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The Myth of Free-Market Capitalism: The Case of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae


John Simkin
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Please take the time to listen to Hudson here on the cryptocriminals on Wall Street and their paid shills in the Beltway!

Part I

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=28790

Part II

http://www.kpfa.org/archives/index.php?arch=28908

(you can and I'd suggest you listen in the reverse order - Part II first)

IMO a brilliant and correct analysis by a brilliant and perceptive economist who sees behind the scams and the magic show. He describes the greatest pre-planned, carefully-executed theft in world history (and the 'bail-outs' are all part of the theft).....do listen [a few times!] He predicts the USA will soon resemble Russia post break-up of the USSR and that we are not going to be 'out of this' mess for a long, LONG time.....and the 'shoes' have just BEGUN to 'drop'.

Say bye-bye. All hope is now lost....only rebuilding from the ground up and putting these criminals in prison....nothing can now save the US or World economy - only lessen the pain [slightly]. What we can do with this information is never let it happen again - which will call for a new kind of economic and political system - long overdue!

I highly recommend that everyone listens to these interviews. It will provide a clear view of what is currently happening to the world economy.

You will also find some interesting articles by Michael Hudson at:

http://www.michael-hudson.com/

It includes the following:

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Hudson, we’re talking government bailout, which means taxpayers stuck with the bill. Do you think this is the right move?

MICHAEL HUDSON: No, it’s the worst possible move, and it puts the class war back in business with a vengeance. Wall Street has been preparing for this for years, because every financial analyst knows that the debts can’t be paid. And the question that Wall Street has, if you’re going to take a gamble on bad debts that can’t be paid, how are you going to come out a winner? And there’s only one way of coming out a winner, and that’s to make the government bail you out. This has been known for years, because it’s inherent almost in the mathematics of compound interest. Every banker I know knew that the loans they were making were going to go bad. They were trying to sell them to somebody else, ultimately expecting them to end up with some sovereign wealth fund.

And now, you had at the beginning of the show, McCain saying that this is the result of fraud and incompetence. The government has now bailed them out. But by bailing them out—Wall Street was coming to terms with the bad debts. When Bear Stearns went under and when Lehman Brothers went under, this began to wipe away the bad debts. And when the debts exceed the ability to pay, there’s only one thing any economy can do, and that’s wipe them out. Instead, the government is trying to keep the fiction alive. And what Paulson did yesterday, in bailing out AIG, was to try to lock in whoever is the next president not only to further bailouts of Wall Street, ostensibly to protect the public money, but to make it impossible to write down the debts of the four million homeowners that are expected to default this year, impossible to write down the debts of companies that have issued junk bonds, impossible for the country to get rid of this excess of debts that can’t be repaid. And you’re having really a war now of creditors against debtors. And this is what Wall Street has been preparing for. It needed an emergency to do it. It’s really not an emergency at all. This has been building up for many years. Everybody expected it. And breathlessly now, the Secretary of Treasury has done it.

AMY GOODMAN: But, of course, the argument was, if you don’t bail out AIG, it could lead to a global financial meltdown.

MICHAEL HUDSON: What you—it’s a meltdown of the gamblers, as Nomi said. These are people who’ve gambled. You had McCain saying they’re gamblers. If these people have gambled, we’re talking about derivative trades, billions of dollars of bets on which way interest rates will go, billions of dollars of bad loans beyond the ability of debtors to pay. Why on earth would you want to bail out these creditors?

AMY GOODMAN: So, what would happen if you didn’t?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Then you would prepare the ground for writing down the debts of the homeowners that have no way of repaying the exploding mortgages. Those interest rates are going to be jumping up this year. You would be able to bring the debts down to the ability of the economy to pay, and you would save these four million homeowners from defaulting and being kicked out of their houses. Now they’re going to be kicked out of the houses. The houses will be vacant. The cities are going to now say, “Gee, we’re going to have to cut the property taxes to enable the debts to be paid to save the financial system.” So, if they cut the property taxes, they’re going to have to cut back local expenditures, local infrastructure. The economy is being sacrificed to pay the gamblers.

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Many economists blame Alan Greenspan, longtime Federal Reserve chairman, for lax bank supervision and for keeping interest rates too low, too long from mid-2003 to mid-2004. That, the theory goes, fueled the housing bubble and spawned subprime and adjustable-rate mortgages for low-income people, vast numbers of whom can't make their payments now. Banks bought those mortgages in bundles that are worth far less than they originally were. That has led to big write-offs, shaking the entire financial system.

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Naomi Klein

http://www.alternet.org/workplace/105452/n...pillage/?page=2

In the final days of the election, many Republicans seem to have given up the fight for power. But that doesn't mean they are relaxing. If you want to see real Republican elbow grease, check out the energy going into chucking great chunks of the $700 billion bailout out the door. At a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing, Republican Senator Bob Corker was fixated on this task, and with a clear deadline in mind: inauguration. "How much of it do you think may be actually spent by January 20 or so?" Corker asked Neel Kashkari, the 35-year-old former banker in charge of the bailout.

When European colonialists realized that they had no choice but to hand over power to the indigenous citizens, they would often turn their attention to stripping the local treasury of its gold and grabbing valuable livestock. If they were really nasty, like the Portuguese in Mozambique in the mid-1970s, they poured concrete down the elevator shafts.

The Bush gang prefers bureaucratic instruments: "distressed asset" auctions and the "equity purchase program." But make no mistake: the goal is the same as it was for the defeated Portuguese -- a final frantic looting of the public wealth before they hand over the keys to the safe.

How else to make sense of the bizarre decisions that have governed the allocation of the bailout money? When the Bush administration announced it would be injecting $250 billion into America's banks in exchange for equity, the plan was widely referred to as "partial nationalization" -- a radical measure required to get the banks lending again. In fact, there has been no nationalization, partial or otherwise. Taxpayers have gained no meaningful control, which is why the banks can spend their windfall as they wish (on bonuses, mergers, savings...) and the government is reduced to pleading that they use a portion of it for loans.

What, then, is the real purpose of the bailout? I fear it is something much more ambitious than a one-off gift to big business -- that this bailout has been designed to keep pillaging the Treasury for years to come. Remember, the main concern among big market players, particularly banks, is not the lack of credit but their battered share prices. Investors have lost confidence in the banks' honesty, and with good reason. This is where Treasury's equity pays off big time.

By purchasing stakes in these institutions, Treasury is sending a signal to the market that they are a safe bet. Why safe? Because the government won't be able to afford to let them fail. If these companies get themselves into trouble, investors can assume that the government will keep finding more cash, since allowing them to go down would mean losing its initial equity investments (just look at AIG). That tethering of the public interest to private companies is the real purpose of the bailout plan: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is handing all the companies that are admitted to the program -- a number potentially in the thousands -- an implicit Treasury Department guarantee. To skittish investors looking for safe places to park their money, these equity deals will be even more comforting than a Triple-A rating from Moody's.

Insurance like that is priceless. But for the banks, the best part is that the government is paying them -- in some cases billions of dollars -- to accept its seal of approval. For taxpayers, on the other hand, this entire plan is extremely risky, and may well cost significantly more than Paulson's original idea of buying up $700 billion in toxic debts. Now taxpayers aren't just on the hook for the debts but, arguably, for the fate of every corporation that sells them equity.

Interestingly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both enjoyed this kind of unspoken guarantee. For decades the market understood that, since these private players were enmeshed with the government, Uncle Sam would always save the day. It was the worst of all worlds. Not only were profits privatized while risks were socialized but the implicit government backing created powerful incentives for reckless investments.

Now, with the new equity purchase program, Paulson has taken the discredited Fannie and Freddie model and applied it to a huge swath of the private banking industry. And once again, there is no reason to shy away from risky bets -- especially since Treasury has not required the banks to give up high-risk financial instruments in exchange for taxpayer dollars.

To further boost confidence, the federal government has also unveiled unlimited public guarantees for many bank deposit accounts. Oh, and as if this wasn't enough, Treasury has been encouraging the banks to merge with one another, ensuring that the only institutions left standing will be "too big to fail." In three different ways, the market is being told loud and clear that Washington will not allow the country's financial institutions to bear the consequences of their behavior. This may well be Bush's most creative innovation: no-risk capitalism.

There is a glimmer of hope. In answer to Senator Corker's question, Treasury is indeed having trouble dispersing the bailout funds. It has requested about $350 billion of the $700 billion, but most of this hasn't yet made it out the door. Meanwhile, every day it becomes clearer that the bailout was sold on false pretenses. It was never about getting loans flowing. It was always about turning the state into a giant insurance agency for Wall Street -- a safety net for the people who need it least, subsidized by the people who need it most.

This grotesque duplicity is an opportunity. Whoever wins the election on November 4 will have enormous moral authority. It can be used to call for a freeze on the dispersal of bailout funds -- not after the inauguration, but right away. All deals should be renegotiated immediately, this time with the public getting the guarantees.

It is risky, of course, to interrupt the bailout. The market won't like it. Nothing could be riskier, however, than allowing the Bush gang their parting gift to big business -- the gift that will keep on taking.

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Good article by Naomi Klein on Barack Obama and the bank bailout:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/20...use-wall-street

The more details emerge, the clearer it becomes that Washington's handling of the Wall Street bail-out is not merely incompetent: it is borderline criminal.

In a moment of high panic in September, the US treasury pushed through a radical change in how bank mergers are taxed - a change long sought by the industry. Despite the fact that this move will deprive the government of as much as $140bn in tax revenue, legislators found out only after the fact. According to the Washington Post, more than a dozen tax attorneys agree that "[the] treasury had no authority to issue the [tax change] notice".

Of equally dubious legality are the equity deals the treasury has negotiated with many of the banks. According to Congressman Barney Frank, one of the architects of the legislation that enables the deals: "Any use of these funds for any purpose other than lending - for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions ... is a violation of the act." Yet this is exactly how the funds are being used.

Then there is the nearly $2 trillion that America's central bank, the Federal Reserve, has handed out in emergency loans. Incredibly, the Fed will not reveal which corporations have received these loans or what it has accepted as collateral. Bloomberg news service believes this secrecy violates the law and has filed a federal suit demanding full disclosure.

Yet the Democrats are either openly defending the administration or refusing to intervene. "There is only one president at a time," we hear from Barack Obama. That's true. But every sweetheart deal the Bush administration makes threatens to hobble Obama's ability to make good on his promise of change. To cite just one example, that $140bn in missing revenue is almost the same sum as Obama's renewable energy programme. Obama owes it to the people who elected him to call this what it is: an attempt to undermine the electoral process by stealth.

Yes, there is only one president at a time, but that president needed the support of powerful Democrats - including Obama - to get the bail-out passed. Now that it is clear the Bush administration is violating the terms to which both parties agreed, the Democrats have not just the right, but a grave responsibility, to intervene forcefully.

I suspect the real reason the Democrats are failing to act has less to do with presidential protocol than with fear: fear that the stockmarket, which has the temperament of an over-indulged two-year-old, will throw one of its world-shaking tantrums. Disclosing the truth about who is receiving federal loans, we are told, could cause the market to bet against those banks. Question the legality of equity deals, and the same thing will happen. Challenge the $140bn tax giveaway and mergers could fail.

More than that, the Democrats, including Obama, appear to believe that the need to soothe the market should govern all key economic decisions in the transition period. Which is why, just days after a euphoric victory for "change", the mantra abruptly shifted to "smooth transition" and "continuity".

Take Obama's choice for chief of staff. Rahm Emanuel, the House Democrat who received the most donations from the financial sector, sends an unmistakably reassuring message to Wall Street. When asked if Obama would be moving quickly to increase taxes on the wealthy, as promised, Emanuel pointedly did not answer the question.

This same market-coddling logic should, we are told, guide Obama's selection of treasury secretary. Fox News and MNSBC explained that Larry Summers, who held the post under Clinton, is the man "the Street would like most". Let's be clear why. "The Street" would cheer a Summers appointment for the same reason the rest of us should fear it: because traders will assume that this champion of deregulation will offer a transition from Henry Paulson so smooth that we will barely know it happened. On the other hand, someone like Sheila Bair, the chairman of the banks' insurer of last resort, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, would spark fear on the Street - for all the right reasons.

One thing we know for certain is that the market will react violently to anyone likely to impose serious regulation, invest in people, and cut off the free money. In short, the markets can be relied on to vote in precisely the opposite way that Americans have just voted. (A recent poll found 60% strongly favour "stricter regulations on financial institutions", while just 21% support aid to financial companies.)

There is no way to reconcile the public's vote for change with the market's foot-stomping for more of the same. Any moves to change course will be met with market shocks. The good news is that once it is clear the new rules will be applied across the board, fairly, the market will stabilise and adjust. Furthermore, the timing for this turbulence could not be better. Over the past three months, we've been shocked so often that market stability would come as more of a surprise. That gives Obama a window to disregard the calls for a seamless transition and do the hard stuff first. Few will be able to blame him for a crisis that predates him, or fault him for honouring the clearly expressed wishes of the electorate. The longer he waits, however, the more memories will fade.

When transferring power from a functional, trustworthy regime, everyone favours a smooth transition. When exiting an era marked by criminality and bankrupt ideology, a little rockiness at the start would be a very good sign.

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/no...unch-us-economy

The US government pulled Citigroup back from the abyss yesterday with a comprehensive bail-out that saw taxpayers guaranteeing $306bn (£201bn) of risky assets and injecting $20bn of capital into the banking group. The move gave a sharp boost to global stockmarkets with the FTSE 100 enjoying its best-ever one-day percentage rise.

President Bush said he consulted his successor-in-waiting, Barack Obama, about the rescue package, which sets a precedent for federal intervention. Under the deal the government will:

• shoulder 90% of any losses on $306bn worth of residential and commercial property mortgages;

• shore up Citigroup's balance sheet by acquiring $20bn in preferred shares, plus $7bn of stock as a "fee" for guaranteeing risky assets;

• hold a veto over executive pay and dividend policy at the bank.

The agreement signals a shift in government strategy towards ailing banks following the much-criticised decision by the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt in September, causing a new bout of turmoil on the stock and credit markets.

In a joint statement, the three agencies that underwrote the bailout - the Federal Reserve, the treasury department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) - said the rescue plan was "necessary to strengthen the financial system and protect US taxpayers and the US economy".

Bush said he was prepared to sanction massive bail-outs for other financial institutions in trouble. "We have made these kind of decisions in the past, made one last night, and if need be we're going to make these kind of decisions to safeguard our financial system in the future," he said.

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New York Times today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/washingt...tml?_r=1&hp

Congressional Democrats were drafting legislation Sunday for tight government control of the crippled American auto industry, including the possible creation of an oversight board made up of five cabinet secretaries and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and led by an independent chairman or “car czar.”

While the form of oversight was still to be negotiated by Congressional Democrats and the White House, the talks made clear the extent to which the auto companies would have to submit to substantial government supervision in order to receive a taxpayer-financed bailout.

Whatever oversight entity is created, it would direct the drastic reorganization plans that the auto companies have said they were willing to undertake in exchange for billions of dollars in short-term government loans to keep them in business, a senior Congressional aide said. A main factor complicating the deliberations was the imminent transition between the Bush and Obama administrations.

The discussions of how strong a hand the government should take with the auto industry came as Congressional and White House negotiators sought to put the final touches on emergency bridge loans of about $15 billion to keep General Motors, Chrysler and Ford afloat.

The final legislation is also expected to impose stringent taxpayer protections, including stock warrants that would give the government an equity stake in the three companies, new limits on executive pay and a ban on stock dividends while the loans are outstanding. One proposal would require the auto companies to seek government approval for any business transaction of $25 million or more.

Once a bill offering aid to the industry is completed by Congressional Democrats and the White House, it would still need the approval of some Senate Republicans. Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, one of the auto industry’s biggest supporters, said on Sunday that it was uncertain whether the plan would win the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate.

President-elect Barack Obama, whose transition team has been involved in the talks, made starkly clear in an interview and at a brief news conference on Sunday that any aid to the Big Three auto companies should not come without significant concessions.

“They’re going to have to restructure,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “And all their stakeholders are going to have restructure. Labor, management, shareholders, creditors — everybody is going to recognize that they have — they do not have a sustainable business model right now, and if they expect taxpayers to help in that adjustment process, then they can’t keep on putting off the kinds of changes that they, frankly, should have made 20 or 30 years ago.”

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