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Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: Mortgaging the White House

Finally, here we are at the end of this week of a hundred days. As everyone in the western world probably knows by now, this benchmark for assessing presidencies goes back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who arrived at the White House in the depths of the Great Depression.

In his first hundred days, FDR came out swinging. He shut down the banks, threw the money lenders from the temple, cranked out so much legislation so fast he would shout to his secretary, Grace Tully, “Grace, take a law!” Will Rogers said Congress didn’t pass bills anymore; it just waved as they went by.

President Obama’s been busy, but contrary to many of the pundits, he’s no FDR. Our new president got his political education in the world of Chicago ward politics, and seems to have adopted a strategy from the machine of that city’s longtime boss, the late Richard J. Daley, father of the current mayor there. “Don’t make no waves,” one of Daley’s henchmen advised, “don’t back no losers.”

Your opinion of Obama’s first 100 days depends of course on your own vantage point. But we'd argue that as part of his bending over backwards to support the banks and avoid the losers, he has blundered mightily in his choice of economic advisers.

Last week, at a hearing of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) monitoring the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tried to correct AFL-CIO General Counsel Damon Silvers. “I’ve practiced law and you’ve been a banker,” Silvers said. Never, Geithner replied, “I’ve only been in public service.”

We beg to differ. Read Jo Becker and Gretchen Morgenson's front-page profile of Secretary Geithner in Monday's NEW YORK TIMES, and you’ll see how Robert Rubin protégé Geithner, during the five years he was running the New York Federal Reserve, fell under the spell of the big barons of banking to whom he would one day help shovel overly generous sums of money at taxpayer expense.

During “an era of unbridled and ultimately disastrous risk-taking by the financial industry,” the Times reported. “… He forged unusually close relationships with executives of Wall Street’s giant financial institutions.

“His actions, as a regulator and later a bailout king, often aligned with the industry's interests and desires, according to interviews with financiers, regulators and analysts and a review of Federal Reserve records.”

Wined and dined at the Four Seasons, and in corporate dining rooms and fine homes by the very men whose greed and judgment helped bring on the Great Collapse, Geithner became so much a favorite of the Club that former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill talked with him about becoming the bank’s CEO.

According to Becker and Morgenson, “Even as banks complain that the government has attached too many intrusive strings to its financial assistance, a range of critics – lawmakers, economists and even former Federal Reserve colleagues – say that the bailout Mr. Geithner has played such a central role in fashioning is overly generous to the financial industry at taxpayer expense.”

The two reporters write that Geithner “repeatedly missed or overlooked signs” that the financial system was self-destructing. “When he did spot trouble, analysts say, his responses were too measured, or too late.”

In choosing a man to manage the bailout of the banks who’s so cozy with its players, and then installing as his White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who in the Clinton administration took a laissez-faire attitude toward the financial industry which would later enrich him, the president bought into the old fantasy that what's best for Wall Street is best for America.

With these two as his financial gatekeepers, President Obama’s now in the position of Louis XVI being advised by Marie Antoinette to have another piece of cake until that rumble in the streets has passed on by.

In fact, other Wall Street insiders – many of them big contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, and progressive in their concern for the public interest – privately are expressing serious concerns that Geithner, Summers and their associates are leading the President and America’s taxpayers down a path toward further economic disaster.

This week, as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois unsuccessfully fought for a congressional amendment he said would have helped 1.7 million Americans save their homes from foreclosure, the senator told a radio station back home that, “The banks – hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created – are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."

He could say the same of the White House.


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Bill Moyers Blog May 20, 2009


If Barack Obama proves to be a one term President, it will not be from what he did, but from what he
didn't do. I am not suggesting America, and the world, would be better served by turning the reins of
government back over to the crooked, greedy Republican elite, who presided over, indeed, engineered,
the greatest transfer of wealth the world has ever seen, over the last fifty years. I am suggesting that
government policies need to return to pragmatic, honest historic policies, as espoused by Andrew
Jackson, and F.D.R.

President Obama is obviously going to fail from his 'turn the other check' policies.

He promised during his campaign to 'hold accountable' the 'wrong doers'. Instead of headed for jail, many
of the 'bureaucrats' from the Bush administration are 'promoted' in the Obama camp. We were fed 'supply
and demand' on the outrageous cost of petroleum for nearly eight years. That scheme cost America
trillions over seven years, when it became obvious Obama was going to win the election, the price of
petroleum dropped like a rock. That reflected the fear of prosecution.
When the finance 'bubble' unraveled, the Bushies brought in Bernanke and Paulson. That pair of thieves
distributed billions to their 'base' in the last year of Bush, then to add insult to real injury, Obama retained
Bernanke, and Paulson hand picked Tim Geitener as Secretary of the Treasury, and another 'wimp' as the
appointed C.E.O. of A.I.G. (a supposedly $1.00 a year man), Edward M. Liddy, who has sent billions
into overseas economies in the past year, at the expense of the United States. Obama is still a 'free trader',
in spite of the average 600 billion a year trade deficit, over the Bush years. The most optimistic
legitimate value of benefits to a President over a 8 year Presidency would be about 25 million dollars. If
the elites were back in power, and it doesn't appear they were ever out, they could easily 'skim' three
trillion a year for about seven years. If a 'good ball player' ended up with one one hundreth percent of
that, it would be about two and one half billion. Maybe that's why Obama has lost his direction.

Richard F. Byrd, Idaho

Greg, I simply want to see a Ken Lewis sit down with Bill for an interview (without a Bank of America prepared script) for an insightful session which allows him to present his side of the story with follow-up questions from Bill that will dive into the nuances of his position and allow us, his viewers the opportunity to make an informed opinion about the banking crisis and the best way to get out of this long term. I did see the G. Soros interview and others (I unfortunately missed Buffett) who stressed the nationalization of the banks and Lewis and others definitely have an opposing point of view.

My hope is that the interview would provide fullness to the story and provide necessary information so that we can develop an informed opinion. A lack of opposing views or understanding forces us develop uninformed opinions which result in inaccurate generalizations, much like the ones you have in your message about me and where I stand.

It is people who "turn the channel" when something comes on that they don't like who are the main causes of a lot of the polarization that we have in this country today.

We needed another FDR. Instead, we got another Clinton, doing the Right-Wing Shuffle. Shuffle to the right, shuffle to the right. If the Right notices, shuffle some more and smile. If the Left notices, stand still and pretend you haven't moved at all.

Nothing will change until we get the money out of Washington. ALL elected officials should earn minimum wage. Further, after serving in Congress or the White House, they should be prohibited from every being paid more than ten times the minimum wage for any job.

So long as Washington remains a place to strike it rich, our country will be "served" by those who care more about wealth than public welfare.

Robert: So you want a "play date" with Mr Sweetspot, Ken Lewis? It's not as if these parasitic criminals haven't had audience for their lies in a plethoria of venues in the past several years. All you had to do was change channels. And it is not as if Moyers didn't welcome Soros and Buffet like royalty. On your boat all the passengers rush the starboard rail to worship wealth and celebrity, and the keel comes into view. Blub, blub, blub, oh Oligarchical Overlords!

Captcha: llano up

When I heard Sen. Durbin's comment the initial thought I had was "Well, who put the For Sale sign on the front lawn"? The financial institutuions can give but it doesn't get them anything unless the politicans take!

Over the past few months I feel that the reporting on the show has been heavily slanted against the banks and some statements made that were not exactly accurate. I would like to see one of the CEO's of a major bank appear on your show to hear their side of the story.

I have to commend Sen. Durbin's insightful comment, a hint of a spine does show up occasionally among the current members of Congress. Outside of the voting booth, Congress is our only defense against a run away Administrative branch. If Sen. Durbin's assessment is anywhere near true, we can only stand by and watch the robbery as the corporate owned mainstream media tells us how wonderful things are going !

Let's require that the Treasury Sec. cannot come from NY banking club. How can Goldman Sachs have employed the last, what 5 Treasury Sec. (poor Paul Neill didn't have a chance).

Bravo to the Community Organizer Steve Mecham. They say an entire new wave of balloon payment mortgages will hit the fan and default this & next year. It makes no sense for predatory lenders to board up houses & let them sit abandoned, rather than redo the loans into a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. The banks would still make money, it would just not be the pie in the sky profit rate they had dreamed of.
Personally, I'd like to see variable rate & Balloon rate mortgages banned. Only fixed terms w no penalty for early payment, that way people can pay more of pay them if if they can, but not default when they can't.

Those politicians who voted against this mortgage aid program should be given a black plastic yard bag told to pack what they can & go live in a homeless shelter for 2 months. No credit cards, minimal cash. Not allowed to use health care insurance.
MAYBE then they would get it.
Step out of your marble halls, members of Congress & taste reality.

In my mind Obama has been woefully disappointing. Thus far he has presented himself as a politician not a leader. He has played it safe and seems intent on just maintaining the status quo - not what he promised. In many ways (Afghanistan, Iraq, Treasury, bank bailout) his administration is no different than the Bush administration. Most disappointing is his handling of the bank fiasco. The only way we will see anything different from the O administration is for people to demand it. I would like to see the American people engage in legal bank robbery; take their money out of the corrupt banks and put it in their local credit union. Credit Unions are owned and operated by their members and unlike the banking institutions being bailed out, credit unions work for their members not stockholders. What a concept!

And that is why I say boys (Bill and Mike)that if the Barack Obama administration does not relent and embrace social justice soon it will go down in history as the equivalent of the Weimar incompetents in Germany between WWI and Hitler. The fascists see their chance and will not be able to resist taking it even if world ecology is caused to collapse in the melee. (Dr Strangelovian isn't it? Notice how confidently their macoutes rant on this blog. I see them arming and strutting, meeting in my own community.)

Obama complains that he can't turn this old oil tanker like a speedboat, but the Nazis are already gathering on deck, ready to take her into the shoal for a mass execution and further looting. (Why not drop anchor and swab the deck?) The bailout is bankrolling death squads and brainwashing at this very moment. No more will I discuss the "banal evil" of "capitalist business as usual." We passed that longitude many leagues ago.

Captcha: marilyn MUSTANG

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