Let's Name the Bankers and Make Them Famous

John McCain said during the campaign that he would stop wasteful spending in government by naming names and making people famous. Well, that's a pretty good idea. So, we've adopted it (call us bipartisan). Except we're going to apply it to the bankers who took our money.

Last week we led a protest at the Treasury Department to demand that they get our $13 billion back from Goldman Sachs for the AIG backdoor bailout (read about the reason for the protest here).

On the same day, a Congressional report came out saying basically that we were exactly right. The Congressional watchdogs said that not only should Goldman not have gotten paid a hundred percent of their bets by the American taxpayer but that doing so " undermin[ed] the basic tenets of capitalism" and had a "poisonous effect on the marketplace."

People came from all over the country to this protest. Someone took a 24 hour bus ride from Minnesota to join us at the protest. Others flew in from Wisconsin and Illinois. Someone also took a train from Minnesota (maybe Al Franken is energizing the state to get them so active). People drove in from Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, etc. Somebody even came in from Switzerland.

Sam Seder, RJ Eskow, Michael Shure and I all spoke at the event. We had great media coverage, fromMSNBC to Voice of America to Russia Today to the conservative website Townhall. Strong progressive organizations like Campaign for America's Future, Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America all chipped in.

We had a great time and delivered a message. We also delivered a petition with over 5,000 signatures on it. Now, that petition is up to 6,000 signatures. You can add your own name to it here.

But it's time to take it to the next step. The DC protest was just the beginning. Now, we've started a wiki protest. We want your contributions, ideas and actions in getting the money back. People have already started to put up the names and pictures of all the people who work at Goldman Sachs on the website. We also have many of the addresses for their offices. But we need more info. Please help us build this wiki protest by going to this link and taking part.

In its first year, Wikipedia was actually run by experts in different fields. The scholars put up a grand total of 12 articles that year. When they opened it up to everyone to contribute, they had the world's largest encyclopedia by the end of the next year. We hope we can do the same here with our wiki protest. I am sure that all of you will come up with better ideas and more effective actions than we could on our own. This way we just might get our money back.

We just have one cardinal rule - nothing physical under any circumstances. We want to ask these people to give our money back but in a very civil and polite way. Anything else is unacceptable. Please go to their offices but don't go to their homes. No yelling, no crazy confrontations, just politely ask them to return the money.

Remember, they're real people, too. They're not some evil comic book character. They're simply acting on normal human instincts. There was great money to be made by duping our government and they took advantage. In fact, they were pretty smart to do it. It's not personal. We just want the money back and that's it.

One of my high school friends works at Goldman. He's a good guy but I put his name on the list. Why? It's not because I don't like him. It's because he made a smart bet with AIG, not with me or you. We had no business paying off that bet. That's not capitalism; that's not fair. As soon as we reverse that, then there is no further issue with Goldman. I don't dislike them; I just don't want to pay their bets with our money.

Lastly, remember what Tim Geithner said at the time and continues to say to this day. He said that if we hadn't paid Goldman and the other banks for the side bets they made with AIG that the whole world economy would have collapsed. Well, luckily we're not on the edge of disaster anymore. Goldman made $25 million a day - every day - last quarter. And that was the bare minimum. They made more than $100 million 60% of those days. They're not on the brink of extinction anymore. In fact, they're making record profits. That's a perfect time for them to return the American taxpayers' money.

This has to be an issue conservatives and liberals can agree on. So, everyone please join our wiki protestand let's figure out how to get that money back to its rightful owners - the American taxpayers.

Join Wiki Protest Here

Sign Goldman Petition Here

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Weekly Audit: Fixing the Foreclosure Problem

by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire blogger

The U.S. job market may be showing signs of life, according to a report issued by the Labor Department on Friday.  The unemployment rate dropped in July, something no economist expected. Under the most optimistic interpretation, the news indicates that the worst of the recession is finally behind us. But the scenario isn't really so rosy, as our government has yet to relieve the foreclosure pandemic. Even if unemployment is leveling off, there will be no economic recovery if the the foreclosure problem isn't fixed.

July's unemployment rate only fell from 9.5% to 9.4%, and even the most bullish Wall Street economists think the rate will hit double digits by the end of the year. The fact that July's tiny drop in unemployement counts for good economic news says a lot about how severely the economy has deteriorated over the past year and a half.

But when you dig a little deeper, the numbers get worse. As Tim Fernholz explains for The American Prospect, even though the unemployment rate dropped, the nation's economy actually shed 247,000 jobs in July. The rate was pushed down because 400,000 people gave up looking for a job in July; as such, they are no longer included in the statistic. So, while we "only" lost 247,000 jobs, we also lost 400,000 workers.

The government also adjusts its job loss figures for seasonal developments. When the Labor Department says we lost 247,000 jobs in July, that isn't the actual number--it's the number relative to what the Department considers a normal July. This summer has been unique for the U.S. economy, and especially in the case of the automobile industry. Auto companies usually lay off workers in the summer: The factories close while companies prepare the next year's models. So many factories were already closed earlier this year that the seasonal shutdowns haven't really happened this summer. Even though car companies laid people off in July, the government's seasonally adjusted numbers marked an increase in car manufacturing jobs.

Things get even more complicated when you include the Cash for Clunkers program, which started on July 24. The plan offers people up to $4,500 to trade in their gas guzzlers for more fuel efficient new car. Whether the program helps the environment is somewhat controversial, but there is no doubt that it has created a lot of unusual demand for new cars. As Ed Brayton notes for The Michigan Messenger, the government's plan to pump an additional $2 billion into the program has analysts predicting a big boost for manufacturers in July and August.

So we don't really know if the labor market actually improved last month, or if the report is just an exaggeration of statistical anomalies resulting from the recession itself, or even some of the government's recovery efforts. But as Steve Benen notes for The Washington Monthly, even if the numbers come with a healthy dose of uncertainty, it's still better to see them come in good than bad. "There hasn't been encouraging news on the job front in quite a while, and given the severity of the economic crisis, today's report offers at least some relief," Benen says. "The job numbers beat expectations, the overall unemployment rate declined, earnings went up, and the manufacturing sector improved."

But even if unemployment is finally slowing down, the housing market remains awful. Foreclosures are significantly outpacing the administration's efforts to help troubled borrowers. The Treasury Department released a report last week indicating that only about 9% of the borrowers eligible for relief under the government's anti-foreclosure plan have actually received any aid--and even here the numbers are juiced to make the program look better. The administration only includes borrowers who are already at least two months behind on their mortgage payments in the group of eligible borrowers, when in fact any borrower in danger of "imminent default" is supposed to be eligible. Much of the problem, as I argue in a piece for Salon, is that the plan relies on private-sector debt collectors to identify distressed homeowners and get them help, something these companies have never been very interested in doing. All in all, just 235,247 borrowers have received assistance under the Obama plan, while foreclosures increased to 1.5 million in the first six months of 2009, with 2.4 million expected for the entire year and 9 million by 2012.

Writing for Mother Jones, Andy Kroll emphasizes that a much better policy option is available than the current tack. Rather than ask the banking industry to voluntarily adopt the administration's plan without any consequences, we should put "homeowners' fate in the hands of a neutral arbiter, like a bankruptcy court judge . . . [It] would go a long way toward stemming the tide of foreclosures," Kroll writes.

Thanks to a bizarre legal loophole, mortgages cannot be modified in a bankruptcy proceeding if the owner actually lives in the house (investment properties, on the other hand, can be written off). In other words, if a predatory loan is driving you bankrupt, a judge can't do anything about it in bankruptcy court. Congress has tried to change this rule a few times over the past year, but the bank lobby has stymied those efforts. The most recent legislative push failed overcome a Senate filibuster in April, but the political momentum may be changing as foreclosures get increasingly out of hand.

As Mike Lillis notes for The Colorado Independent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., plans to bring back the legislation if the banking industry doesn't get serious about helping borrowers fast. Many of the companies letting borrowers fall into foreclosure received billions of dollars in bailout money over the past year, and some even agreed to help borrowers as a condition for taxpayer support. But reform doesn't just depend on the banks. Peter Dreier argues in The Nation that citizens need to publicly protest for stronger economic reforms.

Foreclosures are terrible for the economy. They wreak havoc on families' lives, wipe out personal savings, lower the value of neighboring properties and put more homes on the market, further lowering home prices nationwide. If we cannot stop foreclosures, the economy cannot recover. If job losses are finally moderating, that's great news. But it would be much better to see job losses stabilize and see the banks we bailed out actually do something to avert foreclosures.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy and is free to reprint. Visit StimulusPlan.NewsLadder.net and Economy.NewsLadder.net for complete lists of articles on the economy, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical health and immigration issues, check out Healthcare.NewsLadder.net and Immigration.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

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Weekly Audit: Obama's Regulation Overhaul Comes Up Short

by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger 

President Barack Obama rolled out his plan to overhaul financial regulation last week. While much of the Obama plan relies on the same regulators and structures that led to the current meltdown, there is one key exception. The establishment of an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency would give ordinary citizens a seat at the financial policy table for the first time and prevent the abuses in credit card and mortgage lending that have wreaked havoc on households all over the country.  

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Clinton's State Department

The New York Times is reporting that Senator Clinton if confirmed as the nation's 67th Secretary of State will seek "to build a more powerful State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with global economic issues at a time of crisis." A more robust State Department is certainly a welcomed change and the idea of special envoys is also a good one because it engages dialogue above normal channels but it is concerning that Clinton's State Department may be expanding into a domain traditionally held by the US Treasury Secretary. To a degree, some clarification of the role Mrs. Clinton is hoping to carve out is required.

Mrs. Clinton's push for a more vigorous economic team, one of her advisers said, stems from her conviction that the State Department needs to play a part in the recovery from the global financial crisis. Economic issues also underpin some of the most important diplomatic relationships, notably with China.

In recent years, the Treasury Department, led by Henry M. Paulson Jr., has dominated policy toward China. Mr. Paulson leads a "strategic economic dialogue" with China that involves several agencies. It is not yet clear who will pick up that role in the Obama administration, although Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is frequently mentioned as a possibility.

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ACTION REQUIRED: Executive Power Grab in Banking Bail Out Bill

This is from a diary at DKos about the proposed Wall Street Bailout and proposed legal language that we Democrats must make sure does not pass. this is the largest transfer of congressional power to the executive branch ever..this is an extension of the Bush regime's plan to apparantly destroy America the beautiful.

Original Diary is here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/20/ 153952/268/395/603713

All Credit to the diarist: Larry Madill

Please read and Do something!

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Diaries

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