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Posts Tagged ‘bailout’

Unions, Progressives To Launch Wall St. Reform Drives This Week

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Unions and progressive coalitions are seeking to add grass-roots organizing power to President Obama’s calls for financial reform, with stepped up activism from the AFL-CIO, Jobs for Justice and the progressive Americans for Financial Reform coalition all starting this week.

Following last week’s AFL-CIO convention that aimed to jump-start reform drives and the union movement, new president Richard Trumka and other leaders will be taking their case for economic reform to Wall Street and the  public. As the AFL-CIO Now blog reported:

The team’s tour continues Sunday and Monday in Atlanta, including a rally outside Wachovia, where Trumka will condemn its predatory financial practices, such as foreclosures. On Monday night and Tuesday, the team travels to New York City where Trumka will issue a strong warning to Wall Street at a press conference outside the New York Stock Exchange.

The goal: create a fairer economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.

On Thursday, the Jobs for Justice Coalition plans an action—one of many protests scheduled for over 20 cities over the next week—outside a meeting of the pro-banking Financial Services Roundtable in Washington, D.C., a key lobbying coalition opposed to the Administration’s proposed consumer financial protection agency, as well as other reforms.

As a Jobs for Justice press release proclaimed:

Thousands expected to participate in over a dozen cities to mark the one-year anniversary of the bank bailouts.

Nearly a year after Congress authorized hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the financial industry, major banks continue to pay outrageous salaries and bonuses, drive layoffs and foreclosures, and spend millions lobbying against the interests working people.

Rallies across the country will condemn the “bailout bandits” and “corporate criminals” at Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

Actions will take place in at least 21 cities, and new cities are being added every week. See below for local contacts and find an up to day list of actions at www.jwj.org/recovery.

There are good reasons for all the anger. But it has has yet to lead to a massive public outpouring for progressive reform, as opposed to the corporate-abetted “Tea Party” events that also decry bailouts along with healthcare reform, while leaving the current toothless oversight of the financial industry in place.

Even though federal officials allowed a free-spending set of bailouts with no requirements and little oversight, virtually nothing has been done to make sure the money isn’t wasted and is spent in ways that benefit the economy. Indeed, nobody really knows how the $700 billion in bailout funds was actually spent.

So while inside-the-beltway analysts claim that Obama has an uphill fight in Congress, out-of-control banks and  Wall Street firms are now squandering taxpayers’ funds while returning to trading in risky investments. And credit is still largely frozen, worsening the “jobless recovery.”

As the Media Consortium summed up in its year-later review of the Wall Street collapse:

While workers experienced increasing pressure on their pocketbooks, Wall Street gambled away their retirement investments. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy one year ago today, a move which created chaos in the financial sector and heavy damage in the rest of the economy. Things were looking bad for the economy before Wall Street imploded, but the financial crisis made those problems a lot worse.

“In a modern society, a credit freeze means instant death to the real economy, since virtually every enterprise, big and small, runs on credit,” Les Leopold explains for In These Times. “When the financial sector froze, it pushed the real economy off a cliff.”

But incredibly, after a year marked by massive financial bailouts, not one new law has been signed to protect our economy–and taxpayers–from Wall Street. Not one.

Even the modest plans to rein in executive pay for taxpayer-supported companies have proved toothless. Leopold notes that President Barack Obama’s refusal to crack down on the banks has left both the financial regulatory process and other important progressive plans–like overhauling the broken health care system–in a precarious political state. The largesse we have shown for bailed-out bankers gives conservatives ammunition against other, more productive activities.

Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-media-consortium/weekly-audit-one-year-aft_b_287290.html

Perhaps the biggest promoter of refom, outside of the president himself, is the potentially influential coalition of 200 labor, consumer and  progressive groups, Americans for Financial Reform. It is planning grassroots actions while working with federal and state government officials to promote greater oversight of the financial system.

Indeed, to shore up support for administration proposals to rein in risky  investments, limit pay and offer a new consumer protection agency — all facing stiff industry opposition — the Treasury Department is reaching out to likely consumer allies, including the AFR organization.

So while some progressives and experts, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, remain skeptical about how committed this administration is to truly reforming a broken financial system, Bloomberg News reports that

Treasury Department officials are meeting with consumer allies to build support for a regulations overhaul for Wall Street as President Barack Obama ramps up a campaign to win legislation by year’s end.

The Treasury roundtables have been largely unpublicized, by invitation only and billed by some Democratic lawmakers as consumer-protection forums. The audiences are drawn in part from the rolls of a consumer-advocacy coalition that is pushing the legislation. They are designed to channel public anger at Wall Street and sidestep the financial industry, which is fighting to block the measure…

Audiences for the events are drawn largely from the membership of Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of more than 12 dozen consumer, labor and civil rights groups that joined this year to push for oversight. The coalition includes the Service Employees International Union and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Illinois Roundtable

The group will hold its next roundtable in Aurora, Illinois, on Sept. 21. State Attorney General Lisa Madigan will lead the session, and the group has invited Representative Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Another non-profit group, Boston-based American Business Leaders for Financial Reform, is recruiting corporate executives to make the case for legislation. Tim Duncan, a Republican and founder of advisory firm Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Story Street Investment Management, created the organization after a conversation with Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who oversees the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“There are a lot of people in the industry who realize reform is needed,” Duncan said in a telephone interview. “I’m surprised at the knee-jerk reaction industry is taking.”

But long-time observers of the financial industry aren’t suprised that a major battle lies ahead—and unions hope to play a leading role in pushing for reform.

And yet if this drive for reform falters, the fate of the entire economy is at stake. As Robert Reich described the risks we’re now facing:

Put simply, the Street has been given too many opportunities to play too many games with other peoples’ money.

But, like the health care industry, Wall Street has platoons of lobbyists and an almost unlimited war chest to protect its interests and prevent change. And with the Dow Jones Industrial Average trending upward again — and the public’s and the media’s attention focused elsewhere, especially on health care — it will be difficult to summon the same sense of urgency financial reform commanded six months ago.

Yet without substantial reform, the nation and the world will almost certainly be plunged into the same crisis or worse at some point in the not-too-distant future. Wall Street’s major banks are already en route to their old, dangerous ways — now made more dangerous by their sure knowledge that they are too big to fail.

About the Author: Art Levine is a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly who has also written for The American Prospect, Alternet, In These Times, Salon, The New Republic, The Atlantic and numerous other publications. He’s written investigative articles on unionbusting and other corporate abuses, and recently completed Cornell University’s Strategic Corporate Research summer program. He blogs regularly for Huffington Post, and co-hosts a weekly Blog Talk Radio show, “The D’Antoni and Levine Show,” every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET.

This article originally appeared in Working In These Times on September 20, 2009. Re-printed with permission from the author.

Bailout Oversight Panel: Some Banks Still Vulnerable to Collapse

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Nearly a year after the $700 billion bailout of the nation’s financial system began, banks—especially regional and smaller banks—are still threatened by the billions of dollars in bad loans on their balance sheets. More could fail if the economy worsens, according to a new report from the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP), which oversees the spending of the bailout funds.

The Continued Risk of Troubled Assets,” released today, warns that if unemployment rises sharply or the commercial real estate market collapses, the banking system could again nosedive into a crisis.

In the report, the panel says:

The financial system [remains] vulnerable to the crisis conditions that [the bailout] was meant to fix.

The report says many of the Obama administration’s financial stability efforts are working—including infusions of new capital for banks, heightened scrutiny of capital ratios and “stress-testing” of large financial firms.

But the way the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds have been spent has placed some banks in danger, COP says. TARP was originally proposed as a plan to buy bad mortgage-backed loans from ailing banks. But by the time the program was signed into law in October 2008, the Treasury Department had decided to go in another direction and use the money to provide banks with a capital buffer and to build reserves. That left many of the bad loans on the books.

According to the COP:

These steps have…allowed the banks to take significant losses while building reserves. Nonetheless, financial stability remains at risk if the underlying problem of toxic assets remains unresolved.

Small banks are especially vulnerable, the report says. Most of their bad loans are not covered by the Treasury Department’s main program for buying up bad assets. In addition, the report says, regional and smaller banks hold greater numbers of commercial real estate loans, “which pose a potential threat of high defaults.”

You can read the full report here.

The COP, which includes Damon Silvers, AFL-CIO associate general counsel, is charged with reporting on the Treasury Department’s effort to stabilize our nation’s financial system and make recommendations to improve it.

The COP has issued monthly reports since January, finding among other things that the Treasury Department has not produced a plan for restoring lending to consumers, questioned the overall plan to rescue the financial industry and raised concerns about the administration’s plans to stem foreclosures.

James Parks: My first encounter with unions was at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when my colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. I saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. I am a journalist by trade, and I worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. I also have been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. My proudest career moment, though, was when I served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections.

This article originally appeared at AFL-CIO Blog and is reprinted here with permission from the source.

Voters rebel at 'fat cat' bailouts

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Do not bail out the fat cats.

Voters made that perfectly clear, and their re-election-obsessed congressional representatives took heed.

Delaying a Wall Street bailout wasn’t wise for the international economy, but chalk up points for the worker bees.

They finally got someone’s attention in Washington!

Nobody bails me out if I make bad financial decisions.

And, while we’re at it: No more multi-million-dollar parachutes for executives who mismanage other people’s money.

How quickly the “bailout” became a slightly more politically palatable “rescue.”

Note to Congress:

You’ve noticed that “trickle down” hasn’t worked very well lately, haven’t you?

Average CEO compensation last year was 275 times that of average U.S. worker pay, based on average hourly pay for about 80 percent of the U.S. workforce (the folks who actually produce the products and services that make companies work).

In a single work day last year, a typical big-company CEO earned as much as one of those workers did in their entire 260-day work year.

The well-paid corporate compensation consultants counterpunched, of course, telling Congress not to “handcuff” companies by putting limits on executive pay. They said pay ceilings will hurt companies’ ability to attract top talent.

Yeah. It’s been working so well.

It’s over-reaching the cure to demand a shareholder vote on top-exec compensation. But as the nation works through this financial crisis, the folks in the trenches must be heard.

Enough is enough.

Executives who earned more than they were worth to start with should not, by all that is right and just, be rewarded when they leave behind organizations littered with pink slips.

And have you looked at the value of your 401(k) this week?

Ouch. The only trickle-down there is the sound of assets swirling down the drain.

And where is the call for privatizing Social Security now?

Not exactly an election-time winner this go-around, huh?

Yes, the economy is cyclical. Has been. Will be. But the hurt on the downsides must be shared.

Unless legislators do what corporate compensation committees haven’t had the backbone to do, most of working America will continue to suffer from the greedy mistakes of a few.

Regulation? In this case, bring it on.

Unlimited executive greed has severed people from jobs and jobs from the economy. It’s gnawed away retirement security and college education funds in hard-working families.

And the architects of this economic collapse?

Greet them if you’re ever in Sun Valley…or Aspen…or Tuscany…or…

About the Author: Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at The Kansas City Star. A veteran journalist, she has held several reporting and editing positions at The Star on both the business and metropolitan desks. Currently, she writes columns that appear in The Star on Thursdays and Sundays as well as other business and economic news articles throughout the week, accessible at www.kansascity.com. Her daily “Workspace” blog also is available at www.workspacekc.typepad.com. She is the author of “Your Job: Getting It, Keeping It, Improving It, Changing It,” a career advice book. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications from Stanford University.

Cross-posted at Workspace.

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