Tags: Federal Reserve

Charting the American Oligarchy – How 0.01% of the Population Contributes 42% of All Campaign Cash

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This is an economic fight, but this is also a political fight. The biggest financial institutions aren’t just big – they wield enormous political power. Last December, Citibank lobbyists wrote an amendment to Dodd-Frank and persuaded their friends in Washington to attach it to a bill that had to pass or the government would have been shut down. And when there was pushback over the amendment, the CEO of JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, personally got on the phone with Members of Congress to secure their votes. How many individuals who are looking for a mortgage or a credit card could make that call? How many small banks could have their lobbyists write an amendment and threaten to shut down the US government if they didn’t get it? None. Keep in mind that the big banks aren’t trying to make the market more competitive; they just want rules that create more advantages for themselves. The system is rigged and those who rigged it want to keep it that way.

– From Senator Elizabeth Warren’s excellent speech: “The Unfinished Business of Financial Reform”

This is probably one of the most important posts I’ll write all year. The reason is because in order to displace the current paradigm, the public needs to deeply and intellectually understand exactly where the real cancer resides.

I never liked the saying: “We are the 99%.” While admittedly catchy and effective as a slogan, I think it is ultimately divisive and counterproductive. The reason I say this is because the statement itself alienates much needed allies for no good reason.

In a country with a population of 320 million, the 1% represents 3.2 million people, which is a pretty big number. While the 1% certainly have far superior material lives compared to the 99%, that doesn’t mean a particularly large percentage of them are thieves, cronies or oligarchs. In fact, it behooves people interested in transitioning to another paradigm to court as many of them as possible to the cause. It is very useful to have well meaning people with resources and connections on your side. To blithely assume there aren’t plenty of potential allies from a pool of 3.2 million is committing strategic suicide. Indeed, John Hancock came from one of the wealthiest families in the American colonies in the run up to the Revolution, yet he isn’t remembered by history for his family’s tremendous wealth, but for his signature:

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Four “Too Big to Fail/Jail” Banks Threaten to Hold Back Funds to Democrats Over Elizabeth Warren

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Having already proven that their institutions are above the law in the aftermath of the financial crisis, executives at the “Too Big to Fail and Jail” banks have decided it’s time to teach Senate Democrats a lesson. Not being content with trillions in taxpayer backed bailouts to protect and further consolidate virtually all wealth within their oligarch fiefdoms, these bankers are irate at the notion that a commoner would dare criticize their unassailable crony privilege.

However, the worst part of this story, is that while Warren is harsher than most of her completely bought and paid for colleagues, she is still pretty meek when it comes to the big bank oligopoly. In her most misguided position, she doesn’t even support an audit of the largest organized crime institution operating within these United States, the Federal Reserve. Oh and for those of you who will claim the Fed is already audited, think again. Read: The Fed Impedes GAO Audits by Destroying Source Documents.

Thus it seems even Warren’s meager push for reform is simply too much for the thin skinned bailout baby banks to handle. From The Hill:

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Another Oligarch Preaches to the Peasants – Charlie Munger Says “Prepare for Harder World”

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While several exceptionally wealthy and successful people have admirably come out and spoken passionately of the broken nature of financial markets and the political system, as well as the threat this poses to society in general (think Paul Tudor Jones and Nick Hanauer), there have been several examples of oligarchs coming out and conversely demonstrating their complete disconnect from reality, as well as a disdain for the masses within a framework of incredible arrogance.

I’ve commented on such figures in the past, with the two most popular posts on the subject being:

A Billionaire Lectures Serfs in Davos – Claims “America’s Lifestyle Expectations are Far Too High”

An Open Letter to Sam Zell: Why Your Statements are Delusional and Dangerous

The latest example comes from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right hand man, who tends to demonstrate an incredible capacity for verbal diarrhea. Recall his commentary on gold: “gold is a great thing to sew onto your garments if you’re a Jewish family in Vienna in 1939.”  

Moving along, Mr. Munger provided some typically insensitive commentary at an event yesterday in Los Angeles. Bloomberg reports that:

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Annaly’s CEO Accurately Compares Central Bankers to Witch Doctors; Possible “Blood-Letters”

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.05.28 AMThe story of bloodletting is intertwined in the mysterious fabric of medical lore; it originated from magic and religious ceremonies. The physician and priest were one and the same since disease was thought to be caused by supernatural causes. Witch doctors and sorcerers were called on to drive out the evil spirits and demons. Bloodletting was a method for cleansing the body of ill-defined impurities and excess fluid. The early instruments included thorns, pointed sticks and bones, sharp pieces of flint or shell, and even sharply pointed shark’s teeth. Miniature bow and arrow devices for bloodletting have been found in South America and New Guinea. A small bloodletting instrument resembling a crossbow was once used in Greece and Malta. Wall paintings dating from 1400 B.C. depict the use of leeches for drawing blood from human beings.

– From a PBS article: A Brief History of Blood-Letting

On a conference call today to discuss the mortgage-investment firm’s earnings, the chief executive officer talked about “blood-letting,” a “popular prescription for many ills” until the late 1800s, and the similarly abandoned view that life could be created by spontaneous generation to explain her “healthy dose of concern” over the potential results of all the stimulus.

“My hope is that as policy makers of the world continue to prescribe their remedies for the ailing economic patient, that they do not render it worse off,” she said. “As with their predecessors, I suspect there is no doubt in the minds of our central bankers that they are the smartest they’ve ever been. Yet, I fear they are not the smartest they will ever be.”

– From the Bloomberg article: Annaly’s CEO Sees Central Bankers as Possible Blood-Letters

One of my greatest frustrations during the post-financial crisis period has been the unwillingness of the rich and powerful to call out central banking for what it is: financial slavery. While I accept that many are simply ignorant or brainwashed, there are plenty who know exactly what’s going on and are merely trying to make as much money as possible from the Federal Reserve created scam before the music stops. For those with influence in society, this is a highly unethical choice.

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American Upper Middle Class Share of Wealth is Worse than Every Country Besides Russia and Indonesia

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 11.53.35 AMOne of Liberty Blitzkrieg’s most popular posts in 2013 was titled: How Does America’s Middle Class Rank Globally? #27. Here’s an excerpt:

We are number 1 right? USA! USA! No one can beat our wealth creation machine, our economic dynamism, our level playing field and our bastions of higher education. We have a middle class that is the envy of the world, right?

Well, like so much of the “American dream” we have been force fed for a generation or more, this perception is not based in reality whatsoever. Sure it may have been the case for a couple of decades immediately after World War 2. Before the military-industrial-Wall Street complex fully took over the political process, but it certainly isn’t true any longer. Myths die hard and this one is particularly pernicious because it prevents people from changing things.

The data in that article was based on a comprehensive study published by Credit Suisse titled Global Wealth Data Book. Well, the 2014 version is now out, and the results are not pretty.

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Video of the Day – Elizabeth Warren Torches Janet Yellen on TBTF

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 11.37.34 AMBefore you watch the video, I want to highlight an excellent article published this morning by Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism titled, Yellen Tells Whoppers to the New Yorker. The title doesn’t do justice to the powerful and scathing critique of the fraud that is the current Federal Reserve Chairwoman. In a nutshell, the article exposes how Yellen’s acting routine is worthy of an Academy Award. In her role, she plays a caring, sweet, grandmotherly type figure all concerned about the poor and middle-class, when reality points to a career as a staunch, frontline protecter of the bankster oligarchy.

From Naked Capitalism (for background, much of the article is criticism of a propaganda piece on Yellen recently published by the New Yorker):

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Video of the Day – “End the Fed” Rallies are Exploding Throughout Germany

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 3.14.21 PMThis is a fascinating development and one that I had no idea was happening until today. It seems that rallies are spreading throughout Germany protesting the corrupt and dying global status quo. One of the key targets of these groups is the U.S. Federal Reserve system, which as I and many others have maintained, is the core cancer infecting the entire planet.

As I tweeted earlier today:

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Matt Stoller Destroys Timothy Geithner in His Epic Review of “Stress Test”

Geithner is at heart a grifter, a petty con artist with the right manners and breeding to lie at the top echelons of American finance at a moment when the government and financial services industry needed someone to be the face of their multi-trillion dollar three card monte. He’s going to make his money, now that he’s done living his life of fantastic power after his upbringing of remarkable mysterious privilege. After reading this book and documenting lie after lie after lie, I’m convinced that there’s more here than just a self-serving corrupt official. There’s an entire culture, of figures at Treasury, the Federal Reserve, in the entire Democratic Party elite structure, and in the world of journalism, a culture in which Geithner is seen as some sort of role model.

– From Matt Stoller’s fantastic article published yesterday, The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party

Timothy Geithner is likely to go down in American history as one of the most dangerous, destructive cronies to have ever wielded government power. The man is so completely and totally full of shit it’s almost impossible not to notice.

The last thing I’d ever want to do in my free time is read a lengthy book filled with Geithner lies and propaganda, so I owe a large debt of gratitude to former Congressional staffer Matt Stoller for doing it for me. Stoller simply tears Geither apart limb from limb, detailing obvious lies about the financial crisis, and even more interestingly, Geithner’s bizarre bio, replete with mysterious and inexplicable promotions into positions of power.

So without further ado, here are some excerpts from this excellent article. From Vice:

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Ecuador to Transfer More Than Half its Gold Reserves to Goldman Sachs in Exchange for “Liquidity”

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 10.45.48 AMThis is a great example of how the game works. In a world in which every government on earth needs “liquidity” to survive, and the primary goal of every government is and always has been survival (the retention of arbitrary power at all costs), the provider of liquidity is king. So what is liquidity and who provides it?

In the current financial system (post Bretton Woods), the primary engine of global liquidity is the U.S. dollar and dollar based assets generally as a result of  its reserve currency status. Ever since Nixon defaulted on the U.S. dollar’s gold backing in 1971, the creation of this “liquidity” has zero restrictions whatsoever and is merely based on the whims and desires of the central planners in chief, i.e., the Federal Reserve. As the primary creator of the liquidity that every government on earth needs to survive, the Federal Reserve is thus the most powerful player globally in not only economic, but also geopolitical affairs.

The example of the so-called sovereign nation of Ecuador relinquishing its gold reserves to Goldman Sachs for “liquidity” which can be conjured up by the Fed on a whim and at zero cost tells you all you need to know about how the world works (read my post: Why Fiat Money is Immoral).

Now from Bloomberg:

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Junk Borrowers Are Increasingly “Adjusting Earnings” to More Easily Sell Debt

Last week, I wrote a post highlighting increased leverage in private equity deals and the fact that the Federal Reserve was warning of such practices in the piece: Leverage in PE Deals Soars Despite Fed Warnings. In it, I highlighted how 40% of PE deals in 2014 have used leverage ratio above 6x EBITDA, despite Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency guidance last year to not breach that ratio.

I noted how ridiculous it is for the institution most responsible for all of the current market insanity to try to come out and talk down leverage ratios. The primary reason all of this craziness is occurring is because the Federal Reserve has intentionally lowered interest rates to such an extent that investors feel they have no choice but to chase the riskiest assets just to catch a few additional basis points. Now we see that junk borrowers are increasingly using tactics such as “add-backs” in order to make earnings look better. This allows low quality borrowers to borrow, while at the same time providing an excuse for investors to buy garbage.

Think I’m exaggerating the problem? According to Bloomberg, 66% of junk-rated bonds sold this year scored by Moody’s Investors Service included at least one adjustment to earnings the credit rater considered “aggressive.” In 2011, the number was just 40%.

Everybody wins right? Wrong. Society will pay a very heavy price for this ultimately.

More from Bloomberg:

Lenders are increasingly allowing junk-rated borrowers to adjust their earnings to make them look more creditworthy as U.S. regulators increase pressure on banks to refrain from underwriting too-risky deals.

Such tweaks, which are permissible under more and more credit agreements, can help companies stay in compliance with their loan terms or to raise debt.

More than half of loans this year for issuers backed by private-equity firms allow them to boost earnings by an unlimited amount through projected cost savings from acquisitions and “any other action contemplated by the borrower,” said Vince Pisano, an analyst at Xtract Research LLC, citing a sample he’s reviewed.

Riskier borrowers may have more incentive to show better financial metrics because the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are increasing pressure on banks to adhere to underwriting criteria they laid out last year amid concern that the market is getting frothy. Issuers such as Thoma Bravo LLC’s TravelClick Inc. have used adjustments, called add-backs, to raise earnings and decrease leverage when seeking funding.

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