04 April 2010

Reich Levels Broadside at Greenspan, Rubin, and Summers, and Phony Financial Reform

"It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime." … Thomas Paine

In 1999 I started wondering what Robert Rubin might have said to Alan Greenspan in a private meeting in 1997 to cause him to reverse his policy bias shortly after his famous "irrational exuberance" speech. Greenspan embraced the monetary easing that led to the tech bubble, and joined the fight against regulation of derivatives, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall, in which the Fed was absolutely instrumental.

PBS Frontline - The Warning: The Roots of the Financial Crisis

This was no accident, in my opinion. This was no misplaced belief in 'the efficient market hypothesis.' This was not the culmination of the neo-liberal fascination with a mythology of human nature that would make Rousseau blush in its unthinking naiveté. And for Greenspan to say now, I am sorry, I guess I was mistaken, is more prevarication from the master dissembler.

There were plenty of enablers to this financial fraud. There always are many more people who do not act out of principle, or inside involvement and knowledge, but out of their own selfish bias and greed or craven fear that compels them to 'go with the flow.'

And there is little better example of this than the many people who are even now turning a willful eye away from the blatant government manipulation of the stock and commodity markets, in particular the silver market. They do not wish to believe it, so they ignore it, and even ridicule it depending on how deeply it affects their personal interests. But the overall body of evidence is compelling enough to provoke further investigation, and the refusal to allow audits and independent investigation starts to become an overwhelming sign of a coverup. I am not saying that it is correct, or that I know something, but I am saying to not investigate it thoroughly and to air all the details, is highly suspicious and not in the interests of the truth. I did not know, for example, that Madoff was conducting a Ponzi scheme, but the indications were all there and a simple investigation and disclosure would have revealed the truth, one way or the other.

"Fiat justitia ruat caelum." Let justice be done though the heaven's fall. This is the principle of English law that says that expediency, that appeals to a false 'national security,' that executive privilege and the secrecy of the powerful interests, are not to deter the light of exposure and the consequences of justice for all. This is the difference between a republic and a dictatorship of the oligarchy.

The military industrial complex came to power in the US on the back of the Red Scare and the smears and fear-mongering perpetrated by the Senator from Wisconsin who 'loved to hear the sound of his own voice, more than the truth,' and his minions in Roy Cohn, and the enablers in the press who were cowed into silence.

There will be smears and distractions, ridicule and old prejudices dug deep will be brought newly forward. False flags and scapegoats. Threats and warnings of collapse will be like bluffs run to encourage the people to hand over their liberty for safety. If you do not think this can happen you have not been paying attention.

The perpetrators of this latest fraud, this unleashing of darkness upon the world, will count on the fear and apathy of the many, and the cynical contempt of the fortunate for the disadvantaged, to make them all the unwitting accomplices in their own inevitable destruction. It has worked for them in the past.

One cannot fight this sort of evil with hatred and violence, or hysteria and intemperate accusations, for these are its creatures and it uses them always to further its ends. The only worthy adversary of the darkness is transparency, openness, justice, and truth based on facts, in the light of reason, with the guidance of the light of the world. We are not sufficient of ourselves to stand against it, and if we knock down the law, the Constitution, to chase it with expediency and private justice, what will protect us when it turns around to devour us?

But we should never be a willing victim, and even worse, a silent bystander or mocking accomplice. This is why were you born here and now, to stand witness to the truth, as you can find it and value it above all else.

It is not easy to find the truth, as it is a journey, a way that never ends. And without a proper guide and companionship, it may be all too easy to grow weary or panic, and lose one's bearings and one's heart. But sometimes it is easier to discover what is not the truth by its acts, its results, the fruit that it produces, and the darkness and secrecy in which it dwells.

And the truth is not with the financial system, and the web of deception and fraud, that has served it. "What is Truth?" he asked. And Pilate turned and washed his hands of it, and condemned himself, forever.

Robert Reich
Greenspan, Summers, and Why the Economy Is So Out of Whack

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"I’m in the “green room” at ABC News, waiting to join a roundtable panel discussion on ABC’s weekly Sunday news program, This Week.

Alan Greenspan is now being interviewed. He says he bore no responsibility for the housing bubble that catapulted the nation into a financial crisis in 2008 because no one could have known about the bubble when he chaired the Fed in the years before it burst. Larry Summers was interviewed just before Greenspan. He said the economy is expanding, that the Administration is doing everything it can to bring jobs back, and that the regulatory reform bills moving on the Hill will prevent another financial crisis.


If any single person is most responsible for the financial crisis, it’s Alan Greenspan. He presided over a Fed that lowered interest rates to zero (adjusted for inflation) but failed to prevent banks from using essentially free money to speculate wildly. You do not have to be a brain surgeon to understand that if money is free, banks will take it and lend it out. And if oversight is inadequate, the banks will lend the money to anyone who can stand up straight and to many who cannot. The result will be a giant subprime lending bubble that will burst.

If any three people are most responsible for the failure of financial regulation, they are Greenspan, Larry Summers, and my former colleague, Bob Rubin. In 1999 they advised Congress to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which since 1933 had separated commercial from investment banking. By 1999, Wall Street was salivating over such a repeal because it wanted to create financial supermarkets that could use commercial deposits to place bets in the financial casino. That would yield the Street trillions.

At the same time, Greenspan, Summers, and Rubin also quashed the efforts of the Commodity Futures Trading Corporation to regulate derivatives, when its director began to worry that derivative trading already was getting out of control.

Yet Greenspan continues to take no responsibility for what occurred. In the interview he just completed he avoiding saying anything about the failure of the Fed under his watch to adequately oversee the banks, and the absence of sufficient financial regulation to begin with.

I dislike singling out individuals for blame or praise in a political system as complex as that of the United States but I worry the nation is not on the right economic road, and that these individuals — one of whom advises the President directly and the others who continue to exert substantial influence among policy makers — still don’t get it.

The direction financial reform is taking is not encouraging. Both the bill that emerged from the House and the one emerging from the Senate are filled with loopholes that continue to allow reckless trading of derivatives. Neither bill adequately prevents banks from becoming insolvent because of their reckless trades. Neither limits the size of banks or busts up the big ones. Neither resurrects the Glass-Steagall Act. Neither adequately regulates hedge funds.

More fundamentally, neither bill begins to rectify the basic distortion in the national economy whose rewards and incentives are grotesquely tipped toward Wall Street and financial entrepreneurialism, and away from Main Street and real entrepreneurialism. It was just reported, for example, that America’s top 25 hedge fund managers last year earned an average of $3 billion each. They continue to pay a federal income tax of 15 percent on most of that, by the way, because their lobbying efforts have been so successful.

Meanwhile, the so-called jobs bills emerging from Congress and the White House are puny relative to the challenge of restoring jobs in America. Last Friday’s jobs report, read most positively, showed 112,000 jobs added to the economy in March. But that’s below the number needed simply to keep up with an expanding population. In other words, we’re actually worse off now than we were a month ago. At the same time, the median wage of Americans with jobs keep dropping.

The American economy is seriously out of whack. The two people interviewed this morning don’t seem to understand how far."