Friday, March 23 , 2018, 2:19 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º


Robert Scheer: In Financial Crisis, Obama Is More of the Same

Continuing Bush strategy, the administration caters to Wall Street instead of Main Street

It’s not working. The Bush-Obama strategy of throwing trillions at the banks to solve the mortgage crisis is a huge bust. The financial moguls, while tickled pink to have $1.25 trillion in toxic assets covered by the feds, along with hundreds of billions in direct handouts, are not using that money to turn around the free-fall in housing foreclosures.

Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer

As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, “The Mortgage Bankers Association cut its forecast of home-mortgage lending this year by 27 percent amid deflating hopes for a boom in refinancing.” The same association said that the total refinancing under the administration’s much-ballyhooed Home Affordable Refinance Program is “very low.”

Aside from a tight mortgage market, the problem in preventing foreclosures has to do with homeowners losing their jobs. Here again the administration, continuing the Bush strategy, is working the wrong end of the problem. Although President Obama was wise enough to at least launch a job stimulus program, a far greater amount of federal funding benefits Wall Street as opposed to Main Street.

State and local governments have been forced into draconian budget cuts, firing workers who are among the most reliable in making their mortgage payments — when they have jobs. Yet the Obama administration won’t spend even a small fraction of what it has wasted on the banks to cover state shortfalls.

California couldn’t get the White House to guarantee $5.5 billion in short-term notes to avert severe cuts in state and local payrolls, from prison guards to schoolteachers. Compare that with the $50 billion already given to Citigroup, plus an astounding $300 billion to guarantee that institution’s toxic assets. Citigroup benefits from being a bank “too big to fail,” although through its irresponsible actions to get that large it did as much as any company to cause this mess.

How big a mess? According to the Federal Reserve’s most recent report, seven straight quarters of declining household wealth have left Americans $14 trillion poorer. Many who thought they were middle class have now joined the ranks of the poor. Food banks are strapped, and welfare rolls are dramatically on the rise, as the WSJ reports, with a 27 percent year-to-year increase in Oregon, 23 percent in South Carolina and 10 percent in California.

And you have to be very poor to get on welfare, thanks to President Clinton’s so-called welfare reform, which he signed into law before he ramped up the radical deregulation of the financial services industry, enabling our economic downturn.

Citigroup, the prime mover for ending the sensible restraints of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, is now a pathetic ward of the state. But back in the day, Clinton would tour the country with Citigroup founder Sandy Weill, touting the wonderful work that Weill and other moguls were doing to invest in economically depressed communities. It wasn’t really happening then, and now millions of folks in those communities have seen their houses snatched from them as if they were just pieces in a game of Monopoly that Clinton and his fat-cat buddy were playing.

Once Weill got the radical deregulation law he wanted, he issued a statement giving credit: “In particular, we congratulate President Clinton, Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, NEC (National Economic Council) Chairman Gene Sperling, Undersecretary of the Treasury Gary Gensler, Assistant Treasury Secretaries Linda Robertson and Greg Baer.”

Summers is now Obama’s top economic adviser, Sperling has been appointed legal counselor at the Treasury, and Gensler, a former partner in Goldman Sachs, is head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which he once attempted to prevent from regulating derivatives when it was run by Brooksley Born. Robertson worked for Summers in pushing through the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which freed the derivatives market from adult supervision and contained the “Enron Loophole,” permitting that company to go wild.

Robertson then became the top Washington lobbyist for Enron and was recently appointed senior adviser to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Baer went to work as a corporate counsel for Bank of America, which announced his appointment with a news release crediting him with having “coordinated Treasury policy” during the Clinton years in getting Glass-Steagall repealed. As a result of deregulation, B of A, too, spiraled out of control and ended up as a beneficiary of the Treasury’s welfare program.

Why was I so naive as to have expected this Democratic president not to do the bidding of the banks when the last president from that party joined the Republicans in giving the moguls everything they wanted? Please, Obama, prove me wrong. editor in chief Robert Scheer‘s new book is The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America. Click here for more information. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >