Wall Street's 10 Greatest Lies of 2009
By Nomi Prins, AlterNet. Posted December 28, 2009.
Lies that justify screwing over Main Street.
On December 13, President Obama declared that he was not elected to help the “fat cats." But the cats got another version of that memo. A day later, 10 of them were supposed to partake in some White House face-time to talk about their responsibilities to the rest of the country, but only seven could make it. No-shows for the "very serious discussion" -- due to inclement New York weather or being too busy with internal bonus discussions to bother with the President -- were Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack and Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons.
Yes, Obama inherited a big financial mess from the Bush administration – which inherited its set-up from the Clinton administration (financial recklessness, it turns out, is non-partisan) -- but he and his appointees have spent the year talking about fighting risk and excess on Wall Street, while both have grown.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner patted himself on the back for making the "difficult and necessary” decisions of fronting Wall Street boatloads of money to cover its losses and capital crunch last fall. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (a Bush-Obama favorite) was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for saving the free world as we know it. And Congress is talking "sweeping reform" about a bill that leaves the banking landscape intact, save for some minor alterations. For starters, it doesn’t resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which separated risk-taking (once non-government-backed) investment banks from consumer oriented (government-supported) commercial banks.
Meanwhile, Wall Street is restructuring (the financial equivalent of re-gifting) old toxic assets into new ones, finding fresh ways to profit from credit derivatives trading, and paying itself record bonuses -- on our dime. Despite recent TARP payback enthusiasm, the industry still floats on trillions of dollars of non-TARP subsidies and certain players wouldn’t even exist today without our help.
Wall Street’s return to robustness and Main Street’s continued deterioration are the main takeaways for 2009 that stemmed from the 2008 choices to flush the financial system with capital and leave the real economy to fend for itself. Lies that exacerbate this divide only perpetuate its growth. With that, here is my top 10 list of lies. Please consider adding your own, and let’s all hope for a more honest New Year.
1) The economy has improved.Read it and weep. The psychos are running the asylum and we are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO fucked.
2) If you give banks capital, they will lend it out.
3) Taxpayers are being repaid.
4) Homeowners are being helped.
5) Big banks will help small businesses.
6) The Fed values transparency.
7) History will not repeat itself.
8) The pay czar will fight against – pay.
9) The lobbyists made us do it.
10) Citigroup is the picture of health and too-big-to-fail is over.
Bonus Lie: Goldman Sachs is sorry.