Analiese’s Reading 4/30

Wall Street greed, corruption and pay to play politics. Tension over pensions. Geithner presses for electronic money trading network. Cost/benefit of living dips into red for record number of Americans. More tax money than you can imagine lost to off-shore havens. Banks charging more for services while policy-makers favor Wall Street over home owners. Pelosi moves to create Wall Street oversight commission. Union activities spotted at Wal-Mart. Banks acting badly. Women disadvantaged by immigration policy. Bear Stearns deal not looking good.

Moyers Journal: Madoff Was A Piker — America’s Big Banks Are a Far Larger Fraudulent Ponzi Scheme

For months now, revelations of the wholesale greed and blatant transgressions of Wall Street have reminded us that “The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One.” In fact, the man you’re about to meet wrote a book with just that title. It was based upon his experience as a tough regulator during one of the darkest chapters in our financial history: the savings and loan scandal in the late 1980s.


Hands-Off Attitude Towards Financial Regulation – Cause & Effect?

The real-world effects of corruption can feel distant and hard to understand. But this week via White House aide Larry Summers, we got a very concrete, easy-to-understand example of how our pay-to-play political system really works.

Open Left

GM Pensions May Be ‘Garbage’ With $16 Billion at Risk

As the biggest U.S. automaker teeters near bankruptcy, workers and retirees like Black are bracing for what may be $16 billion in pension losses if the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has to take over the plans, according to the agency. As many as half of GM’s 670,000 pension-plan participants might see their benefits trimmed if that happened, an actuary familiar with the company’s retirement programs estimates.


Detroit’s Beautiful, Horrible Decline

Two French photographers immortalize the remains of the motor city on film.


As Crisis Loomed, Geithner Pressed But Fell Short

In September 2005, Timothy Geithner made one of his most visible moves as a supervisor of the U.S. banking system. He summoned the nation’s top financial firms and their regulators to streamline an antiquated system that threatened Wall Street’s boom.

Billions of dollars worth of financial instruments known as credit derivatives were being traded daily, as banks and investors worldwide tried to protect against losses on increasingly complex and risky financial bets. But the buying and selling of these exotic instruments was stuck in a pencil-and-paper era. Geithner, then head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, pressed 14 major financial firms to build an electronic network that would cut backlogs and make the market easier to monitor.


Cost Of Living Now Outweighs Benefits

A report released Monday by the Federal Consumer Quality-Of-Life Control Board indicates that the cost of living now outstrips life’s benefits for many Americans.

“This is sobering news,” said study director Jack Farness. “For the first time, we have statistical evidence of what we’ve suspected for the past 40 years: Life really isn’t worth living.”

The Onion

Offshore Tax Havens: A State-By-State Breakdown Of The Cost To Taxpayers

A Senate report estimated in 2008 that the United States loses up to $100 billion a year in tax revenue to offshore tax havens (PDF). In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group offers a state-by-state breakdown of the cost to taxpayers of tax revenue lost to “shell companies and sham headquarters” in places like Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

Huffington Post

Bailed-out banks face probe over fee hikes

Since the Troubled Asset Relief Program was launched in October, banks bolstered by capital infusions have boosted charges on a wide range of routine transactions, hiked rates on credit cards and continued making loans criticised as predatory by consumer advocates.

The Australian

Congress Pushing Covert Bailout to Save Big Finance and Screw Homeowners

U.S. policymakers just dealt struggling homeowners another devastating financial blow by helping Wall Street banks cook the books on their mortgages.

The real outrage, however, is that federal policymakers know the strategy they’re adopting screws borrowers: they did the same thing in the 1980s to save banks from overwhelming losses on loans they’d made to developing nations, with horrific consequences for the global economy.


Pelosi calls for panel to probe Wall Street

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that the American people are demanding “discipline and accountability” after the multibillion-dollar federal bailouts, promised Wednesday to create a legislative commission with broad oversight to investigate the causes of Wall Street irregularities and their full costs to taxpayers.


Union Intensifies Efforts to Organize Workers at Wal-Mart

The Bentonville, Ark., retailer, a leading opponent of the legislation, said managers have seen increased union activity at a number of stores, prompting mandatory meetings to discuss unionization. “We have noticed that the UFCW has been working harder lately in its attempts to get Wal-Mart associates to sign union cards, but we don’t think our associates have any reason to be more interested than before,” said Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar.

Wall Street Journal

Jump in Foreclosures Reaches Historic High in March

A record jump in foreclosure activity in March that occurred just as a voluntary ban on foreclosures ended is raising troubling questions about whether lenders and servicers are genuinely willing and able to do loan modifications on a large scale. And it poses an even more worrisome possibility: That many borrowers can’t be helped at all.

The Washington Independent

Social Class and the Tax Burden

I recently came across two really fascinating figures. The United States has a system of “progressive taxation.” This means that the richer you are, the more you pay in taxes. This first figure, found at The American Prospect, shows the percentage of total income earned by Americans (split up into quintiles) and the tax rates for each group.

Sociological Images

How Immigration Policy Creates Dependent Spouses

The documentary, Hearts Suspended, points to one way that immigration policy disadvantages women. When a non-U.S. citizen is granted the permission to live and work in the U.S., their spouses are often given permission to accompany their spouse, but not to work. These spouses, wives more often than husbands, find themselves completely dependent on their husbands. The trailer gives us a pretty good idea of how this sometimes plays out:

Sociological Images

Fed data shows big losses on Bear Stearns deal

The U.S. Federal Reserve lifted the lid on its efforts to shore up the financial system on Thursday, and in the process, showed a $3 billion loss on the books from its deal to rescue investment bank Bear Stearns.


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