Archive for the ‘politics/finance Today’ Category
George W. Bush explains: The financial crisis
“The information and pieces of intelligence I had, the principles that I followed, and the decisions that I took…In a few decades, I hope to be appreciated as a President who kept his promises to protecting his country…A president who took advantage of the influence of America in order to disseminating liberty…Whatever is the verdict of History, I wish I am no longer among the living.” G.W. Bush
I am reading the French version of “George W. Bush: Decisive moments”. I consider this book an “Official documents”: A President of the USA is not entitled to lie on facts. It is our duty to mine this document for another set of facts in order to rectify distorted images and impressions.
“In my first budget of 2001, I warned of the two gigantic private societies of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two powerful financial institutions, guaranteed by Federal government, have grown to be potential problems: They expanded outside their initial guidelines of promoting private properties into functioning within speculative funds. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had huge leverage compared to institutions of same size and initial capital: vast amounts of transactions were done with all kinds of investment enterprises, and they were taking huge risks susceptible of carrying decisive repercussions in the financial markets.”
My plan was to reduce taxes. By 1999, taxes represented the highest share in the GNP since WWII. President Clinton and Congress had agreed to increase discretionary expenses by 16% in 2001. In March 2001, we witnessed a recession and I begged Congress to act quickly on my tax reduction reforms of 1.35 billion. Tax reform will not take effect until 2003.(See note 1)
Then, the attack on the Twin Tower in 9/11/2001 devastated our economy. The US lost 500 billion in a single year, an additional one million workers were out of jobs, airliners had no passengers, and tourism dropped 90%. Whatever budget surpluses we had vanished in thin air.
In 2003, I advanced a project of laws to tighten regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which enjoyed government support. It turned out that most high level personnel in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the key deciders, were previous government officials and these enterprises had established vast web connections and interests among the Congress and Senate members, particularly with democrats. For example, Chris Dodd and Barney Franks who declared: “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any financial crisis.”
In the 2005 budget, I iterated my strong warning: “Enterprises and organizations financed by federal governments are viewed by financial enterprises as enjoying strong leverage compared to other private enterprises. Consequently, any minor error in government supported financial institutions can send devastating waves in the country economy…”
Treasury secretary John Snow worked closely with Senator Richard Selby, president of banking committee, for stricter regulations that would reduce the portfolio of government guaranteed financial institutions. The democrats in the Senate opposed the reforms.
Investment bank Bear Stearns was facing serious liquidity problems in March 13, 2007: This financial institution had borrowed $33 for each dollar in capital as leverage to invest in real estates titles. Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, (a former investment banker of Goldman Sachs), found a buyer in JPMorgan Chase on condition that the government extend a loan of 30 billion to purchasing “toxic titles”. JPMorgan Chase purchased Bear Stearns for $2 a share.
By summer 2008, I had demanded the financial regulation reform 17 times. In July 2008, Congress adopted the reform, but gave the treasury secretary additional power to injecting capitals Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to maintaining liquidity, if need be. Jim Lockhart realized in August 2008 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were on the verge of bankrapcy. China and international financial institutions were dead certain that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were financially guaranteed by the Federal government.
Treasury secretary Hank Paulson decided to place Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under direct government supervision. Paulson said: “We’ll act so swiftly and take them by surprise, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won’t have time to say ouf!” Amazingly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac decided not to challenge the decision in court.
On September 2008, Lehman Brothers declared a loss of 4 billion in the last quarter and its stock market dropped from $16 to 3.6. Bank of America was more interested in acquiring Merrill Lynch, and the British bank of Barclay was faced by a rejection of the British government for the deal. On Monday Sept. 15, the 158 year-old investment institution closed door.
Question: “Why Lehman was not saved by the government as it did with Bear Stearns?” Plausible answer: Hank Paulson wanted a serious competitor in investment banking to disappear!
“Wall Street gets drunk: It is up to common people to wake up with headaches”
Note 1: Bush claims that tax break on the richest 1% increased from 38.4 to 39.1% (whao), while the poorest 50% of the population enjoyed a reduction from 3.4 to 3.1% (double whao)
Note 2: So far, G.W. Bush keeps the record of worst perpetrator of crimes against humanity in this century: Bush Junior was directly responsible of the death of more than one million Iraqi civilians during his “preemptive war” against a dictator that was no threat to any State anymore.
Conversation with Julian Assange: Conducted by Hans Ulrich Obrist
The professions of my parents were in theater, and I moved to over 50 cities in Australia of the 70,s and attended 37 schools in rural areas. You can imagine Tom Sawyer in this modern time: I rode horses, explored caves, dived and did motorcyclist….
In Adelaide, my mother helped whisk out nuclear documents of the British testing site in Maralinga. At the age of 15 I started decoding systems meant to preventing the dissemination of open programs.
Before the advent of Internet, Australia was kind living in the outback and it was a pleasure to discover the outside world and get inside the Pentagon archives of the 8th Air Force, (the strategic nuclear air force in the USA).
At 17, I had founded an underground magazine and the Federal police rounded us. I had already set the foundation for Australia Internet using a provider that I created. I used cryptography and mathematics to protect my sources and get inside systems.
You see, there are three kinds of information: Knowledge disseminated by schooling systems, books, and manuscripts that are slowly degrading and in the way out of circulation; information related to the economic industrial functioning of societies such as the “know how” of hydraulic systems …which are protected by lobbies; and the third type of information that are actively censored and prevented from entering the public domain. “The secret type of information” is a serious handicap for a just, fair, and intelligent interaction among communities.
Until I was 20 of age, I was basically a hacker continuing his university studies in Melbourne. I edited an underground magazine called “International Subversive”. In that period, every developed State had its own Internet system and its own network, but they were not interconnected. For example, you had Arpanet and Well in the US connecting universities, and X.25 connecting telecommunication industries, QSD in France, Altos in Germany…We were a very restricted community of hackers, scientists, and people in power; we were young, active, and motivated and we invested the embryonic internet.
Our phones were bugged and we witnessed six years of legal prosecutions in the US, England and Australia. We were mostly young geniuses with the faculty of easy adaptation to this newer intellectual horizon, even though many of us did not finish formal higher education. I was inspired by the book of Alexander Solzhenitsyn “The God of darkness”, Louis Fischer, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, Richard Wright and the Black Panthers radical traditions.
1994 witnessed the apogee of the micro-movement “Cypherpunk” (decoding punk). True hackers disliked the absurd term of cyberpunk. The “Cypherpunk” community were mostly from California, Europe and Australia and we had understood the nature of the power relation among individuals and States, mainly based on the science of cryptography. We had no founding members or a guiding philosophy, but had starting principles originating from John Young, Eric Hughes, and Timothy C. May…We formed circles of discussion and we had this concept that with talents in mathematics and programming we can empower individuals to confront the power of States, to say No to public power. We could code and decode as efficiently as States could. WikiLeaks was a combination of various ideas circulated during the discussion groups. The economic feasibility in internet communication was not exorbitant to start a internet-type enterprise.
There was abundance of information and the critical problem was “which piece of intelligence is worth saving and analyzing even further”? We discovered that information with “feeble light” (not widely diffused) must have been undergoing economic censorship to take out of the public domain, thus, highly important to State powers and affecting the safety and stability of the regular people.
Once a State or institution endeavor to censor anything, it means the power-to-be feels threatened by the information. Unless most power relationships are transformed by financial interests, political censorship will be highly dangerous. Thus, free expression and free gathering are dangerous to political ideological systems.
Note: Hans Ulrich Obrist is an artist from Switzerland and organizes biennial in Vienna and Berlin. He is the director of international projects at the Serpentine Gallery in London.
The Lesser Depression? Who is Paul Krugman?
“You do not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.”
Paul Krugman published an article on July 21, 2011 in The New York Times. Krugman is a Nobel laureate in economics and has been frequently explaining the current world financial problems. I will exhibit a few extracts with my own editing style, and develop my comments.
“These are interesting times, in the worst way. We are currently looking at not one, but two looming crises, either of which could produce a global disaster. In the United States, right-wing fanatics in Congress may block a necessary rise in the debt ceiling, potentially wreaking havoc in world financial markets. Meanwhile, if the plan just agreed to by European heads of State fails to calm markets, we could see falling dominoes all across southern Europe — which would also wreak havoc in world financial markets.”
“In fact, policy makers seem determined to perpetuate what I’ve taken to calling the Lesser Depression, the prolonged era of high unemployment that began with the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and continues to this day, more than two years after the recession supposedly ended. Why our economies are (still) so depressed.
The great housing bubble of the last decade, which was both an American and a European phenomenon, was accompanied by a huge rise in household debt. When the bubble burst, home construction plunged, and so did consumer spending as debt-burdened families cut back.
Everything might still have been bearable if other major economic players had stepped up their spending, filling the gap left by the housing plunge and the consumer pullback. But nobody did. In particular, cash-rich corporations see no reason to invest that cash in the face of weak consumer demand.
Nor did governments do much to help. Some governments — those of weaker nations in Europe, and State and local governments here — were actually forced to slash spending in the face of falling revenues. And the modest efforts of stronger governments — including the Obama stimulus plan — were, at best, barely enough to offset this forced austerity. So we have depressed economies. What are policy makers proposing to do about it? Less than nothing.
The disappearance of unemployment from elite policy discourse and its replacement by deficit panic has been truly remarkable. It’s not a response to public opinion. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, 53 percent of the public named the economy and jobs as the most important problem we face, while only 7 percent named the deficit. Nor is it a response to market pressure. Interest rates on U.S. debt remains near historic lows.
Yet the conversations in Washington and Brussels are all about spending cuts (and maybe tax increases, I mean revisions). That’s obviously true about the various proposals being floated to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis here. But it’s equally true in Europe.
On Thursday, the “heads of State or governments of the euro area and the E.U. institutions” — that mouthful tells you, all by itself, how messy European governance has become — issued their big statement. It wasn’t reassuring. For one thing, it’s hard to believe that the “Rube Goldberg statement” can really resolve the Greek crisis, let alone the wider European crisis.
But, even if it does, then what? The statement calls for sharp deficit reductions “in all countries except those under a program” to take place “by 2013 at the latest.” Since those countries “under a program” are being forced into drastic fiscal austerity, this amounts to a plan to have all of Europe slash spending at the same time. And there is nothing in the European data suggesting that the private sector will be ready to take up the slack in less than two years.
For those who know their 1930s history, this is all too familiar. If either of the current debt negotiations fails, we could be about to replay 1931, the global banking collapse that made the Great Depression great. But, if the negotiations succeed, we will be set to replay the great mistake of 1937: The premature turn to fiscal contraction that derailed economic recovery and ensured that the Depression would last, until World War II finally provided the boost the economy needed. The European Central Bank seems determined to make things even worse by raising interest rates.
The lack of wisdom is on full display, as policy elites on both sides of the Atlantic bungle the response to economic trauma, ignoring all the lessons of history. And the Lesser Depression goes on.” (End of quote)
I am wondering: What if Congress agrees to raise the ceiling of the debt? How the US government used to pay off, in the first place, the nominal portion of its dept? It is not through the surplus of its economic activities, or the savings of the citizens, or the slashing of military spending…
The US has been borrowing heavily by encouraging foreign State governments, which managed to save money, into purchasing US Treasury Bills and bonds. Currently, this mechanism of relying on foreign savings is not working, and the Federal Reserve has been manufacturing money and lending it to the US government to cover short-term and urgent immediate deficit.
The dollar has been effectively being devalued consistently by 10% per year since 1945, and this rate in devaluation is increasing rapidly since 2007.
Do you realize what a deficit amounting to 14 trillion means? It is more than the total worth of France, if sold stock, lock, and land. Imagine thousand of years of labor by millions of “French people” to sustaining a country, who could not accumulate enough wealth to pay off the US public deficit!
All these economic and financial decisions are meant to buy short-term leverage, before the inevitable global crisis fall on our head, very shortly. How can the US people pay-off this huge deficit if not by “creating a preemptive global war”, as were the cases in 1914 and 1939?
The US has nothing much to offer economically for stabilizing world economy and finances. What Europe needs from the US are two things:
First, releasing the huge ammunition reserves for resuming the small-scale preemptive wars in Libya and the potential unstable regimes around the Mediterranean Sea and parts of Africa. It is the abundance of the US military hardware and ammunition that is making NATO organization an acceptable agreement to the EU.
Second, the EU hopes that the dollar will maintain its global status for a couple of years before a basket of currencies is agreed upon. What else the US can be of any help for the time being?
These spring uprising of youth movements around the world have a common denominator: “We want to have a direct say in public decisions”