The budding American dictatorship 4

 From Investor’s Business Daily:

Rep. Barney Frank, the Democrat who sits atop Congress’ efforts to deal with the financial crisis, has enough chutzpah for 100 politicians — which is saying a lot.

In comments before testimony from both Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Fed chief Ben Bernanke Tuesday, Frank said he wants to regulate pay on Wall Street — even for companies that aren’t getting bailouts.

And he called retention bonuses — a time-honored practice on Wall Street and elsewhere in America in which key employees are compensated for their enormous value — "extortion" and "bribes."

Frank, one of the chief architects of the housing mess that’s brought us so low, isn’t satisfied merely with pretending he and his Democratic pals aren’t to blame for all this. No, exploiting voter anger over the now-infamous AIG bonuses, he also wants to dictate to American capitalism what it can earn and what it can’t.

This is the kind of thing that normally happens in Third World countries ruled by tinhorn dictators, or in fascist states, where the democratic rule of law has collapsed. Not the U.S.

Yet, that’s where we find ourselves today, isn’t it? Democrats in Congress, who steadfastly rejected virtually all efforts to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they went on the wildest, most irresponsible lending binge in the history of finance, now pose themselves as the saviors of fallen capitalism.

The hypocrisy is nothing short of stunning.

Take Frank. As we’ve written before, he spearheaded congressional Democrats’ efforts in 1992, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005 to block reform of Fannie and Freddie.

Those two "government-sponsored enterprises" were the nexus of this crisis, holding $5.4 trillion of the $12 trillion in U.S. mortgages, while originating or funding 90% of the subprime market.

Their failures presaged the subsequent financial meltdown from which we’re still trying to regain our economic footing.

Then there’s Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, another posturing moralist in the flap over AIG bonuses. He turns out to have inserted the bonuses into the bailout legislation in the first place.

An innocent move? Please note Dodd was No. 1 on the list of recipients of AIG’s political contributions. Also that his wife was a former director of IPC Holdings, a company controlled by AIG.

We wish all this tinkering with the private sector was limited to Congress. But it isn’t. The Treasury wants what the Washington Post called Tuesday "unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy."

Citing the AIG precedent, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended this radical move, saying on CNN, "We need resolution authority to go in and be able to change contracts, be able to change the business model, unwind what doesn’t work."

Breathtaking. Coupled with the vast expansion of government spending over the next 10 years, this is socialism, pure and simple.

Yes, we know it’s unfashionable to use the "S" word. But we’re willing to be unhip in the service of the truth.

It’s a frightening thing to see a once mighty, and free, capitalist economy placed under the heel of an incompetent government. But that’s precisely what’s happening now.

Executive pay, the focus of much public fury right now, is only the start. Your pay will be next, rest assured. So hold on to your wallets, sure, but also hold on even tighter to something even more precious that now seems at risk: your freedom.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, March 25, 2009

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Vindictive powers and the politics of envy 0

 Thomas Sowell writes in part (read it all here):

We are not yet a banana republic, though that is the direction in which some of our politicians are taking us– especially those politicians who make a lot of noise about "compassion" and "social justice."

What makes this all the more painfully ironic is that it is precisely those members of Congress who have had the most to do with creating the risks that led to the current economic crisis who are making the most noise against others, and summoning people before their committee to be browbeaten and humiliated on nationwide television.

No one pushed harder than Congressman Barney Frank to force banks and other financial institutions to reduce their mortgage lending standards, in order to meet government-set goals for more home ownership. Those lower mortgage lending standards are at the heart of the increased riskiness of the mortgage market and of the collapse of Wall Street securities based on those risky mortgages.

Senator Christopher Dodd has played the same role in the Senate as Barney Frank played in the House of Representatives. Now both are summoning government employees and the officials of financial institutions before their committees to be lambasted in front of the media.

Dodd and Frank know that the best defense is a good offense. Both know how hard it would be to defend their own roles in the housing debacle, so they go on the offensive against others who are in no position to reply in kind, given the vindictive powers of Congress.

This political theater is in one sense cheap beyond words. In another sense, it is costly beyond words.

It is cheap because the politicians who are creating this distraction from their own role also voted for the very legislation that enabled contracted bonuses to be paid by companies like AIG that received government bailout money. If members of Congress can’t be bothered to read the laws they pass, then they have no basis for whipping up lynch mob outrage against people who did read the law and acted within the law…

Whether the particular executives who received bonuses were the ones responsible for AIG’s problems, or were among those who warned against those problems, is something that those of us on the outside don’t know. That includes those in politics and the media who are making the loudest noise.

The politicians claim to be protecting the taxpayers’ money. But having politicians trying to micro-manage any business is far more likely to make those businesses lose more money, including the taxpayers’ money.

Securities based on risky mortgages are what toppled financial institutions but it was the government that made the mortgages risky in the first place, by making home-ownership statistics the holy grail, for which everything else was to be sacrificed, including commonsense standards for making home loans.

Politicians and bureaucrats micro-managing the mortgage sector of the economy is precisely how today’s economic disaster began. Why anyone would think that their micro-managing the automobile industry, or executive pay across a wide sweep of other industries, is likely to make things better in the economy is a mystery.

The real point is to pander to envy and resentment against people who make a lot of money. Envy is always referred to by its political alias, "social justice."…

 

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 24, 2009

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The winsome Barney Frank 0

The guilty men accuse.

This is by Mona Charen in Townhall:

Rep. Barney Frank played Madame Defarge on Capitol Hill. AIG’s recently installed CEO, Edward Liddy, agreed to testify before a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, which Frank chairs. Liddy was actually a poor choice for scapegoat as he has only been on the job since September. Additionally, he is serving as a dollar-a-year man hoping to rescue the company and our financial system from a downward spiral.

These facts slowed the momentum of some committee members. But most plowed ahead. Here’s Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York: "There’s a tidal wave of rage throughout America right now, and it’s building up and it’s expressing itself at this latest outrage, which is really just the tip of the iceberg. And that rage is because the taxpayer knows that they are the ultimate sucker on the list of who pays for all of the greed that has been going on in the marketplace for years and years."

There was a lot more along those lines, but the most sinister move came from Frank. He demanded that Liddy reveal the names of the 73 executives who had received retention bonuses. Liddy said he would do so if he could receive a promise of confidentiality. Frank refused and threatened to subpoena the names. Liddy said if subpoenaed he would obey the law, but he then read to the committee some of the death threats his company had been getting over the past few days. Some threats spoke of hanging the executives with piano wire, others of finding where their kids went to school.

That is the sort of ugliness and criminality that Frank is willing tacitly to encourage by demanding the names. And for what? The bonuses amounted to just one tenth of 1 percent of the AIG bailout (to say nothing of the stimulus bill and the gargantuan budget bill Congress and the president are hanging around our necks). If politicians want to metaphorically flay away at evil businessmen, well, that’s regrettable. But when they cross the line into encouraging the targeting of actual individuals, they are no longer "honorable gentlemen," but leaders of a mob.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Friday, March 20, 2009

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Frankly corrupt 0

 From The Blog of the Weekly Standard:

The Wall Street Journal reports on the suspicious case of OneUnited Bank, which received a TARP bailout thanks to Barney Frank, despite running afoul of state and federal regulators due to shady investing and lending practices, as well as the perks it granted to senior executives. The case is an object lesson on the opportunities that massive bills like TARP create for payoffs by those in power, and the power to hide those payoffs. First, the background:

 Troubled OneUnited Bank in Boston didn’t look much like a candidate for aid from the Treasury Department’s bank bailout fund last fall…

Nonetheless, in December OneUnited got a $12 million injection from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. One apparent factor: the intercession of Rep. Barney Frank, the powerful head of the House Financial Services Committee.

Mr. Frank, by his own account, wrote into the TARP bill a provision specifically aimed at helping this particular home-state bank. And later, he acknowledges, he spoke to regulators urging that OneUnited be considered for a cash injection.

The Journal later described the provision Frank inserted into the bill to help UnitedOne. Frank apparently recognized that it would prompt unpleasant ethical questions if he simply earmarked money for UnitedOne, so instead he created a pool that would benefit the bank without having to name it:

 Mr. Frank says that in order to protect OneUnited bank, he inserted into the bill a provision to give special consideration to banks that had less than $1 billion of assets, had been well-capitalized as of June 30, served low- and moderate-income areas, and had taken a capital hit in the federal seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Frank saw fit to provide this legup to OneUnited despite it running afoul of federal regulators:

 The allegations against the bank included "operating without effective underwriting standards and practices," "operating without an effective loan documentation program" and "engaging in speculative investment practices."

The action also alleged excessive executive compensation. The FDIC ordered OneUnited to "sell all bank-owned automobiles," and to require that executives reimburse the company for any vehicles that had been purchased. The Boston Business Journal reported in November that the bank owns a 2008 Porsche sport-utility vehicle that is registered at the address of OneUnited CEO Kevin Cohee.

The FDIC also ordered the bank to stop paying for a beachfront house in Santa Monica that, according to the Boston Business Journal, was purchased for more than $6 million in early 2007 by a group that included Cohee and his wife Teri Williams, the bank’s president.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 25, 2009

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Free market not to blame for economic crisis 0

 Thomas Sowell puts blame where it belongs: 

It was liberal Democrats, led by Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank, who for years– including the present year– denied that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taking big risks that could lead to a financial crisis.

It was Senator Dodd, Congressman Frank and other liberal Democrats who for years refused requests from the Bush administration to set up an agency to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

It was liberal Democrats, again led by Dodd and Frank, who for years pushed for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to go even further in promoting subprime mortgage loans, which are at the heart of today’s financial crisis.

Alan Greenspan warned them four years ago. So did the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to the President. So did Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury, five years ago.

Yet, today, what are we hearing? That it was the Bush administration "right-wing ideology" of "de-regulation" that set the stage for the financial crisis. Do facts matter?

We also hear that it is the free market that is to blame. But the facts show that it was the government that pressured financial institutions in general to lend to subprime borrowers, with such things as the Community Reinvestment Act and, later, threats of legal action by then Attorney General Janet Reno if the feds did not like the statistics on who was getting loans and who wasn’t.

Is that the free market? Or do facts not matter?

His article also deals with how Obama benefited from Fannie Mae. He concludes: 

The country does not deserve to be put in the hands of a glib and cocky know-it-all, who has accomplished absolutely nothing beyond the advancement of his own career with rhetoric, and who has for years allied himself with a succession of people who have openly expressed their hatred of America.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Saturday, October 4, 2008

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Moment of decision 3

 The moment of decision has arrived.

Crunch time.

Is the economic crisis to be solved by a capitalist free-market solution, or made worse by a socialist ‘solution’?

Make no mistake about it – it was caused by socialism: by political correctness, by multiculturalism, by government interference in the market.

It was NOT caused by the Bush administration, by the Republican Party, by capitalism, as the Democrats who did cause it are now alleging to cover their guilt.

Among the most guilty men are Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Harry Reid.   

Jimmy Carter.  1977. The Community Reinvestment Act. Banks must make loans to high-risk borrowers.  Opened door for ACORN (see earlier posts) to force banks to make sub-prime loans to uncreditworthy borrowers.

Barack Obama.  Trained staff for Madeline Talbott, ‘key pioneer of ACORN’s subprime racket’ as Stanley Kurtz calls her, to run her ‘subprime-loan shakedown racket’.  ACORN employed him as its lawyer. And he funded it through the Woods Fund and indirectly through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. In three years in the Senate, Obama received more contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than anyone else save Dodd, who got his contributions from them over eleven years.   He appointed two Fannie Mae CEOs as advisors to his campaign.  

Bill Clinton, devotee of multiculturalismpressed for more home-ownership by those who could not afford it, minorities and in effect even illegal immigrants, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac responded, buying up hundreds of billions of dollars of the bad loans and sellng them on the world markets. 

Harry Reid. In 2005 when John McCain sponsored a Fannie-Freddie reform bill,  he led the  Democrats in crushing it.  Fannie and Freddie were created by Democrats and Democrats are most responsible for their failure.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who ran Congress’s banking panels, vigorously and persistently opposed Republican Party efforts to regulate Fannie and Freddie.

McCain has repeatedly called for reforming Fannie and Freddie. President Bush – whose administration is being blamed for the crisis by Frank, Dodd, Reid etc – urged their reform 17  times this year. The irony of Bush and the Republicans being blamed now for the catastrophe the Democrats’  so insistently brought about!   

The cure now is not more socialism, not more government control of the market, not the election of the most socialist-minded candidate for the presidency ever – Barack Obama

If America elects Obama, it will be choosing socialism, and socialism has failed wherever it has been tried.

America needs to choose capitalism at this moment in history, to save itself and to give hope to the wider world. Otherwise this crisis will be turned into an American and world-wide disaster from which there may be no foreseeable return. 

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