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Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

Another quid pro quo: Former US Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) gets her big payoff in return for her corporate support in office

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Written by LeisureGuy

26 May 2015 at 3:43 pm

Sen. Maria Cantwell tells a lie too big even for the press corps

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Dan Froomkin reports in The Intercept:

Sen. Maria Cantwell [D-WA] engaged in a very public maneuver on the Senate floor Thursday, withholding her vote in favor of the big trade bill until she got assurances that there would be a vote on renewing the Export-Import Bank.

Afterward, explaining the fervency of her support for the Ex-Im Bank, she told such a howler that even the Capitol press corps, not  empowered to actually call a senator a liar, made sure to offer readers the opportunity to reach that conclusion on their own.

The Democrat from Washington state, where Boeing is the single largest employer, said her support for the Ex-Im – often called the “Bank of Boeing” because fully $8 billion of the bank’s $12 billion in annual loan guarantees support the international sales of its jetliners – wasn’t inspired by the aerospace giant, but by small businesses in her state, like one in Yakima that exports music stands.

Erica Warner’s story for the Associated Press was headlined “Sen. Cantwell turns Senate divisions on trade to advantage,” and began as follows:

President Barack Obama’s trade bill faced a crucial test vote in the Senate, and Washington state Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell saw an opportunity.

In a tense drama that unfolded in real time on the Senate floor Thursday, Cantwell withheld her vote to move forward on the trade legislation until she received assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that the Senate would vote on renewing the Export-Import Bank.

Ex-Im is a little-known government agency that guarantees loans to help U.S. exporters. One of its major beneficiaries: Boeing Co., which employs 80,000 people in Washington state.

Warner then drily noted Cantwell’s explanation:

But Cantwell said she thought not of Boeing but of a little company in Yakima., Wash., that exports music stands to China as she made her stand in the Senate well.

And she added this kick at the end of the story:

Her moves did not go unnoticed by Boeing, whose executive, James McNerney, was on the Hill Thursday morning to meet with Senate Democratic leaders. Company spokesman Tim Neale said, “She’s been very supportive of us on this issue which we really appreciate.”

The Ex-Im bank has become a target of Tea-party conservatives and other free-market purists who see it, with some justification, as the height of crony capitalism. It will have to shut down on July 1 if Congress doesn’t reauthorize it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2015 at 2:21 pm

Elizabeth Warren Steps Into the F.I.R.E. of Wall Street Corruption

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I am very glad that Elizabeth Warren is in the Senate. I think she can get more done there than as president, to be honest. In Wall Street on Parade Pam Martens and Russ Martens look at her latest initiative:

Increasingly it feels to Americans that the bulk of the news about scams to separate them from their life savings is coming from one Senator from Massachusetts — Elizabeth Warren.

Ripoffs in financial services, insurance, and real estate – known as F.I.R.E. on Wall Street – are being exposed by Warren, typically in bold pronouncements in Senate Banking hearings where Warren has a chair and a respected voice, and are rapidly amplified in the media.

In 2013, it was only because of Senator Warren that we learned that the so-called Independent Foreclosure Reviews to settle the claims of 4 million homeowners who had been illegally foreclosed on by the bailed out Wall Street banks were a sham. The “independent” consultants were hired by the banks, paid by the banks, and the banks themselves were allowed to determine the number of victims.

It was Senator Warren who put the high frequency trading scam described in the Michael Lewis book, “Flash Boys,” into layman’s language the American people could understand. Speaking at a Senate hearing on June 18 of last year, Warren said:

“High frequency trading reminds me a little of the scam in Office Space. You know, you take just a little bit of money from every trade in the hope that no one will complain. But taking a little bit of money from zillions of trades adds up to billions of dollars in profits for these high frequency traders and billions of dollars in losses for our retirement funds and our mutual funds and everybody else in the market place. It also means a tilt in the playing field for those who don’t have the information or have the access to the speed or big enough to play in this game.”

In 2013, Warren, together with Senators John McCain, Maria Cantwell and Angus King, introduced the “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act.” Warren explained why the legislation is critically needed:

“By separating traditional depository banks from riskier financial institutions,” said Warren, “the 1933 version of Glass-Steagall laid the groundwork for half a century of financial stability. During that time, we built a robust and thriving middle class. But throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, Congress and regulators chipped away at Glass-Steagall’s protections, encouraging growth of the megabanks and a sharp increase in systemic risk. They finally finished the task in 1999 with the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which eliminated Glass-Steagall’s protections altogether.”

Nine years later, the financial system crashed, leaving the economy in the worst condition since the Great Depression.

Last December, Warren made headlines again, stepping onto the Senate floor to reveal to the American people how Citigroup, the bank that received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the country after it imploded from its own derivatives bets in 2008 – had just slipped language into the spending bill to overturn part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill meant to rein in that behavior going forward. Despite her pleas, the bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Obama.

Today, Warren is under fire by the “I” in F.I.R.E. – the insurance industry. On April 28, she sent letters to 15 insurance companies, including AIG, the international insurance company that blew itself up in 2008 by taking on the risks of Wall Street’s credit default swap bets and was bailed out with $182 billion from taxpayers.

The letters asked the insurance companies to provide Warren with the specifics on the incentives they offer to push the sale of annuities, the number and value of the incentives awarded, and the companies’ policies for disclosing these potential conflicts of interest. The letters were sent to the 15 companies with the highest 2014 annuity sales to individuals: Jackson National Life, AIG Companies, Lincoln Financial Group, Allianz Life, TIAA-CREF, New York Life, Prudential Annuities, Transamerica, AXA USA, MetLife, Nationwide, Pacific Life, Forethought Annuity, RiverSource Life Insurance, and Security Benefit Life.

Warren has documented a range of perks that are being given to insurance agents: cruises, Ritz Carlton vacations, diamond-encrusted NFL-style Super Bowl rings, large sums of cash and stock options.

One example cited by Warren was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2015 at 1:43 pm

Martin O’Malley looks intriguing as a presidential candidate

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I’m somewhat taken with O’Malley. Check out this post and video interview by James Fallows. Certainly O’Malley is more attractive a candidate than Hillary Clinton because of (a) executive experience in government (city councilman in Baltimore, Mayor of Baltimore, Governor of Maryland (2 terms) and (b) not so tied to Wall Street and largesse from foreign governments.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 May 2015 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

A clear example of how money controls Congress

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Ryan Lizza has an excellent profile of Elizabeth Warren and her career in the New Yorker. From that article:

In 1994, Congress created a commission to make policy recommendations on how to reform the bankruptcy laws. Mike Synar, Bill Clinton’s first appointee to run the commission, recruited Warren to serve as the top policy adviser. Conservative and pro-lender members of the panel argued that the laws were too easy on debtors and encouraged reckless behavior, a position shared by the banks. The pro-consumer side, arguing for more lenient terms for Americans who go broke, often had a one-vote majority on the panel. Many of the big issues were decided by a vote of five to four. “This was the first time that I’m aware of that Elizabeth was exposed to and part of the crucible of politics,” a member of the panel said. By the end of her work on the commission, in 1997, Warren was a Democrat.

Congress mostly ignored the group’s work and adopted the industry-friendly bill, which many Democratic legislators, along with some of Bill Clinton’s senior advisers, favored. Warren went to see Gene Sperling, Clinton’s top economic aide in the White House, who opposed the legislation. She showed him a stream of hard data and offered talking points about how the legislation would hurt families in economic distress, but the situation looked hopeless. By 1999, while Clinton was recovering from the Lewinsky scandal of his second term, the bill had gained support in a Republican Congress. In addition, the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, was from South Dakota, the heart of the credit-card industry, and he strongly supported the bill.

“It was tough to know what to do, as we were facing veto-proof majorities in both Houses,” Sperling told me. “Warren really did have an impact. She had amassed data to show that a lot of the rise in bankruptcies was due not to deadbeats but to medical debt and women hurt by divorce. Her facts helped buck up both Clintons to keep fighting for a better bill and gave those of us in the trenches good ammo and amendment strategies.” The White House slowed the legislation’s progress through Congress, and when it finally did pass, in 2000, Clinton, in one of his last acts as President, refused to sign it, effectively vetoing it. A White House aide later told Warren that, two days after her meeting with the First Lady, the White House economic team flipped its position “so fast that you could see skid marks in the hallways of the White House.”

The following year, Bill Clinton was replaced by George W. Bush. A new version of the bill was introduced. In Warren’s 2003 book, The Two-Income Trap, she describes what happened next:

This time freshman Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the bill. Had the bill been transformed to get rid of all those awful provisions that had so concerned First Lady Hillary Clinton? No. The bill was essentially the same, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not. As First Lady, Mrs. Clinton had been persuaded that the bill was bad for families, and she was willing to fight for her beliefs. Her husband was a lame duck at the time he vetoed the bill; he could afford to forgo future campaign contributions. As New York’s newest senator, however, it seems that Hillary Clinton could not afford such a principled position. Campaigns cost money, and that money wasn’t coming from families in financial trouble. Senator Clinton received $140,000 in campaign contributions from banking industry executives in a single year, making her one of the top two recipients in the Senate. Big banks were now part of Senator Clinton’s constituency. She wanted their support, and they wanted hers—including a vote in favor of “that awful bill.”

In 2005, a decade after Warren began her crusade against the bill, the legislation was signed into law by Bush. “We held them off for ten years, and that’s about thirteen or fourteen million families that made it through the system,” Warren told me. The delay, she added, proved that Wall Street was not as powerful in Washington as it had imagined. “The big banks thought they’d just roll in and pick up a few percentage points’ increase in their bottom line, because they could squeeze families a little harder when they were right on the edge and they could get just a few more dollars. They thought they had it made.”

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2015 at 10:41 am

Moral hazard: Hillary Clinton & Co.

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens:

“Wall Street Democrats” is a political phrase gaining traction. It encapsulates a growing realization that Bill Clinton’s two terms as President and Barack Obama’s eight years in office have been a great boon to enriching the one percent on Wall Street and an economic disaster for mostly everyone else.

It was the Bill Clinton administration that deregulated the financial markets through the repeal of the Depression era Glass-Steagall Act and it was the Obama administration that created the masquerade that strict regulation of Wall Street was put back into place under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Instead of reform, Wall Street banks have become larger, more dangerous and an increasing threat to the economic stability of the U.S., if not the globe.

There is a serious and growing chorus calling for an expulsion of the Wall Street Democrats from the party and a formal break with its anointed brand – the “Clinton” name. Every time Bill Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, opens his mouth, this message gains more substance.

Rubin, despite his hubristic past, is seen as a close adviser to Hillary Clinton. In a New York Times piece last November, William D. Cohen wrote that “At 76, from his twin perches at the Council on Foreign Relations, of which he is co-chairman, and at the Brookings Institution, where he founded the Hamilton Project, he remains a crucial kingmaker in Democratic policy circles and, as an adviser to the Clintons, Mr. Rubin will play an essential role in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president in 2016, should she decide to run.”

Rubin helped push through the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 while U.S. Treasury Secretary. By October of that year, he had taken a job at Citigroup, the Wall Street bank that pushed for the repeal and its primary beneficiary. Rubin accepted a position on the Board of Directors at Citigroup – a position that would pay him $126 million over the next ten years.

During Rubin’s tenure on the Board of Citigroup, the company imploded and received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of U.S. finance, receiving $45 billion in equity infusions, over $300 billion in asset guarantees, and an unfathomable, initially secret bailout of over $2 trillion in below-market-rate loans from the Federal Reserve.

Propping up this insolvent bank with taxpayer funds is the quintessential definition of moral hazard. That hasn’t stopped Robert Rubin from lecturing the rest of us on moral hazard in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal – as recently as six weeks ago.

On February 23, 2015, Rubin penned an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal on the over reliance on central bankers. In that opinion piece, Rubin uses the phrase “moral hazard” three separate times as well as in the headline.

Rubin writes in these excerpts: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 April 2015 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Business, Democrats

Differences in economic performance between Blue and Red states

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Paul Krugman in the NY Times today:

Two impossible things happened to the U.S. economy over the course of the past year — or at least they were supposed to be impossible, according to the ideology that dominates half our political spectrum. First, remember how Obamacare was supposed to be a gigantic job killer? Well, in the first year of the Affordable Care Act’s full implementation, the U.S. economy as a whole added 3.3 million jobs — the biggest gain since the 1990s. Second, half a million of those jobs were added in California, which has taken the lead in job creation away from Texas.

Were President Obama’s policies the cause of national job growth? Did Jerry Brown — the tax-raising, Obamacare-embracing governor of California — engineer his state’s boom? No, and few liberals would claim otherwise. What we’ve been seeing at both the national and the state level is mainly a natural process of recovery as the economy finally starts to heal from the housing and debt bubbles of the Bush years.

But recent job growth, nonetheless, has big political implications — implications so disturbing to many on the right that they are in frantic denial, claiming that the recovery is somehow bogus. Why can’t they handle the good news? The answer actually comes on three levels: Obama Derangement Syndrome, or O.D.S.; Reaganolatry; and the confidence con.

Not much need be said about O.D.S. It is, by now, a fixed idea on the right that this president is both evil and incompetent, that everything touched by the atheist Islamic Marxist Kenyan Democrat — mostly that last item — must go terribly wrong. When good news arrives about the budget, or the economy, or Obamacare — which is, by the way, rapidly reducing the number of uninsured while costing much less than expected — it must be denied.

At a deeper level, modern conservative ideology utterly depends on the proposition that conservatives, and only they, possess the secret key to prosperity. As a result, you often have politicians on the right making claims like this one, from Senator Rand Paul: “When is the last time in our country we created millions of jobs? It was under Ronald Reagan.”

Actually, if creating “millions of jobs” means adding two million or more jobs in a given year, we’ve done that 13 times since Reagan left office: eight times under Bill Clinton, twice under George W. Bush, and three times, so far, under Barack Obama. But who’s counting?

Still, don’t liberals have similar delusions? Not really. The economy added 23 million jobs under Clinton, compared with 16 million under Reagan, but there’s nothing on the left comparable to the cult of the Blessed Ronald. That’s because liberals don’t need to claim that their policies will produce spectacular growth. All they need to claim is feasibility: that we can do things like, say, guaranteeing health insurance to everyone without killing the economy. Conservatives, on the other hand, want to block such things and, instead, to cut taxes on the rich and slash aid to the less fortunate. So they must claim both that liberal policies are job killers and that being nice to the rich is a magic elixir.

Which brings us to the last point: the confidence con. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2015 at 3:08 pm

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