Category Archives: Financial Crisis

Greece Four Years After The Financial Crisis: Interview with Leo Panitch

Spain’s ‘Robin Hood’ takes from the banks and gives to the disenfranchised

From The Guardian:

Statue of Robin Hood, East Midlands on ShutterstockThey call him the Robin Hood of the banks, a man who took out dozens of loans worth almost half a million euros with no intention of ever paying them back. Instead, Enric Duran farmed the money out to projects that created and promoted alternatives to capitalism.

After 14 months in hiding, Duran is unapologetic even though his activities could land him in jail. “I’m proud of this action,” he said in an interview by Skype from an undisclosed location. The money, he said, had created opportunities. “It generated a movement that allowed us to push forward with the construction of alternatives. And it allowed us to build a powerful network that groups together these initiatives.”

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Paul O’Grady: It’s Sheriff-of-Nottingham times…

Nomi Prins On The History of the Global Banking Elite

A quarter of UK teachers bring food into school to help hungry pupils

Richard Garner reports for The Independent:

Teachers are having to bring in food to give their pupils breakfast every day because they are too hungry and exhausted to learn as a result of increased poverty, according to a report out today. A survey of 4,000 teachers concluded that the educational opportunities for thousands of children were being blighted by the impact of the Government’s social and economic policies.

The survey, by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said 80 per cent of teachers observed pupils lacking in energy and concentration as a result of eating poorly. Many were also unable to participate in activities like school trips because their parents could not afford to pay for them. In addition, 27 per cent said they brought in food for pupils themselves because they knew they were too hungry to learn, while 55 per cent said pupils were missing out on important education activities because they had no money to pay for them.

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Thom Hartmann: The Middle Class is not ‘Normal’

Rents and homeless population on the rise in Silicon Valley

‘Housing prices in Silicon Valley have skyrocketed, putting the squeeze on middle and low income workers. The average price of a single-family home is now $1 million. Alongside the cost of living increase, the amount of homeless individuals has also grown, with Silicon Valley now having the fifth largest homeless population in the country. Many area residents place the blame on the rapidly expanding tech industry that is flush with cash, but tech workers are pushing back. Ameera David speaks with RT’s Ramon Galindo about the ongoing debate over gentrification in the Bay Area.’ (RT America)

Who Goes To Jail? Matt Taibbi on American Injustice Gap From Wall Street to Main Street

‘Award-winning journalist Matt Taibbi is out with an explosive new book that asks why the vast majority of white-collar criminals have avoided prison since the financial crisis began, while an unequal justice system imprisons the poor and people of color on a mass scale. In “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” Taibbi explores how the Depression-level income gap between the wealthy and the poor is mirrored by a “justice” gap in who is targeted for prosecution and imprisonment. “It is much more grotesque to consider the non-enforcement of white-collar criminals when you do consider how incredibly aggressive law enforcement is with regard to everybody else,” Taibbi says.’ (Democracy Now!)

Terence McKenna: What Did You Do To Help Save The World?

Bryan Fischer tells poor people: ‘Kiss the ground’ beneath the richest one percent

David Edwards reports for Raw Story:

Bryan Fischer (AFA)Bryan Fischer, the director of Issues Analysis for the fundamentalist American Family Association (AFA), said on Tuesday that people who used welfare and other government services needed to “kiss the ground” beneath the richest 1 percent of Americans.

On his April 15 broadcast, Fischer opined that President Barack Obama was using the Internal Revenue (IRS) service to “go after the 1 percent.”

“The top 1 percent are funding 30 percent of the government!” the radio host explained. “So, rather than the poor, the low income and the middle class being resentful of these people, they should be kissing the ground on which they walk!”

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Food banks see ‘shocking’ rise in number of users

Brian Milligan writes for BBC News:

Hackney food bankA food bank charity says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before.

The Trussell Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a “shocking” 51% rise in clients to established food banks. It said benefit payment delays were the main cause. In a letter to ministers, more than 500 clergy say the increase is “terrible”.

The government said there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks. However, the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, said benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago.

Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions – when payments are temporarily stopped – had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food. And more than 30% of visits were put down to a delay in welfare payments.

The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income. “In the last year, we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low incomes,” said Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust.

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United States Is Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading to Poor, UN Report Charges

Evelyn Nieves writes for AlterNet:

The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday condemned the United States for criminalizing homelessness, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations. It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992. “I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter,” said Sir Nigel Rodley, chairman of the committee in closing statements on the U.S. review. “The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.”

The Committee called on the U.S. to abolish criminalization of homelessness laws and policies at state and local levels, intensify efforts to find solutions for homeless people in accordance with human rights standards and offer incentives for decriminalization, including giving local authorities funding for implementing alternatives and withholding funding for criminalizing the homeless.  Those recommendations run counter to the current trends in the nation. Laws targeting the homeless—loitering laws that ban sleeping or sitting too long in one public spot, or camping in parks overnight—have become increasingly common in communities throughout the country as homelessness has skyrocketed.

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EU elections: Anti-EU parties on the rise across Europe

Marc Faber: The Market Waking Up To The Fact The Fed Is Clueless

Ellen Brown: The Global Banking Game Is Rigged, and the FDIC Is Suing

Ellen Brown writes at Web of Debt:

Photo by LendingMemo (CC BY 2.0)[...] On March 14, 2014, the FDIC filed suit for LIBOR-rigging against sixteen of the world’s largest banks – including the three largest US banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup), the three largest UK banks, the largest German bank, the largest Japanese bank, and several of the largest Swiss banks. Bill Black, professor of law and economics and a former bank fraud investigator, calls them “the largest cartel in world history, by at least three and probably four orders of magnitude.”

LIBOR (the London Interbank Offering Rate) is the benchmark rate by which banks themselves can borrow. It is a crucial rate involved in hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative trades, and it is set by these sixteen megabanks privately and in secret.

Interest rate swaps are now a $426 trillion business. That’s trillion with a “t” – about seven times the gross domestic product of all the countries in the world combined. According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, in 2012 US banks held $183.7 trillion in interest-rate contracts, with only four firms representing 93% of total derivative holdings; and three of the four were JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America, the US banks being sued by the FDIC over manipulation of LIBOR.

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Slowdown puts 1bn middle class at risk

Shawn Donnan and John Burn-Murdoch write for the Financial Times:

The Fragile MiddleAlmost a billion people in the developing world are at risk of slipping out of the ranks of a nascent middle class, according to FT analysis, raising questions about the durability of the past 30 years’ remarkable march out of poverty. Rising inequality and slower global growth raise issues for businesses that have been investing heavily in emerging markets. One of the biggest questions confronting governments is what slower growth will mean for the creation of a solid middle class in countries such as China and India, which many are counting on to drive the global economy in the 21st century.

…Analysis by the FT of World Bank income distribution data from 122 developing countries since the 1970s makes clear that most of the millions who have risen out of poverty in recent decades are sitting in what is best described as a “fragile middle” between those two lines. There were 2.8bn people – 40 per cent of the world’s population – living on $2-$10 a day in the developing world in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. That makes the fragile middle the world’s biggest income group. Moreover, many of those lifted out of poverty remain in an even tighter band only just above the $2 per day line. There were 952m people earning $2-$3 a day in the developing world in 2010, according to the FT analysis, a vulnerable segment that has grown more quickly than any other across the income spectrum.

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Wall Street’s Land Grab: Firms Amass Rental Empire, Ousting Tenants & Threatening New Housing Crisis

‘The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, is now the largest owner of single-family rental homes in the country. In one day alone, Blackstone bought up 1,400 houses in Atlanta. And as private equity firms gobble up huge swaths of the housing market, they are partnering with big banks to bundle the mortgages on these rental homes into a new financial product known as “rental-backed securities,” reminiscent of the “mortgage-backed securities” that helped cause the last financial crisis. Could this new private equity rental empire help spark the next housing crisis? We are joined by Laura Gottesdiener, author of “A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home,” who calls this wave of purchases “a land grab.” Gottesdiener’s latest article focuses on New York City’s rental market, a case study in what critics call “predatory equity.” Large firms have used abusive tactics to oust tenants in a bid to hike up rents — and tenants have been resisting. We are also joined by Benjamin Warren, who, along with nearly 1,600 families in 42 buildings, is a victim of one of the largest single foreclosures in the city’s recent history.’ (Democracy Now!)

David Cameron: ‘Jesus invented the Big Society – I’m just continuing God’s work’

Adam Withnall reports for The Independent:

David Cameron has claimed divine inspiration was at work when it came to drafting a key concept for Conservative Party policy. Speaking last night at his Easter reception in Downing Street, the Prime Minister reportedly said he was simply doing God’s work when he launched the “Big Society” initiative of volunteering and civic responsibility. “Jesus invented the Big Society 2,000 years ago,” Mr Cameron said. “I just want to see more of it.”

On the day that saw Culture Secretary Maria Miller resign over a furore about her expenses – despite repeatedly being back by the Prime Minister – Mr Cameron was said to have no comment on a singer’s choice of hymn: “Ave Maria”. He went further than any recent prime minister in speaking publicly about his faith, according to the Daily Mail, and took the opportunity to offer his support to Britain’s Christian community.

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Lawsuit alleges police gave Occupy protesters drugs

All the President’s Bankers: Interview with Nomi Prins on Secret History of Washington-Wall Street Collusion

Watch part two here…

‘With U.S. inequality at its highest point since 1928 and Wall Street bonuses hitting pre-2008 levels, we look at the 100-year history of secret collusion between Washington and the financial industry. In her new book, “All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power,” financial journalist Nomi Prins explores how a small number of bankers have played critical roles in shaping a century’s worth of financial, foreign and domestic policy in the United States. Prins examines how these relationships have influenced events from the creation of the Federal Reserve, the response to the Great Depression, and the founding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Now a senior fellow at Demos, Prins is a former managing director at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, and previously an analyst at Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan Bank.’ (Democracy Now!)

Shocker…Banksters Buy and Sell stocks in Mere Milliseconds

New Fed Chief Janet Yellen Talks the Talk, But Will She Walk the Walk? Interview with Robert Pollin

Global Rankings Study Depicts an America in Warp Speed Decline

CJ Werleman writes for AlterNet:

Harvard business professor Michael E. Porter, who earlier developed the Global Competitiveness Report, designed the Social Progress Index (SPI). A new way to look at the success of countries, the SPI studies 132 nations and evaluates 54 social and environmental indicators for each country that matter to real people. Rather than measuring a country’s success by its per capita GDP, the index is based on an array of data reflecting suicide, ecosystem sustainability, property rights, access to healthcare and education, gender equality, attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, religious freedom, nutrition, infrastructure and more. The index measures the livability of each country. People everywhere depend on and care about similar things. “We all need clean water. We all want to feel safe and live without fear. People everywhere want to get an education and improve their lives,” says Porter. But economic growth alone doesn’t guarantee these things.

While the U.S. enjoys the second highest per capita GDP of $45,336, it ranks in an underperforming 16th place overall. It gets worse. The U.S. ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety. More surprising is the fact that despite being the home country of global tech heavyweights Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Oracle, and so on, the U.S. ranks a disappointing 23rd in access to the Internet. “It’s astonishing that for a country that has Silicon Valley, lack of access to information is a red flag,” notes Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, which oversees the index. If this index is an affront to your jingoistic sensibilities, the U.S. remains in first place for the number of incarcerated citizens per capita, adult onset diabetes and for believing in angels.

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Protesters Clash With Police in Major Brussels Protest

Matina Stevis reports for The Wall Street Journal:

An injured demonstrator lies on the ground after being hit by a stone thrown by other demonstrators during a European trade unions protest against austerity measures, in central Brussels April 4, 2014. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)Some 25,000 protesters from Belgian trade unions staged a march in Brussels Friday, according to police estimates, in one of the largest anti-austerity protests in the capital of the European Union. Protest organizers said as many as 40,000 showed up.

Riot police met the demonstrators at the heart of the so-called European Quarter, on Schuman Square where EU institutions are housed, leading to outbreaks of violence and major traffic disruptions around the city. The protesters were largely peaceful, with members making speeches on platforms as workers drank beer and chanted slogans.

They were protesting austerity in the EU and what they see as a move by governments across the bloc to signigicantly cut workers’ salaries and benefits in an attempt to reduce labor costs and increase competitiveness.

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Spanish anti-austerity protests continue

The European Central Bank’s War on Wages is Pushing Europe’s Economy to the Brink: Interview with Bill Black

ATM glitch gives homeless man $37,000

From WGME:

This all started at one in the morning, when officers were called to a TD Bank branch on Maine Mall road. A transient was inside the bank sleeping beside the ATM. Officers went inside and moved him along. But, he came back. At 5:30 in the morning, a woman waiting to use the ATM in this bank called police to report a man spending an unusual amount of time at the ATM. When South Portland police officers drove up, they saw this same homeless man inside filling a shopping bag with cash from the ATM. How much? It turns out it’s more than $37,000 in cash.

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Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90: Interview with Bill Black

Canadian Man Apprehended by Mental Health Authorities After Spending a Few Days Giving Away Money

Ed Krayewski reports for Reason:

in canada govt pays it forward on youRichard Wright spent last week giving away silver coins and CA$50 and CA$100 bills across Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was reportedly stopped by police for a “wellness check” shortly after driving back to his hometown, Charlottetown, Prince Edward’s Island, about 200 miles away. According to The National Post:

“They think he is sick and has mental issues … but I know he does not,” wrote Mr. Wright’s teenaged daughter, Chelsey, in a Sunday night Facebook post.

Since Thursday, she wrote, her father has been held in the psychiatric ward of Charlottetown’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, all because “he had some extra money so he decided to share it around with some homeless and needy people in Halifax and Dartmouth.”

And strangely, Mr. Wright was hospitalized in P.E.I. only hours after his mental condition had been given a pass by Halifax psychiatrists.

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Ellen Brown: Banking Union Time Bomb As Eurocrats Authorize Bailouts and Bail-Ins

Ellen Brown writes at Web of Debt:

As things stand, the banks are the permanent government of the country, whichever party is in power.”  – Lord Skidelsky, House of Lords, UK Parliament, 31 March 2011)

On March 20, 2014, European Union officials reached an historic agreement to create a single agency to handle failing banks. Media attention has focused on the agreement involving the single resolution mechanism (SRM), a uniform system for closing failed banks. But the real story for taxpayers and depositors is the heightened threat to their pocketbooks of a deal that now authorizes both bailouts and “bail-ins” – the confiscation of depositor funds. The deal involves multiple concessions to different countries and may be illegal under the rules of the EU Parliament; but it is being rushed through to lock taxpayer and depositor liability into place before the dire state of Eurozone banks is exposed.

The bail-in provisions were agreed to last summer. According to Bruno Waterfield, writing in the UK Telegraph in June 2013:

 Under the deal, after 2018 bank shareholders will be first in line for assuming the losses of a failed bank before bondholders and certain large depositors. Insured deposits under £85,000 (€100,000) are exempt and, with specific exemptions, uninsured deposits of individuals and small companies are given preferred status in the bail-in pecking order for taking losses . . . Under the deal all unsecured bondholders must be hit for losses before a bank can be eligible to receive capital injections directly from the ESM, with no retrospective use of the fund before 2018.

As noted in my earlier articles, the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) imposes an open-ended debt on EU member governments, putting taxpayers on the hook for whatever the Eurocrats (EU officials) demand. And it’s not just the EU that has bail-in plans for their troubled too-big-to-fail banks. It is also the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other G20 nations. Recall that a depositor is an unsecured creditor of a bank. When you deposit money in a bank, the bank “owns” the money and you have an IOU or promise to pay.

Under the new EU banking union, before the taxpayer-financed single resolution fund can be deployed, shareholders and depositors will be “bailed in” for a significant portion of the losses. The bankers thus win both ways: they can tap up the taxpayers’ money and the depositors’ money.

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