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Thursday: What the bankers bought with $600 million.

No seppuku for them.

Last week, we briefly discussed Japan’s lost decade.  In short, it goes like this: Japan’s bubble burst back in 1990-91 with the collapse of their real estate market.  The Japanese government took a mostly hands off approach to the recovery and even imposed some austerity measures, like tax increases.  That made their recession worse.  It wasn’t until 2001 when a new prime minister appointed a whiz of a finance guy that the Japanese economy started to come out of it’s big, black hole.  The remedy that worked was- ta-da-da!- getting tough with the banks.  Yes, the banks were mainlining borrowed money and using it to create even more ingenious ways of making up their lost cash.  Adam Posen called it “gambling with resurrection”.  The Japanese finally realized that being co-dependent to an industry with a gambling addiction was not in anyone’s best interest so they forced the banks into sobriety and voile!, the Japanese economy started to recover.  (I am beginning to see why the banking industry might not have wanted Hillary Clinton.)

Unfortunately, that’s not the approach we in the US are going to take.  No, we are not going to force the banks and bankers to have a day of reckoning.  We are going to postpone the intervention so we can draaaaaggg this recession out.  Why?  Well, to my untrained, non-econ eye, it appears that bankers and their shareholders are more equal than the rest of us wretched refuse.  The recession is going to be hard but not as hard on the bankers as it could be and, really, isn’t that what we all live for?  To make sure that the people who aspired to those positions can live in the style to which they have become accustomed?  YOU may get laid off and have to suffer, but why should they?  If they are living well, they serve as shining beacons on a hill, examples to us all.   We can all look up and say, “My tax dollars paid for that”.  It’s something to be proud of.

OK, some people in Connecticut clearly haven’t gotten the memo that we are to leave the poor bankers and their government welfare bonuses alone.  They are littering the poor, hapless bankers’ yards with furniture, simulating foreclosure.  That just pisses bankers off.  First they have to get Manuel to clean it all up and then they have to fly off to Aspen *weeks* earlier than they intended to.  What do these people want from them??  Isn’t it enough that they may be forced to survive on a measley $500K?

For those of you who want to know what Geithner’s plan means and how it will keep bankers safe, check out the two most recent podcasts from Planet Money:

Get Tougher, Please – Guest Adam Posen describes what needs to be done to banks to shorten the recession sensibly.

How to Save a Bank – A critique of the Geithner’s plan.  It falls short of what needs to be done to banks to shorten the recession sensibly.

At the end of yesterday’s podcast, I got a distinct impression that Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg felt betrayed and depressed by the whole proposal.  You can hear it in their voices.  Jeez, I hope they weren’t Obamaphiles because that kind of rude awakening sucks, er, is of low quality. But what did we expect from Obama who got nearly a billion in campaign contributions from the Wall Street gang?  They need to keep shooting up and hoping that their brilliant schemes will pay off like one of Ralph Cramden’s “Get-Rich-Quick” ideas.

Oh, and one other thing.  I have read rumors that someone is floating the idea to tap into the Social Security trust fund for cash to get the economy rolling again.  Just a short term loan or something.  Yeah, Yeah, it’s just a parody but let’s just take the idea out of circulation right now.  Some of us who diligently stashed away money in our 401K’s are now looking at pretty fricking bleak retirements.  We may not have time to recover our losses before we’re given our gold watches.  Social Security had better be there for us, especially those of us who have been paying the surplus funds since we started working.  I’ll start my own March on Washington if anyone even *thinks* about tapping into it.

That’s a promise.

52 Responses

  1. Bankers are the reason Bonnie & Clyde, Dillinger and other bank robbers of the 1930’s were folk heros.

  2. BTW – Sirota’s meltdown continues (Lambert and Vastleft are covering it over at Corrente)

  3. OK. I think I have one march left in me.

  4. Sirota’s 19th nervous breakdown is like a car crash. Gruesome but we can’t look away.

  5. He did a fauxpology that was kinda like “I’m sorry you’re an assh*le”

  6. Tragic. Just tragic. He should have passed on the last kool-ade shot before he got behind that keyboard.

  7. We( as in the wee people ) MUST be on Social Security alert at all times. This like a wolf asking if they could “barrow” your steak….hmmmm..


  8. This Social Security stuff is scary. How short-sighted can people get?

    Speaking of wealth disparity and CT, I was just driving through New Canaan, CT, this past weekend, and the homes are absolutely massive there. Their garages are bigger than my house. Who needs a house that freakin’ huge? It’s grotesque. The owners are mainly bankers and Wall St. types, who in all probability are profiting from the bailouts. I was sorely tempted to leave a sh!t bomb on someone’s front porch. Actually, as I am writing this, I remember seeing a couple police cars parked in the neighborhood – now I understand why.

  9. The one thing we know, and Bush can verify this one, Americans do not like hearing that their Social Security is going to be changed in any way. Nothing can bring Americans out of a koolaid induced coma faster. The 67% approval rating will plummet the minute he starts talking seriously about tweaking SS benefits.

  10. ooops

    Comparing Obama to Lincoln is like comparing apples to oranges, comparing FDR times and the great depression and today’s economy is like comparing apples to oranges, only the liberal press does it, and from what i have read the liberal press, pressured the three repubs that voted with the dems to help
    Obama not fail to get it through, since when are journalist within their right to do this? I hear Gov Bobby Jindal will be giving the repub’s response to Obama’s first state of the unions address, brilliant choice as he doesnt
    need a teleprompter because he knows his facts himself without the help of writers. Also, I see on cnn’s ticker today that Bill Ayers sent Gov. Sarah Palin a note suggesting they do a talk show together and call it
    “Pallin with Sarah and Bill” does this criminal think he’s cute. He should be behind bars better yet sent to Gitmo before they close it with the rest of the terrorist.

  11. Sirota is getting a lesson that simply telling those who disagree to just STFU doesn’t necessarily make it so.


    The Substance Abuse Health and Services Administration (a Division of US Department of Health and Human Services ) has announced a new drug test to be given to all federal employees. Beginning Feb. of 2010, all prospective employees will be tested for Kool-Aid ingestion. Whether taken orally, mainlined or by the more recent IV drip method, no one with even trace amounts of Kool-Aid will be given or remain in employment with the U.S. government. (For those employees so displaced, a re-employment program is being offered by the Democratic Party based in Chicago.)

    (Sorry, no link)

  13. Kim you are so right…..we let Bush do whatever, but people BARKED when he set to F with thier checks.

    Back then the attack was, hey the stock market is doing great ! It’s your money, you should decide! Right, like river boat gambling of Wall St with fees up the wing wang is better than what we have now .

    So now the market is in the toilet ( and can you imagine how it would be right now if we had let Bush and the bend over Dems privatize ss back then? ) so thier attck is though the back door.

    NO. Any hand reaching for the cookie jar must be smaked hard and often

  14. In real haste, but good morning to all. RD, excellent post – so glad I stopped in to read it even thought I’m running to teach. Meanwhile, yesterday I had to endure somebody telling me that our current Prez has a plan for the economy and to help ALL Americans – she is just SO impressed with his latest presser.

    Love the people who turn up on the thread in the a.m., sad to have to comment and run.

    Pat Johnson, on February 12th, 2009 at 9:12 am Said:

    This is why I rarely tell people STFU – if that’s what I’m thinking I just ignore them.


  15. The pity was watching those greedy fools sitting across from those blowhard congressmen yesterday, each side glaring back at the other.

    The “outrage” from those members of congress who pushed the unregulated monies into the hands of the “greedsters” foaming at the mouth while the beady eyed bankers stared back with shark eyes was theater at its best.

    A panel of Claude Rain’s facing a panel of Gordon Greco’s was worthy of an ill written “comedy” if it weren’t so tragic and unnecessary.

    The deadness behind the eyes of those financiers in contrast to the self righteousness emanating from Waters and Frank was worth the price of admission. Absurdity delivered without an ounce or irony attached.

  16. Good, God – I just signed on to start collecting Social Security – if they mess with it I’m screwed since our invested savings has shrunk so.

  17. There’s a reason why Christopher Shays, the last remaining Republican Congressman in New England, lost his district seat in southwestern CT, home to hedge funds and captains of industry. It’s gone too far, and the people in his district know it.

    Don’t know about Lieberman, he’s doing his own thing as always. But Dodd, as head of Senate Banking, should be taking a much harder look at the multitudes of private equity and hedge funds concentrated in his own State. Dodd is a decent man who is probably trying to keep the whole house of cards from falling, believing that would hurt everyone. But it’s his job and his moral obligation to clean house. He needs to feel more pressure. So does Barney Frank, imo.

  18. Chris Dodd = Citicorp.

  19. A CPA colleague (with obviously too much time) sent me the following way to save a quick $8 billion+

    When a company falls on difficult times, they reduce their staff and workers. The remaining workers need to find ways to continue to do a good job or their job would be eliminated as well. Wall street, and the media normally congratulate theCEO for making this type of “tough decision”, and his board of directors gives him a big bonus.

    Our government should not be immune from similar risks.

    Therefore: Reduce the House of Representatives from the current 435 members to 218 members and Senate members from 100 to 50 (one per State). Also reduce remaining staff by 25%.

    Accomplish this over the next 8 years. (two steps / two elections) and of course this would require some redistricting.

    Some yearly monetary gains include: $44,108,400 for elimination of base pay for congress. (267 members X
    $165,200 pay / member / yr.)

    $97,175,000 for elimination of the above people’s staff. (estimate $1.3 Mil in staff per each member of the House, and $3 Mil in staff per each member
    of the Senate every year)

    $240,294 for the reduction in remaining staff by 25%.

    $7,500, 000,000 reduction in pork barrel ear-marks each year. (those members whose jobs are gone. Current estimates for total government pork
    earmarks are at $15 Billion / yr)

    The remaining representatives would need to work smarter and would need to improve efficiencies. It might even be in their best interests to work together for the good of our country?

    We may also expect that smaller committees might lead to a more efficient resolution of issues as well. It might even be easier to keep track of what your representative is doing.

    Congress has more tools available to do their jobs than it had back in 1911 when the current number of representatives was established. (telephone, computers, cell phones to name a few)

    Note: Congress did not hesitate to head home when it was a holiday, when the nation needed a real fix to the economic problems. Also, we have 3 senators that have not been doing their jobs for the past 18+ months (on the campaign trail) and still they all have been accepting full pay. These facts alone support a reduction in senators & congress.

    Summary of opportunity: $44,108,400 reduction of congress members.

    $282,100,000 for elimination of the reduced house member staff.

    $150,000,000 for elimination of reduced senate member staff.

    $59,675,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining house members.

    $37,500,000 for 25% reduction of staff for remaining senate members.

    $7,500,000,000 reduction in pork added to bills by the reduction of congress members.

    $8,073,383,400 per year, estimated total savings.

    Big business does these t ypes of cuts all the time.

    If Congresspersons were required to serve 20, 25 or 30 years (like everyone else) in order to collect retirement benefits there is no telling how much
    we would save. Now they get full retirement after serving only ONE term.
    (Jimmy Carter signed this into law.)


  20. Pat, I did not catch the House hearing yesterday with those eight bankers. Sure they were all hard to watch. Did any one of them catch your eye as being particularly evil.

  21. In most small businesses, if you can’t do the job right – you’re out the door. These guys seem to not only get rewarded for doing a bad job but for the most part are rewarded well!
    We need to keep pressure on our elected reps by emailing and calling them until they can’t take it anymore.

  22. “A panel of Claude Rain’s facing a panel of Gordon Greco’s was worthy of an ill written “comedy” if it weren’t so tragic and unnecessary. ”

    Pat you’re a poet.

    Waters, Franks, and Dodd are the problem, not the solution.

  23. Good morning!

    Pat, you’re on a roll already:

    “The deadness behind the eyes of those financiers in contrast to the self righteousness emanating from Waters and Frank was worth the price of admission. Absurdity delivered without an ounce or irony attached.”

    And another amazing post from RD enables me to face the day with a smile.

  24. Well I learned something in the comments to that Sirota “apology.” Booman is still around. I thought he was long gone. I guess he’s still writing posts that get three comments. I don’t know why he bothers.

  25. Excellent post — but don’t worry about those Obamaphiles — they will blame everyone else BUT Obama. Doesn’t matter that he appointed Geither, doesn’t matter that he is pushing a bill he doesn’t even understand (I bet he hasn’t even read it) through on his “Barrack’s Big Give Tour” the Obamaphiles will never, ever hold him responsible.

  26. Wow! They’re really at each others’ throats over at Open Left. LOL!

  27. With health care on the firing line in this bill, here’s a collection of info I’m starting….some useful things here to file away!

    Please add any additions to comments…I will eventually pull them all together…

    Health Links: Alternatives to Mainstream Medicine re: Cancer and Other Diseases; Stem Cell Research Clinic


  28. the market is tanking again

  29. Did any one of them catch your eye as being particularly evil?

    To me, “evil” is indifference. None of them actually give a damn about anyone or anything outside their own sphere.

    When one can as easily disassociate themselves from their fellow man, they are evil in some context true to the meaning of the word.

    Inflicting hurt and suffering on others is evil. So the answer to your question is yes.

  30. Well, I don’t know about the two remaining investment banks. They’ve both restructured as holding companies, so they are technically no longer only investment banks, but they’re the only ones in the bunch with no retail customer experience.

  31. As for the banks….I was at my old, wise accountant yesterday and was discussing money we had pulled out and put into our local strong credit union, a local bank that doesn’t play with taking $$ from the gov., and yanking my mother’s annuity out of The Hartford where they are “de-risking” their portfolios….He asked me why and listened then grinned…said he was playing devil’s advocate…because he himself was into the credit union plan. Also, he didn’t know about the local services to get into an annuity run by a mutual company rather than a stock company! So, he was quite interested.

    So, look for MUTUAL companies (held by people, not the SYSTEM), smaller local banks that are strong and don’t intend to take gov. money and for general purposes, strong credit unions who also are mutuals and don’t partake of the gov. money!!

    That’s the first thing you can do to get out of the clutches of the SYSTEM…

  32. the stimulus bill is down to $789 billion right now and it least they’ve stripped some of the tax cut provisions out of it . supposedly $282 remain

  33. Just for the sake of argument: The stimulus bill is less than twice the annual budget of the defense department.

  34. Hahahahahaha! Joseph Cannon has another post up mocking Sirota.


  35. Dakinikat,

    I heard some really cutting remarks from finance types about the Obama plan yesterday on NPR. One guy said the message is still basically, “we don’t know what to do.”

  36. “is of low quality.”

    Thanks for making my morning, again, RD. Oh, and if you need anybody to help paint signs for your march on D.C.? I have a metric crapload of paint and junk sitting around here, from making signs protesting Bush visits to Nashville & stuff.

    Guess I ought to put some of it to work protesting anyone having even the foggiest idea of sending worthless TN Gov. Phil Bredesen to D.C. for HHS – I mean, on the one hand at least we’d be rid of him, but he is the biggest, awfulest DINO you ever saw. He openly campaigns for and takes money from Republicans. Under his watch, TN Dems lost control of BOTH the state House and Senate. He never met a health care lobbyist he didn’t embrace with both arms.

    I really hate it that my pitiful state, which is nearly last in education spending, teen pregnancy and many other measures, keeps inflicting such nauseating public figures upon the country. Oh, Breddy consistently takes money from the Frist family, by the way….though his 2002 re-election finance docs were conveniently missing from the TN SoS website last I looked.

  37. I heard some really cutting remarks from finance types about the Obama plan yesterday on NPR. One guy said the message is still basically, “we don’t know what to do.”

    Sigh. You know, my “We told you so” macro is getting worn out from overuse. WHY they didn’t listen when we tried to tell them Obama was a rookie disaster in the making, I’ll never know.

    At least the paint is starting to come off Obama’s shiny new wagon already. I read a couple of actually critical articles about him yesterday in the MSM, I’ll see if I can dig up some links.

  38. Booman and Sirota prefer their myopia. A “challenge” to that state of well being is considered a “threat”. When your argument becomes shaky to defend, end it by shouting out “STFU”. Astonishing.

  39. BB said: I heard some really cutting remarks from finance types about the Obama plan yesterday on NPR. One guy said the message is still basically, “we don’t know what to do.”
    But is anyone doing anything about the situation?

  40. I used to live in Connecticut, and can remember driving by the new “estate” subdivisions that were being built in the country/suburbs of Hartford County and wondering how so many people could afford houses in the 600’s to 900’s. And, the greater Hartford area isn’t even as high end as the shore-line, especially the communities that commute into New York City.

    I haven’t been following Connecticut news that closely, but I do think the Hartford Courant has been a pain in Dodd’s backside. I don’t think they’re letting his sweetheart mortgage deal be swept under the rug.

  41. New post up.

  42. I thought part of the plan was to allow individuals to get credits/refunds from social security payments during the year.

    This is such a bad idea – I don’t understand why the gov’t seems to want to gut social security. Doesn’t the surplus function as a rainy day fund?

  43. Banking CEOs offer few apologies

    It would seem Wall Street still doesn’t get it.

    After hours of testimony and grilling before a House panel Wednesday, there were few apologies and little contrition offered by the eight Wall Street CEOs and recipients of taxpayer bailout money.

    New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sent Frank a letter Wednesday detailing how Merrill Lynch doled out about $3.6 billion in early bonuses at the same time senior executives knew earnings were disastrous.

    Frank said he was encouraged by Wednesday’s testimony because the CEOs demonstrated they understand that they need to increase lending, curtail excessive compensation and address foreclosures.


  44. Here’s Cuomo’s letters. The greed and arrogance–to take $60+ million per individual from bailout funds when you know your annual profits are abysmal is just breathtaking…

    Andrew Cuomo’s Letter To The House Financial Services Committee

    Merrill Lynch’s decision to secretly and prematurely award approximately $3.6 billion in bonuses, and Bank of America’s apparent complicity in it, raise serious and disturbing questions. By December 8, 2008, Merrill and presumably Bank of America must have been aware that the fourth quarter and yearly earnings results were disastrous. Indeed, on January 16, 2009, the companies announced that in the fourth quarter alone Merrill Lynch has lost $15.31 billion, and more than $27 billion for the year. In the face of these losses, federal taxpayers were forced to help Bank of America acquire Merrill. Thus, Bank of America also announced on January 16, 2009, that the federal government would invest $20 billion in the deal and provide $188 billion in protection against further losses primarily from the Merrill Lynch portfolio. These investments were in addition to the previous $25 billion in TARP funding that taxpayers had given to Bank of America.

    One disturbing question that must be answered is whether Merrill Lynch and Bank of America timed the bonuses in such a way as to force taxpayers to pay for them through the deal funding. We plan to require top officials at both Merrill Lynch and Bank of America to answer this question and to provide justifications for the massive bonuses they paid ahead of their massive losses. As you know, my Office recently issued subpoenas seeking the testimony of former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain, as well as the testimony of Bank of America Chief Administrative Officer J. Steele Alphin. I expect we will also be seeking the testimony of other top executives at these firms.

    What my Office has learned thus far concerning the allocation of the nearly $4 billion in Merrill Lynch bonuses is nothing short of staggering. Some analysts have wrongly claimed that individual bonuses were actually quite modest and thus legitimate because dividing the $3.6 billion over thousands upon thousands of employees results in relatively small amounts estimated at approximately $91,000 per employee. In fact, Merrill chose to do the opposite. While more than 39 thousand Merrill employees received bonuses from the pool, the vast majority of these funds were disproportionately distributed to a small number of individuals. Indeed, Merrill chose to make millionaires out of a select group of 700 employees. Furthermore, as the statistics below make clear, Merrill Lynch awarded an even smaller group of top executives what can only be described as gigantic bonuses.

  45. RD: I think Japan spent huge amounts on infrastructure projects but they did leave their banks in a mess and it cost them big.

  46. myiq — Cannonfire has a cartoon that sums up the Sirota meltdown quite nicely.

  47. fifi — Thanks for excerpting Cuomo’s letter. I hope he nails them.

  48. Riverdaughter. It’s all disgusting. Everything people were writing is coming true before our very eyes right now.

    Liars. Cheats. And?

    The bell will toll for the Robber Barons. It always does.

    Here is latest off NYT —


    “…Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, complained that despite Mr. Obama’s call for bipartisan cooperation, Republicans had largely been shut out. “We didn’t have a chance to negotiate,” Mr. Grassley said…”

    This Grassley is an ally — he will be one to watch when it comes to that medical stuff they are trying to pull. With the gov deciding medical care for people ala Daschle plan.

    Grassley goes up against the corrupt — like psychiatrists who profit…
    on all those meds we discussed — not like what you make and research.

    The kind that backed guess who? That he now owes all the favors to.

    Here is LAT on Social Security:


    I think a lot of people are going to start marching, RD.

    Because they have lied.

    And now? They are becoming more transparent by the mo.

  49. Frankly, I thought the hearings were pure kabuki theater televised to distract us from all the wheeling and dealing over the “stimulus” going on behind closed doors. The grand standing of the committee members was sooo over the top.
    Most assuredly these CEOs bear responsibilty for the financial failures of their institutions, but the system isn’t failing because these guys make a lot of money or fly around in corporate jets. It’s failing because they used the creative tools, given to them by a complicit Congress (both Parties), to sell junk investments all over the world. It was a pyramid scheme, the likes of which Bernie Maddoff could only dream. Thoses who got in and out early made a fortune.
    Remember last Sept. 15 when Paulson and Bernanke went to Congress in a panic screaming “the sky is falling” and and the bank bailout was pushed through? Well, the sky was falling. There was an electronic run on money market accounts that took $650 billion from the system in a little over 1 hour. Had the transactions not been stopped, by 2pm $5.5 trillion would have bled out and decimated the world economy and destroyed all governments in 24 hours.
    Don’t believe me? Go to this video-a clip from CSPAN’s Washington Journal from Jan. 30th where Rep. Kanjorski tells all (aout 3 min into video)

    Further explanation from Boomer1949

  50. BTW-Check out the sneaky Executive Orders signed by BO. Go to:

    Executive Order: Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects

    Presidential Executive Order Establishing the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (this one names”special interest” individuals who will determine our (me & you) financial security. These people areso liberal it’s scary.

    Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers Under Service Contracts

  51. These people areso liberal it’s scary.

    There ain’t no such thing as “too liberal”

  52. This article (http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20090129/pl_usnw/economic_stimulus_package_would_place_social_security_trust_fund_in_deficit_for_first_time_ever_next_year/print;_ylt=AnkMFMAQg_pIz0YwRHBvag8JKekE;_ylu=X3oDMTB1MjgxN2UzBHBvcwMxNARzZWMDdG9vbHMtdG9wBHNsawNwcmludA–), dated Jan. 29, says “Economic Stimulus Package Would Place Social Security Trust Fund in Deficit for First Time Ever Next Year”—basically, an SS tax holiday, funded by SS rather than general revenues. Result: no money coming into SS.

    Anybody know if this thing is still on?

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