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Hindsight is 20/20.  (And, what we're seeing, clearly, in the rearview mirror is pretty damn ugly.)

We live in a nation bursting at the seams with fraud. For the purposes of this diary, I'm calling it our "Fraudemocracy."

Call it our moment of clarity. Call it mass disgust with the way things are. But, let's call it what "it" is.

It is fraud, greed and spin versus suffering, compassion and reality. It is Wall Street versus Main Street. It is the haves versus the have nots. It is those that make the news versus those too poor to make the news.

It is the "new normal." It is the new golden rule: "Those that have the gold write the rules." It is bullshit. It is fraud.

And, IMHO, too many Democrats are okay (or, ambivalent, or dealing with a serious bout of cognitive dissonance about it) with that.

On Thursday, I posted a brief diary entitled, "Democrats?" It was about the pathetic ambivalence we're witnessing from many within our own party -- never mind the teabaggers and the Rethugs -- with regard to the reality that we're about to throw 400,000 Americans out on the streets every month as a byproduct of cancelling their emergency unemployment coverage (extensions). New Deal Democrat posted a much better, more detailed diary on the matter yesterday: "Congress: Establish a new WPA NOW!"

But, the truth is, it's about matters much deeper than compassion for sheer human suffering.

It is about our society and everything around us.


Mark Ames has a piece worth a read running over at right now: "10 Ways the American Economy Is Built on Fraud." (I excerpted the section on "Big Pharma Fraud," [I've had two experiences in my life where doctors/drug manufacturers came very close to killing me, through misdiagnosis and bad prescriptions], but Ames gives his readers a whirlwind tour of the economic thievery rampant throughout various sectors of our society.)

10 Ways the American Economy Is Built on Fraud
eXiled Online / By Mark Ames
April 29, 2010

Fraud has become so endemic in this country that it's woven its way into America's DNA.

Here are 10 ways the American economy is built on fraud:

1). Accounting Fraud...

2). Big Pharma Fraud. Remember that scene early in Fight Club, when Edward Norton explained his job, when it was more profitable to let a car defect go and pay whatever lawsuit settlements come from the deaths, and when it's better to recall the cars because the number of deaths will result in too many lawsuits? This is humanitarian do-gooder stuff compared to the savage real-world fraud-for-profit model that drives America's drug companies. It's really simple and it goes like this: the more fraud a drug company commits, so long as it's off-the-scale fraud with the most horrible consequences for the victims, the drug company's profits always outdo the criminal fines and lawsuits by factors of 20, 30, 100... It's as simple as that. Because the billion in penalties here or the two billion in class action lawsuit settlements there are always far less than the tens of billions you earn from pushing harmful drugs on unsuspecting idiots. To wit: Between May 2004 and March 2010, a handful of top drug companies like Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers paid over $7 billion in criminal penalties for bribing doctors to prescribe drugs for unapproved uses, with sometimes deadly consequences. However, as a Bloomberg report noted, the fines are always a fraction of the profits--Pfizer alone paid almost $3 billion in criminal fines since 2004, yet that was just one percent of their total revenues; Eli Lilly got busted bribing doctors to prescribe a schizophrenia drug, Zyprexa, to elderly patients suffering from dementia, even though company-run clinical trials showed an alarming death rate of 31 people out of 1,184 participants (double the placebo rate). Whatever--the market for elderly dementia patients meant billions in extra revenues. So Eli Lilly continued pushing Zyprexa on the elderly for another four years until it the Feds busted them. Eli Lilly got hit with $1.42 billion fine, but that was peanuts compared to the $36 billion it earned on Zyprexa sales from 2000-2008. To make it happen, the drug companies buy off all the checks and balances: lawsuits revealed the enormous bribes they pay to doctors, and even America's medical journals are so corrupted by drug company influence that they're no longer reliable as much more than hidden advertisements, according to a recent UCSF study. Medical journals are 5 times more likely to publish "positive" drug reviews than negative reviews, and one-quarter of all clinical trials are never published at all, leading doctors to prescribe drugs assuming they have all the information. The result: prescription drugs kill one American every five minutes ...while Americans pay more for drugs than anyone in the world, spending a total of $12 billion on drugs in 1980 to spending $291 billion in 2008--a 1,700% increase. America is ranked only 17th in the world in life expectancy.

3.) Alan Greenspan: Fraudonomics Maestro...

4.) Municipal Debt Fraud...

5.) Journalism fraud...

6.) Fraudonomics K-12...

7.) Boardroom Fraud...

8.) Corrupt credit rating agencies...

9.) Regulatory Fraud: In the OTS, OCC, Fed, pension benefit guaranty agency and of course the SEC...

10.) Judicial fraud...

And, if Ames is too over-the-top for you, here's George Washington's latest, just posted over at Naked Capitalism, a couple of hours ago: "Guest Post: Cut the Partisan Hooey ... BOTH the Private Sector AND the Government are to Blame for the Financial Crisis."

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(Diarist is authorized, in writing, by Naked Capitalism Publisher Yves Smith to reproduce diaries which appear on her blog in their entirety, for the readership here at Daily Kos.)

Guest Post: Cut the Partisan Hooey ... BOTH the Private Sector AND the Government are to Blame for the Financial Crisis
George Washington
11:35 PM   May 1, 2010
Washington's Blog

Partisan GOP hacks say the financial crisis was caused by too much regulation, and government interference in the markets.

But Glass-Steagall was repealed, derivatives were left unregulated, and the regulators were watching porn instead of preventing fraud. Giant banks, hedge funds and other fat cat private players knowingly gamed the market and committed fraud in more ways than can be listed in a single post.

And remember, even the "father of economics" - Adam Smith - didn't believe in completely unfettered free markets.

On the other hand, partisan Democratic party hacks say that bad corporations caused the crisis, and that if more power is given to Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other governmental honchos, they'll fix everything.

But Summers, Bernanke, Geithner and the other meatheads largely caused the crisis through their actions. And as Simon Johnson points out, the government created the mega-giants, and they are not the product of free market competition.

As I pointed out in February 2009, government fraud is pervasive:

In case you believe that there are only "a couple of bad apples" in the United States, here is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of corruption by leading pillars of American society:

    * Senior military officials stole approximately $125 billion dollars out of Iraq reconstruction funds, dwarfing Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme (in turn, the looting which is now occurring under the bailout/stimulus programs will far surpass $150 billion)

    * Texas billionaire Robert Stanford ran a multi-billion dollar fraud scheme of his own

    * Senior judges in Pennsylvania have pleaded guilty to falsely convicting and imprisoning hundreds of youths (they got kickbacks from the prisons).

    * The government-endorsed ratings agencies which were supposed to accurately rate the credit-worthiness of companies and nations committed massive fraud

There are hundreds of similar stories of corruption which have come out recently.

But surely government employees would have done something to stop such corruption if had known about it, right?

Well, actually:

    * Whistleblowers alerted the government about the looting of Iraq reconstruction funds, but nothing was done

    * A whistleblower "gift-wrapped and delivered" the Madoff scandal to the SEC, but they refused to take action

    * The Treasury department allowed banks to "cook their books"

    * The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear a case regarding the corrupt judges. A month later, only after the judges confessed to criminal wrongdoing, did the Supreme Court change its mind and take any interest

    * Instead of insisting on accurate books, the government encouraged fraudulent bookkeeping. For example, as of 2006:

"President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar ... broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations."

    * The government knew about mortgage fraud a long time ago. For example, the FBI warned of an "epidemic" of mortgage fraud in 2004. However, the FBI, DOJ and other government agencies then stood down and did nothing. See this and this.

These are just some of the many examples of the government aiding and abetting corruption.

A lot has come out since then about Geithner, Bernanke, and other officials. See this, this, this, this and this.

Indeed, government employees are mainly using their time in office to feather their own nests, rather than to do anything constructive.

So let's cut the partisan hooey.

Both the fat cat players and the government are to blame for the financial crisis, and we need to rein in corruption and fraud in both.

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Wall Street regulatory "reform." Not so much: "Potential Derivative Loophole #1: Trading Facility."

At the moment, the omission of one word, "trading," (thanks to Senator Blanche Lincoln's Agriculture Committee), all but entirely morphs "tough" derivatives language in the bill into a layup for Wall Street. Will it be in the final version of the legislation? (This same-as-it-ever-was language is in the bill as we blog. Come on! You really didn't think Blanche actually went and bought a new conscience at Wal-Mart, did you?)

Potential Derivative Loophole #1: Trading Facility
Mike Konczal
April 30, 2010

It's Friday, so for fun let's play financial reform loophole detective. Here's the definition of a "swap execution facility" in Senator Lincoln's original bill (p. 47):

This language was passed out of the Ag Committee. Here is the Ag Committee's language merged into the Dodd Bill that will be debated next week (p. 773-774). Can you find a difference?

The word "trading" has been removed from the Dodd Bill. Specifically, a swap execution facility no longer means a "trading facility" but just a "facility." I thought this might not mean much, until I just saw this Bloomberg report from Matthew Leising that this might in fact be a big deal:

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- A one-word deletion in the 1,565- page Senate financial reform bill may help banks and inter- dealer brokers maintain how they trade swaps in the unregulated $605 trillion over-the-counter derivatives market.... The latest version deletes the word "trading" from the term "trading facility," according to a copy of the revised bill obtained by Bloomberg News.

I'm tee'ing up my Halter for Senate donation right now! Are you?

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Author and former Goldman Sachs Managing Director Nomi Prins tells us of four more loopholes in the current Senate version of Chris Dodd's legislation, at least as far as the shadow banking (i.e.: hedge and private equity funds, etc.) sector is concerned.

Shadow Banking

Nomi Prins   April 26, 2010

Reforms pending in Congress would not touch the abuses of hedge funds and private equity.

Despite all the noise about financial reform, the shadow banking system that helped create the financial crisis would remain fundamentally unaltered by the legislation now pending in Congress. Indeed, leveraged entities such as private-equity, venture-capital, and hedge funds get only minor regulatory attention.


...neither the House bill passed last December nor the most recent Senate bill submitted by Sen. Chris Dodd does more than impose marginal adjustments on the shadow banking system. Even those measures contain loopholes so inviting that JPMorgan Chase, the largest hedge-fund manager by assets worldwide, scoffs at the notion it will be adversely affected.


Loophole No. 1: Private-equity funds are financial-pyramid bottom-feeders; they buy distressed companies or assets, load them up with debt, extract near-term profit, and are gone before any collapse occurs.

Loophole No. 2: Neither the Senate nor the House bill alters the way in which hedge and private-equity funds do business.

Loophole No. 3: Under the Senate bill, foreign-based firms that aren't directly or indirectly controlled by a firm organized under U.S. laws are exempted.

Loophole No. 4: Though large banks like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs run hedge funds, the language in Dodd's bill doesn't prohibit a bank from managing the portfolio of a client who chooses to invest in hedge funds.

And, then there's the manipulation of the looting of Main Street by Wall Street in the MSM...

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Those "great" Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.) numbers we've been hearing about for the past three quarters, as recently as last Friday? Economist Dean Baker informs us otherwise: "GDP Growth: It's the Inventories Stupid!"

GDP Growth: It's the Inventories Stupid!
Dean Baker
Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
Friday, 30 April 2010 10:52

This is in the preemptive strike category. It seems from initial reports that no one bothered to notice that half of this quarter's GDP growth (1.6 percentage points) was driven by inventory accumulation. If we pull out inventories, final demand grew at a 1.6 percent annual rate, almost exactly the same as the 1.7 percent rate in the 4th quarter of 2009 and the 1.5 percent rate in the 3rd quarter of 2009.

In other words, we are still looking at a very weak economy; one far weaker than would be expected coming out of such a severe downturn and one which may not even be growing fast enough to create any jobs at all.

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Our great "industrial rebound," a/k/a "Is This 'The Unrecovery?'"

GM 'close to commiting fraud' in ad, lawmaker charges
Last Updated: April 29. 2010 10:27PM
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- A senior Republican criticized General Motors Co. decision to run television advertisements featuring the company's CEO that tout its repayment of $6.7 billion in government loans.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a letter obtained by The Detroit News today to GM chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. that the company "has come dangerously close to committing fraud and that you might have colluded with the U.S. Treasury to deceive the American public."

Gretchen Morgenson, in Sunday's NY Times, provides even greater detail on this over-the-top spin: "Repaying Taxpayers With Their Own Cash."

Repaying Taxpayers With Their Own Cash
New York Times
May 2, 2010

AS we inch closer to a clearer understanding of the products and practices that unleashed the credit crisis of 2008, it's becoming apparent that those seeking the whole truth are still outnumbered by those aiming to obscure it. This is the case not only on Wall Street but also in Washington.

G.M. trumpeted its escape from the program as evidence that it had turned the corner in its operations. "G.M. is able to repay the taxpayers in full, with interest, ahead of schedule, because more customers are buying vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse," boasted Edward E. Whitacre Jr., its chief executive.

G.M. also crowed about its loan repayment in a national television ad and the United States Treasury also marked the moment with a press release: "We are encouraged that G.M. has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability," said Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary.

Taxpayers are naturally eager for news about bailout repayments. But what neither G.M. nor the Treasury disclosed was that the company simply used other funds held by the Treasury to pay off its original loan.

Neil M. Barofsky, the inspector general overseeing the troubled asset program, revealed this detail when he spoke before the Senate Finance Committee on April 20...

And, then there's the story of Caterpillar.  Frequently used as the poster child for industrial recovery over at and in other business press outlets, their spin makes sense, except when you zoom-in on the facts: "Is This 'The Unrecovery'?"

Is This 'The Unrecovery'?
(via Seeking Alpha)
by: Michael Panzner April 27, 2010

According to the world's largest maker of construction equipment, the global economy is humming on all cylinders:

Caterpillar (CAT) raised its prediction for world economic growth in 2010 to 3.5 percent, from 3 percent in its previous forecast. The U.S. may expand 3.5 percent while developing countries may grow more than 6 percent, the company said.

"Economic conditions are definitely improving, particularly in the world's developing economies," Chief Executive Officer James Owens said in the statement. "Industry activity and orders are significantly higher than last year and are at record levels in some areas."

But, as we learn by reading more, the numbers tell us a different story once you read about Caterpillar's actual statistical facts:

--  Caterpillar's sales are down 21% versus the first three months of 2009 (at the so-called depths of the recession);

--  2010 revenue dropped 11% to $8.24 billion quarter versus (year-earlier)     quarter

--  Caterpillar's results came in well below the Thomson Reuters forecast of $8.84 billion

--  Machinery sales were down 1% versus a year ago

--  North American machinery sales were down 15% versus year ago nos.

...So how did we get big increases? Asia, up 40%. Yep, that matters, and it's what drove the results.

Engine sales were even worse, off 28%, and even in Asia they were down, in that case 15%.

The street is cheering this report on the back of everyone and their brother pumping the company (most especially the fools on CNBS) but the facts are what they are. With no revenue increases you can argue for improving profit due to firing huge numbers of people all you want, but the top-line, particularly in America, is horribly bad and does not point to any sort of turn-around in construction equipment sales of any sort, nor any improvement in over-the-road trucks and other engine markets (such as marine.)

Maybe we should start calling it the "unrecovery"?

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Yes, it's all about those Wall Street masters of the universe that pretty much run everything. I'm talking about Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and...drumroll please...everyone's favorite vampire squid, Goldman-Sachs: "The Feds vs. Goldman." Even Matt Taibbi is saying that we've reached a critical juncture.

The Feds vs. Goldman
Rolling Stone Magazine
(This article originally appeared in RS 1104 from May 13, 2010.)
By  Matt Taibbi
Apr 26, 2010 5:30 PM EDT

...The truth is that what Goldman is alleged to have done in this SEC case is even worse than what all these assholes laughed at us for talking about last year.

...I had heard rumors that Goldman had gone out and intentionally scared up toxic mortgages and swaps in order to get short of them with sucker bookies like AIG. But - and this seems funny in retrospect - I foolishly dismissed those tales as being too conspiratorial. I thought it was bad enough that Goldman was shorting the subprime market even as it was selling toxic subprime-backed securities to chumps on the open market. The notion that the bank would actually go out and create big balls of crap that would be designed to fail seemed too nuts even for my tastes.

In the year since - and this, to me, is the main lesson from the SEC case against Goldman - the public has quickly come to accept that when it comes to the once-great institutions of modern Wall Street, literally no deal that makes money is too low to be contemplated.

Taibbi also tells us of a  "...nearly identical case involving a Merrill Lynch mortgage deal called Norma now making its way through the courts.

...There is more fraud out there, and everyone knows it: front-running, manipulation of the commodities markets, trading ahead of interest-rate moves, hidden losses, Enron-esque accounting, Ponzi schemes in the precious-metals markets, you name it. We gave these people nearly a trillion bailout dollars, and no one knows what service they actually provide beyond fraud, gross self-indulgence and the occasional transparently insincere public apology.

The Goldman case emerges as a symbol of all this brokenness...

As usual, Taibbi is miles beyond "definitely worth a read."

As even the ubersarcastic Taibbi tells us, it's about cutting off the status quo at their knees. At this moment, and given the shifting tide of public opinion against Wall Street, even he acknowledges some hope that something positive for Main Street might come of all of this.

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IMHO, as our Wall Street mega-firms falsely claim that the costs relating to their potential breakup would be astronomical, even if it just involved a forced spinoff of their derivatives business, the truth is, as we're now finding out about thanks to Bloomberg and to a head's-up from Jesse at his Crossroads Cafe blog, at least two major U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley,  may be in serious PIIGS' sh*t due to the sovereign debt crisis/contagion in Europe: "When You Lie Down With Them Dept: Morgan Stanley Has 69% Tier 1 Capital Exposure to the PIIGS."

JPMorgan Has Biggest Exposure to Debt Risks in Europe
By Gavin Finch

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second- biggest U.S. bank by assets, has a larger exposure than any of its peers to Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain, according to Wells Fargo & Co.

JPMorgan's exposure to the five so-called PIIGS countries is $36.3 billion, equating to 28 percent of the firm's Tier-1 capital, a measure of financial strength, Wells Fargo analysts including Matthew Burnell wrote today. Morgan Stanley holds $32.4 billion of debt in the region, which equates to 69 percent of its Tier 1 capital, Burnell wrote.

"Regulatory data suggests JPMorgan's exposure is largest in aggregate, but Morgan Stanley held the largest aggregate exposure to the PIIGS relative to Tier 1 capital," the analysts wrote. Overall U.S. bank "exposure to Greece is lower than exposure to
Ireland, Italy and Spain."


U.S. banks held a total of $236.8 billion of exposure to the five nations, including $18.1 billion to Greece, Wells Fargo said. European banks have claims totaling $193.1 billion on Greece, according to the Bank for International Settlements, with another $832.2 billion of claims on Spain.

This begs yet another reason why America must break-up the too-big-to-fail banks. George Washington provides us with five more reasons to do this, in his post over at Naked Capitalism, Friday...

(Diarist has received authorization from Naked Capitalism Publisher Yves Smith to reprint diaries that appear on her blog in their entirety, here on Daily Kos.)

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Guest Post: 5 Reasons We Must Break Up the Giant Banks
George Washington
Washington's Blog
3:40PM   Friday, April 30, 2010

Washington's Blog

As everyone from Paul Krugman to Simon Johnson has noted, the banks are so big and politically powerful that they have bought the politicians and captured the regulators.

But the giant banks are not only dangerous because they skew the political system. There are five economic arguments against the mega-banks as well.

Impaired Competition

Fortune pointed out last February that the only reason that smaller banks haven't been able to expand and thrive is that the too-big-to-fails have decreased competition:

Growth for the nation's smaller banks represents a reversal of trends from the last twenty years, when the biggest banks got much bigger and many of the smallest players were gobbled up or driven under...

As big banks struggle to find a way forward and rising loan losses threaten to punish poorly run banks of all sizes, smaller but well capitalized institutions have a long-awaited chance to expand.

So the very size of the giants squashes competition.

Less Loans, More Bonuses

Small banks have been lending much more than the big boys.

The giant banks which received taxpayer bailouts actually slashed lending more, gave higher bonuses, and reduced costs less than banks which didn't get bailed out.

Lack of Transparency in Derivatives

JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley together hold 80% of the country's derivatives risk, and 96% of the exposure to credit derivatives.

Experts say that derivatives will never be reined in until the mega-banks are broken up.

Increased Debt Problems

As I pointed out in December 2008:

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is often called the "central banks' central bank", as it coordinates transactions between central banks.

BIS points out in a new report that the bank rescue packages have transferred significant risks onto government balance sheets, which is reflected in the corresponding widening of sovereign credit default swaps:

The scope and magnitude of the bank rescue packages also meant that significant risks had been transferred onto government balance sheets. This was particularly apparent in the market for CDS referencing sovereigns involved either in large individual bank rescues or in broad-based support packages for the financial sector, including the United States. While such CDS were thinly traded prior to the announced rescue packages, spreads widened suddenly on increased demand for credit protection, while corresponding financial sector spreads tightened.

In other words, by assuming huge portions of the risk from banks trading in toxic derivatives, and by spending trillions that they don't have, central banks have put their countries at risk from default.

Now, Greece, Portugal, Spain and many other European countries - as well as the U.S. and Japan - are facing serious debt crises. See this, this and this.

By failing to break up the giant banks, the government is guaranteeing that they will take crazily risky bets again and again and again.

We are no longer wealthy enough to keep bailing out the bloated banks. We have serious debt problems. See this, this and this.

(Anyone who claims that Chris Dodd's proposed "reform" legislation will prevent banks from getting bailed out again is wrong. If the giant banks aren't broken up now - when they are threatening to take down the world economy - they won't be broken up next time they become insolvent, either. And see this.)

Unfair Competition and Manipulation of Markets

Moreover, Richard Alford - former New York Fed economist, trading floor economist and strategist - recently showed that banks that get too big benefit from "information asymmetry" which disrupts the free market.

Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted in September that giants like Goldman are using their size to manipulate the market:

"The main problem that Goldman raises is a question of size: `too big to fail.' In some markets, they have a significant fraction of trades. Why is that important? They trade both on their proprietary desk and on behalf of customers. When you do that and you have a significant fraction of all trades, you have a lot of information."

Further, he says, "That raises the potential of conflicts of interest, problems of front-running, using that inside information for your proprietary desk. And that's why the Volcker report came out and said that we need to restrict the kinds of activity that these large institutions have. If you're going to trade on behalf of others, if you're going to be a commercial bank, you can't engage in certain kinds of risk-taking behavior."

The giants (especially Goldman Sachs) have also used high-frequency program trading which not only distorted the markets - making up more than 70% of stock trades - but which also let the program trading giants take a sneak peak at what the real (aka "human") traders are buying and selling, and then trade on the insider information. See this, this, this and this. (This is frontrunning, which is illegal; but it is a lot bigger than garden variety frontrunning, because the program traders are not only trading based on inside knowledge of what their own clients are doing, they are also trading based on knowledge of what all other traders are doing).

Goldman also admitted that its proprietary trading program can "manipulate the markets in unfair ways". The giant banks have also allegedly used their Counterparty Risk Management Policy Group (CRMPG) to exchange secret information and formulate coordinated mutually beneficial actions, all with the government's blessings.

Again, size matters. If a bunch of small banks did this, manipulation by numerous small players would tend to cancel each other out. But with a handful of giants doing it, it can manipulate the entire economy in ways which are not good for the American citizen.

No wonder virtually every independent economist and financial expert is calling for the big banks to be broken up.

Some argue that it is logistically impossible to break up the behemoths. But if we broke up Standard Oil, we can break up the giant banks as well.

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As economists and authors Simon Johnson and James Kwak emphatically point out, dealing with the "Too-Big-To-Fail" firms is a task too important and "Too Big for Us to Fail."

Too Big for Us to Fail
Simon Johnson and James Kwak
April 26, 2010

...Even as the ideology of deregulation has been exposed as a failure, the banks and their political allies are still invoking the bogeyman of big government to fight off financial reform. Political consultant Frank Luntz clearly spelled out the strategy to demonize reform by branding it as more bureaucracy, bailouts, and special-interest loopholes. This has created the Orwellian specter of Republicans introducing special-interest loopholes into reform legislation (such as an exemption for automobile dealers from the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency, introduced by Rep. John Campbell, a Republican) and then criticizing the same legislation for its loopholes.


...the financial crisis hurt the megabanks' profits (for a quarter or two, at least), it did nothing to weaken their political power. If anything, increased concentration only increased the stature and influence of the survivors, and the Supreme Court's 2009 decision in Citizens United put politicians on notice that corporate influence over politics is likely only to grow...


What would it take to curb the political power of the financial sector? ''


...Breaking up the megabanks, by increasing competition and increasing the costs of collective action, would help most of all...

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Yes, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) have just the ticket for getting Main Street back in control of its government.  It's called "The Safe Banking Act," and it's now being proposed as an amendment to the financial services regulatory reform legislation currently up for floor debate in the Senate.

The SAFE Banking Act: Break Them Up
by Simon Johnson, co-author of  13 Bankers.
The Baseline Scenario
April 22, 2010

...The proposal places hard leverage and size caps on financial institutions. It is well crafted, based on a great deal of hard thinking, and -- as reported on the front page of The New York Times this week -- the issue has the potential to draw a considerable amount of support.


In the American political system -- where the power of major banks is now so manifest -- there is no way to significantly reduce the risks posed by these banks unless they are broken up.

These banks are so powerful that they can confront and defy the government, as seen in the twists and turns of the S.E.C. versus Goldman Sachs case.  


The S.E.C. case against Goldman has created a great opportunity for the Democrats because it exposes details regarding exactly how big banks are mismanaged and why they treat many of their customers in an unreasonable manner.  The electorate now completely understands -- even more clearly than a week ago -- that the attitudes and compensation structure of the largest banks lie at the heart of our current macroeconomic difficulties.


As political logic inserts itself more and more into the economic debate on banking, there is a real possibility that Senators Brown and Kaufman have exactly what the Democrats (and the country) needs.

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After thirty years of tolerating rampant fraud perpetrated by a financial services sector and a status quo that runs roughshod over our government and our society, as a whole, IMHO, I truly believe that strong support (leading to the eventual passage) of the Brown-Kaufman legislation currently before our Senate is a critical step towards the critical goal of Main Street's efforts to regain some semblance of sanity and control of (and financial parity within) our economy and, subsequently, our future.

Sanity must prevail. Because when it gets to the point where taxpayer support of our largest, still-insolvent banks trumps the basic well-being of scores of millions of those within our society, nothing else will suffice.

Call your representatives and senators and remind them that the Constitution tells us that "banks don't own the place," voters do. Support the Brown-Kaufman amendment(s) to financial services regulatory reform.

It's time to take our country back.

Originally posted to on Sun May 02, 2010 at 06:26 AM PDT.

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