Bank, the Pritzkers and their business partner received an estimated $645 million in federal tax credits and loan guarantees; and "by one estimate, it would have cost the government $200 million less simply to shut Lyons down.". . .

With a business loss estimate of between $350 million and $1 billion, the 2001 failure of the Pritzkers' Superior Bank represented the largest US-insured deposition institution to fall between 1992 and 2001. According to a February 7, 2002, report by FDIC Inspector General Gaston Gianni Jr., "the failure of Superior Bank was directly attributable to the Bank's Board of Directors and executives ignoring sound risk management principles."

To avoid being punished for the failure of Superior Bank, the Pritzker family agreed to pay the FDIC $460 million. Yet even with this settlement, the failure of the Superior Bank due its board's apparent mismanagement cost the federal thrift insurance agency (and US taxpayers) about $440 million. . .

The 1,400 Superior Bank depositors whose savings deposits in excess of $100,000 were uninsured, however, brought a federal civil racketeering suit against Penny Pritzker and other former Superior Bank officials. . .

Given the past involvement on the board of a failed savings bank that engaged in financially reckless subprime lending of the 2008 Obama presidential campaign's national finance chair, it's not surprising that Max Fraser reports that "only Obama has not called for a moratorium and interest-rate freeze;" and that Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute said that "there's been less emphasis from the Obama campaign on the really dysfunctional role of the financial industry in the subprime mess."

Timothy A Canova, Dissent Magazine http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=1229
- The conventional wisdom has held that economic policy was a great success under Bill Clinton in the 1990s and a failure ever since. Hillary Clinton has made the comparison often, promising to end "the seven year detour" and "attack poverty by making the economy work again." In January, in response to the president's State of the Union Address, Barack Obama stated that it was "George Bush's Washington that let the banks and financial institutions run amok and take our economy down this dangerous road." Perhaps this reading of history makes for good politics in an election year, and it is certainly better for the Clintons than for anyone else. The only problem is that the story line is flawed. One could even say that it's a bit of a fairy tale.

For six of eight years, Bill Clinton governed with Republican majorities in Congress. Not surprisingly, there was much continuity between the Clinton and Bush administrations. Both embraced the so-called Washington Consensus, a policy agenda of fiscal austerity, central-bank autonomy, deregulated markets, liberalized capital flows, free trade, and privatization. . .

It is easy to forget that Clinton had other alternatives. In 1993, Democrats in Congress were attempting to rein in the Federal Reserve by making it more accountable and transparent. Those efforts were led by the chair of the House Banking Committee, the late Henry B. Gonzalez, who warned that the Fed was creating a giant casino economy, a house of cards, a "monstrous bubble." But such calls for regulation and transparency fell on deaf ears in the Clinton White House and Treasury.

The pattern was set early. The Federal Reserve became increasingly independent of elected branches and more captive of private financial interests. This was seen as "sound economics" and necessary to keep inflation low. Yet the Federal Reserve's autonomy left it a captive of a financial constituency it could no longer control or regulate. Instead, the Fed would rely on one very blunt policy instrument, its authority to set short-term interest rates. As a result of such an active monetary policy, the nation's fiscal policy was constrained, public investment declined, critical infrastructure needs were ignored. Moreover, the Fed's stop-and-go interest-rate policy encouraged the growth of a bubble economy in housing, credit, and currency markets. . .

The Washington Consensus has denied the need for regulation of the financial marketplace at every level. Jagdish Bhagwati, a prominent free-trade economist, has referred to the "Wall Street-Treasury-IMF complex" to suggest a policy agenda formulated and pushed by powerful financial interests. Joseph Stiglitz, the 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, has noted the agenda's many unscientific assumptions and refers to its promoters as "free market fundamentalists.". . .

For years the federal government had regulated [consumer credit and housing] lending standards to prevent inflation of asset prices in key sectors of the economy, particularly during wartime and boom times. For instance, Federal Reserve Regulation X required minimum down payments and maximum periods of repayment for housing loans. Federal Reserve Regulation W utilized the same devices for consumer credit for the purchase of automobiles, appliances, and other durable goods.

But starting with the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and continuing under Clinton, such regulations were mostly repealed. Known as "selective credit controls," these policy instruments took a "command and control" approach to regulation. It was an approach that reduced systematic risk by discouraging the development of a subprime mortgage market for borrowers with bad credit. Without such controls, lenders started making a flood of loans without minimum down-payment requirements, and eventually without even requiring documentation of income on many loans. Adjustable interest rates and hidden balloon payments made these loans inherently more risky.

Predatory lending was not an invention of the Bush administration. High-interest payday loans and subprime mortgages took off under Clinton. . .

By 1995, the subprime loan market had reached $90 billion in loan volume, and it then doubled over the next three years. Rising loan volume led to a significant deterioration in loan quality. Meanwhile, by March 1998, the number of subprime lenders grew from a small handful to more than fifty. Ten of the twenty-five largest subprime lenders were affiliated with federally chartered bank holding companies, but federal bank regulators remained unconcerned. . .

Near the end of his eight years in office, Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, one of the most far-reaching banking reforms since the Great Depression. It swept aside parts of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that had provided significant regulatory firewalls between commercial banks, insurance companies, securities firms, and investment banks. . .

Wall Street had been lobbying for years for an end to Glass-Steagall, but it had not received much support before Clinton. Among those with a personal interest in the demise of Glass-Steagall was Robert Rubin, who had months earlier stepped down as treasury secretary to become chair of Citigroup, a financial-services conglomerate that was facing the possibility of having to sell off its insurance underwriting subsidiary. . .

History should deal harshly with Bill Clinton. Throughout his terms, real wages stagnated, manufacturing and service jobs moved overseas in large numbers, and the middle class was squeezed. With the federal government asleep at the wheel, there was a significant rise in predatory lending practices by banks and mortgage companies. By Clinton's final years in office, all of these trends had contributed to an ominous rise in delinquencies and foreclosures on subprime mortgage loans. This was particularly pronounced in urban America. In Chicago, for instance, foreclosures on subprime mortgages rose from 131 in 1993 to more than 5,000 in 1999. . .

The Washington Consensus preaches private competition, transparent markets, and less government regulation. Although many mortgage borrowers have been subject to ruthless, unfettered competition, investment banks and hedge funds are increasingly protected by hidden subsidies. Thanks to the combination of deregulation and Federal Reserve bailouts, profits were privatized while the losses are now socialized. . .

Financial deregulation and central-bank autonomy were supposed to make the U.S. financial sector stronger. Financial innovation was among the great American exports, along with the model of an independent central bank. The Federal Reserve, insulated from public politics, was supposed to be the guarantor of price stability. Instead, the Fed has presided over what has been one of history's greatest financial bubbles.

Moreover, while trillions of dollars were channeled into housing and stock market bubbles, the public sector remained woefully underfunded. This, too, has been the legacy of the Clinton-Bush bubble economy: fiscal austerity and budget cutbacks in physical and social infrastructure, from structurally deficient roads and bridges and inadequate water and sewage systems to the collapsing levees around New Orleans and declining public education everywhere. . .

Timothy A. Canova is the Betty Hutton Williams Professor of International Economic Law at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California.

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington under nine presidents and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review is an online journal and archive of alternative news. It has been on the web since 1995

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