Tag Archives: Wall Street

An Open Letter to President Obama …from Michael Moore – in which most of the points apply to the UK, too

An Open Letter to President Obama …from Michael Moore – in which most of the points apply to the UK, too:

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Dear President Obama:

Good luck on your journeys overseas this week, and congratulations on decisively winning your second term as our president! The first time you won four years ago, most of us couldn’t contain our joy and found ourselves literally in tears over your victory.

This time, it was more like breathing a huge sigh of relief. But, like the smooth guy you are, you scored the highest percentage of the vote of any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson, and you racked up the most votes for a Democratic president in the history of the United States (the only one to receive more votes than you was … you, in ’08!). You are the first Democrat to get more than 50% of the vote twice in a row since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Continue reading

Bill Moyers on Occupy Wall Street

This video shows the dilemma: individuals only count as consumers, voters and, possibly, as demonstrators.

What else is there to do? How can “we, the people” stop what Occupiers identify:

  • the 1% have dominant political power over both parties
  • Bill Black, a senior federal regulator and lecturer in economics and law, who says that what we have is

recurrent intensifying financial crises, driven by elite fraud, and now it’s done with almost absolute impunity.

We seem to have lost our capacity for outrage.

To me, Bill Black’s level of analysis is more relevant than Bill Moyers’. But nearly everybody seems to have a hard time getting to the essence of what money is and who creates it – for what purpose…

A massive financial con trick foisted on the voters – by the dictators of the West

Robert Fisk would call a spade a spade in his article The bankers are the dictators of the West:

  • he asks his collegues in Wall Street why they don’t report ‘properly’
  • he blames Western governments for giving their power to banks, derivatives traders and rating agencies
  • he points to the “slovenly and dishonest coterie of experts from America’s top universities and think tanks”.

Maybe 2012 will become the year of enlightenment when enough people will realise the con tricks in operation, ever since the first central banks were created in Sweden and the UK:

  • the creation of “credit” from thin air that is being sold as “money” – but at interest
  • the deadly embrace between central banks and national treasuries
  • the complete con and illusion that governments are entitled to take “taxpayers’ money” in order to spend it.

Continue reading

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) from a banker’s perspective

A former banker’s articulate article comment on OCCUPY – its origin, process and outcome.

John Fullerton
Founder and President
Capital Institute

I’m a former banker, a one percenter, and I’m mad as hell too.

Let’s be clear. The Occupy movement is not a product of frustration, as President Obama, Treasury Secretary Geithner, and now Eric Cantor have suggested. Frustration is passive; anger is active. Martin Luther King was not frustrated. But beyond my anger is a real concern for democracy, for America, for the people of the world, for the planet upon which we all depend, and for my children’s future. It’s why I do what I do. It’s the inspiration for Capital Institute.

This concern led me to Liberty Park Plaza last week to listen, show my support and empathy for the peaceful demonstrators, and learn about the occupation first-hand. I wanted to see if I could build a relationship with some of the organizers — which I did — and find out if the prominent media narrative of disorganization and unclear goals was accurate.

I learned that OWS is first and foremost about restoring democracy in America, and that I was right to be concerned about the media’s portrayal.

Since the beginning of the protests, leading politicians and members of the media have been asking the question “What does OWS want?” This is the wrong question. Policy priorities are for interest groups, working their battle plans within the system. Proposals are what the media and politicians of the left and right want so they can put the complex issues that led to the occupation into pre-existing boxes before they are fully understood.

OWS as I understand it today, is building a movement of everyday people who are fed up with Wall Street’s corrupting influence on our democracy. Wall Street does not mean capitalism, although capitalism’s critics are on hand at OWS. It means the socialized losses and the unchecked power, greed, speculative excess, violence, and theft from fellow citizens that has gone unchecked by our bought and paid for government — Democrats and Republicans alike. But it also means the dominant influence of Wall Street culture on short-term corporate behavior and misbehavior, from Enron’s derivatives-enabled fraud to the Koch Brothers’ and Exxon’s funding of climate change denial, to the health insurance industry’s power over lives and affordable health care, to McDonald’s and Coke’s impact on childhood obesity, all to further short-term corporate and financial interests no matter the cost to “we the people.”

This is different from “We are the 99 Percent,” a divisive, although clever phrase that has not been formally adopted by the OWS General Assembly. Wall Street’s culture is the target because money has corrupted the Republic. Through this power lens, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the rest are mere tools in the system, not worthy of protesting against. Instead, the right question we should be asking is, “what is emerging at OWS?”

It is useful and eye opening to go back to see how OWS began, and to view the original Adbusters blog post dated July 13, 2011. Like the world we live in, the OWS movement is complex and filled with uncertainty.
But the answer is simple: the Occupy movement is a mass experiment in participatory and deliberative democracy. It says “fix government,” not “eliminate government.”

I engaged with one of the many experienced organizers at OWS during my trip. He was unusually calm, articulate, experienced (a Seattle WTO alum) and well informed — he had read much of the leading alternative economics literature. He explained that the General Assembly that meets every evening to deliberate the course of the movement had determined explicitly not to develop a set of demands at this time. Instead, he shared, OWS is focused on setting up a governance system for the movement, expecting to be around for the long haul. As of today, any list of demands that you may hear, therefore, are unsanctioned by the governing General Assembly of OWS.

The emergence of the practice of participatory democracy as the movement’s only initial priority says everything. OWS is about taking back democracy. Don’t be fooled by their clothing, drums, or hand signals. There is something serious afoot here that is organic, influenced by experienced social movement organizers, and yet uncontrolled. Whether it can last is unknowable and not yet determined. It will depend upon how we all react — politicians, business leaders, police, and most importantly, we the citizenry. Their strategy is to build the power of the movement before seeking to use that power. A million demonstrators speak louder than ten thousand, just like a trillion dollar balance sheet speaks louder than a hundred billion dollar one. Right out of Goldman Sachs’ playbook I’d say.

So far, OWS has established working groups, in areas like media, de-escalation (there is an explicit commitment to non-violence — let us hope there is a discipline to match), the kitchen, first aid, security (they have adopted strict no alcohol and drug use rules), sanitation, and more. The day I was there, they were organizing to create a phone book for the community. There is a library and groups working to promote new economic thinking. OWS’s next and overdue priority is how to be better neighbors to their immediate downtown community.

William Blake cautioned that abstraction without the particular becomes demonic. As a society, we became intoxicated with the pursuit of money, and then in our stupor, allowed forces emanating from Wall Street to layer abstraction upon abstraction in the name of innovation. This morphed into nothing but leveraged speculation at best, and into manipulation, conflicts of interest, cynicism, cheating, and fraud. I know because I was there at the creation in the 1980s. Back then, these tools were innovative, purposeful and productive. But they have since metastasized into a cancer. Free market fundamentalism blinded us to a timely diagnosis, and continues to do so today.

It is time for finance to resume its proper and humble place as servant to, not master of, the real economy — an economy that promotes a more equitably shared prosperity while respecting the physical limits of our finite planet. Such transformation is the Great Work of our age; work that drives the Capital Institute and many other organizations fostering the emergence of a new economy. The restoration of our democracy OWS seeks is an essential step, which may be at hand. It’s still a long shot, but we shall see. One thing is for certain: OWS has started a national conversation long overdue.

John Fullerton is the Founder and President of the Capital Institute, whose mission is to explore and effect economic transition to a more just, resilient, and sustainable way of living on this earth through the transformation of finance.

The Forbes 400 vs. Everybody Else – is that the Financial / Legal War?

Michael Moore has held a major speech in Madison, Wisconsin and published these fascinating statistics about Forbes 400 vs. Everybody Else two days later.

America ain’t broke! The only thing that’s broke is the moral compass of the rulers

This phrase comes from a speech that Michael Moore held in Madison, Winconsin on Saturday, 5th March, 2011, with the video here.

Here are a few gems:

None of us know what the exact, specific outcome of all of this is going to be. We have a good feeling about it though.

America is not broke.

… the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich…

… a financial coup d’etat…

… we have surrendered our precious democracy to the money elite: Wall Street, the Banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic!

They KNOW they have committed crimes to make this happen.

They control the message – by owning the media: their version of the American dream.

We have had it! And we are all Wisconsinites now!

A little bit of Egypt here, and a bit of Madison there.

One thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The rich have overplayed their hand.

To the media who are here: please tell the story correctly!

United, not Corporate States of America!

Don’t give up! Please don’t give up!

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic — and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here’s what I learned: Money doesn’t grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don’t pay their fair share of taxes, the state can’t function. The schools can’t produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs.  That too caused a reduction in tax revenue. Everyone ended up suffering because of what the rich did.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. Saying that the country is broke is repeating a Big Lie. It’s one of the three biggest lies of the decade: 1) America is broke, 2) Iraq has WMD, and 3) The Packers can’t win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there’s lots of money to go around. LOTS. It’s just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn’t work, they’ve got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day — this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart — because you — yes, you, too! — might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep you head down, your nose to the grindstone, don’t rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it’s Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin’ awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. “Here! Take our money! We don’t care. We’ll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!”

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone who tells us America is broke and broken. It’s just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we make this happen? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois — whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn’t have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn’t be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more — something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job — their $19,000 a year job. That’s how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilot who flew me here to Madison today. He told me he’s stopped hoping for a pay increase. All he’s asking for now is enough down time so that he doesn’t have to sleep in his car between shifts at O’Hare airport. That’s how despicably low we have sunk! The wealthy couldn’t be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They had to take away his sleep. They had to demean him and dehumanize him and rub his face in it. After all, he’s just another slob, isn’t he?

And that, my friends, is Corporate America’s fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement — a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don’t understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. “Why are they all standing out there in the cold?” I mean, there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

“There’s something happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you …?”

America ain’t broke! The only thing that’s broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it’s one person, one vote, and it’s the thing the rich hate most about America — because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat.  We are with you. We will win together.

Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post: The economic crisis was an ‘inside job’

The most forgiving American will want to seize a pitchfork and march on Wall Street. Or Harvard Square. Or in front of the White House. There are so many despicable parties, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Is it time to reconsider the Axis of Evil?

The article is actually a review of the film Inside Job with a few pertinent points:

  1. assigning blame to either Democrats or Republicans is pointless
  2. many investment bankers knew the mortgage loans they were selling, were junk
  3. the cosy relationship between Wall Street and Ivy League academia is eye-opening, i.e. revealing conflicts of interest
  4. notably missing from the film, declining to be interviewed, are: Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Hank Paulson, Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin.
  5. “Obscene” is the word that comes to mind: the game has been rigged so that only a few were in positions to get rich at the expense of the middle class, not just here but globally.
  6. the only remaining question is why some of these people aren’t being prosecuted for fraud or at least shirking fiduciary duty.

Another excellent film review is here.

Called “the most in-depth look” on MOXNEWS.COM, Charles Ferguson is being interviewed here, making the following points:

  • extremely unethical behaviour
  • unbelievably unlikely that there wasn’t also criminal fraud
  • but not a single seniour executive has been prosecuted.

Professor William Black comments and suggests the following:

  1. replace bank regulators
  2. end FBI partnership with MBA
  3. fire Eric Holder, the current Attorney General.

What can we do now?

  1. fire Geithner, Sumers and the heads of the banking regulatory agencies
  2. get people who believe in prosecution
  3. make a Top 100 list of most serious cases instead of the least serious ones.