Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 10:50 pm

Odds and ends for 12/15

A way to balance the budget?: For the second straight month, the U.S. Treasury auctioned 1-month T-bills at 0.0% interest. The national budget gets significantly smaller if you whack out interest on the national debt, y’know.

All I want for Christmas is a repeal of Gramm-Leach-Bliley.

BOHICA: As part of “paying off” its multi-billion-dollar loan from the taxpayers, technically insolvent bank holding company Citigroup gets to keep $38 billion in tax credits that regulations normally would require it to give up. That figure will easily overshadow any profit the taxpayers may get from selling Citigroup shares. Merry. Freaking. Christmas.

But maybe Christmas is coming early; or, Who are you and what have you done with Sen. Jim Bunning?: Remember those 15 questions that the Cunning Realist suggested should be asked of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke during his reconfirmation hearings? Unbelievably, a senator asked them. Even more unbelievably, the senator in question was Jim Bunning, heretofore a leading candidate for the title of Biggest Waste of Carbon in the U.S. Capitol.

You may now kiss the D.C. City Council: The District of Columbia has legalized gay marriage. Congress, per the Constitution, gets 30 legislative days to review the law once D.C.’s mayor has signed it, but the Democratic leadership will keep that puppy bottled up until the deadline has safely passed.

No room to talk: Panthers defensive backs Chris Harris and Chris Gamble need to STFU about Patriots WR Randy Moss. While they are having good years, and they did shut Moss down on Sunday, they apparently chose to ignore Wes Welker’s presence on the field. And what really matters is that yet again, the Panthers have failed to achieve consecutive winning seasons, while the Pats almost certainly are going to the playoffs.

Wardrobe police: Is Roy Williams gonna have me thrown out of North Carolina for wearing a Panthers jersey in Chapel Hill?

Shorter Janet Tavakoli: Except for Paul Volcker, the bankers don’t get it.

Brother can you spare your Visa card?: The Miami Herald, which recently laid off 199 people, is now attaching to each article a link through which people can contribute money online … to the paper, not the laid-off employees. The last time I can remember anything like this happening was when I was a kid and Ted Turner went on the air in Charlotte to ask people to send him money to keep Channel 36 on the air. (Yes, that’s Turner Broadcasting’s Ted Turner, and, yes, he repaid it.)

CBS Sports: “If any of our announcers talk about Tiger Woods, we’ll shoot this dog fire them.”

Best banking idea I’ve heard in a while: If Barney Frank has his way, only retail banks will be able to borrow from the discount window. At worst, this gets some banksters off the federal teat. It may even significantly ease the current credit crunch.

Quote of the day: “You’re either part of the solution or you’re a tool of ACORN.” — Conservative Brown, Boy Detective, by Tom Tomorrow.

Smarter Washington Post, please: The Post publishes a bunch of contextually challenged nonsense regarding the national debt. Economist Dean Baker rips them a new one. Yes, the national debt is too high and rising, but the bigger and more urgent problem is joblessness. The Post wants to scrap Social Security and Medicare but just doesn’t have the stones to say so.

Smarter Washington Post, please, cont.: Charles Lane criticizes colleague Ezra Klein’s criticism of Joe Lieberman … while also conceding that Klein’s factual claim is correct. Idiot. All you need to know about Lane is that he was Stephen Glass‘s editor. All you need to know about Klein is that Joe Lieberman finds him bothersome. (But here’s useful background on the contretemps.) Also, I posted the one-word comment “FAIL” on Lane’s blog post earlier; as of 10:30 p.m., it had been deleted, which fact I shortly thereafter commented upon. We’ll see if the 2nd comment stays up.

Smarter judges, please: U.S. District Judge William Duffey tells two Muslim defendants at a sentencing, “I’ll say this, our Gods are very different.” Uh, no, infidel; Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

If you like what Joe Lieberman is doing to health-care reform, wait’ll you see what he has planned for Social Security and Medicare.

Terminated; or, Cue the Limbaugh smears in 3 … 2… 1 …: Arnold Schwarzenegger throws Sarah Palin under the (hybrid?) bus.

Jerome “Swiftboat” Corsi asks,”Could it be that President Obama intends to bankrupt the USA in order to destroy free-enterprise capitalism itself?” Sounds like fun! Let’s play! Could it be that Jerome Corsi is a paranoid psychotic? Could it be that Jerome Corsi wouldn’t recognize the destruction of free-enterprise capitalism THAT’S NOW GOING ON, LED BY INVESTMENT BANKS, if it bit him in the ass? Could it be that Jerome Corsi has a financial motivation to misrepresent what the president is trying to do? Hey, this is fun! I could do this all day!

Paying for your wars: The Greatest Generation, so revered by conservatives, had no problem with this concept; indeed, they inculcated it in their children. So why do today’s Congressional leaders have such a problem?

Why is private health insurance such a bad idea? Let me the Main Street Alliance draw you a picture:

Back from the dead and ready to incriminate?: Some 22 million White House e-mails from the first Bush 43 administration have been “found,” four years and change after they “went missing.” In a perfect world, Karl Rove will be going to prison as a result for having 1) outed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and 2) obstructed a criminal investigation into the outing thereof. In the world we live in, we’ll probably find out that the missing $12 trillion in U.S. wealth, much of it sucked out of the home values and retirement savings of the middle class, is now in some Nigerian barrister’s bank account.

Math: About fifteen times as many people die in the U.S. every year as a result of lack of health insurance as died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

No methaqualone for you, says the Methaqualone Nazi!: The new Republican Party-sponsored Web-link shortener, GOP.am, includes this in its terms of use: “If you use it for spamming, illegal purposes or to promote lude content, your GOP.AM URL will be disabled.” Earlier, bloggers and commenters for Balloon Juice were using the site to provide links to bondage sites. Hee.

Sunday, November 8, 2009 10:20 pm

Well, that’s nice. Ten years and $14 trillion too LATE and all, but nice.

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 10:20 pm
Tags: , ,

John Reed, the guy who led the merger that created zombie bank Citigroup, now says he’s sorry he did that.

He also says he was wrong to support the repeal of Glass-Stegall. Well, duh; any number of people, myself included, could have told him that at the time, if he’d been willing to listen. But he wasn’t.

Instead, he thought to himself, “Hmm, why don’t we just repeal this little law that has worked perfectly well for 65 or so years in preventing a recurrence of the Depression and create a whole bunch of both moral and financial hazard for some of the largest financial institutions in America. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s my favorite part:

“We learn from our mistakes,” said Reed, who wrote an Oct. 21 letter to the editor of the New York Times endorsing a division of banking activities. “When you’re running a company, you do what you think is right for the stockholders. Right now I’m looking at this as a citizen.”

Well, you learn from your mistakes. And that’s good, I guess. But me and other taxpayers? We’re paying for them. And that’s not so good. In fact, it sucks toe cheese.

Also, interesting admission there: What’s right for the stockholders apparently isn’t right for citizens. Something else plenty of people could have told him if he’d been willing to listen.

 

 

Thursday, August 20, 2009 8:17 pm

About bloody time

Once again, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is stepping up, and now he has help:

Citigroup Inc.’s $301 billion of federal asset guarantees, extended by the U.S. last year to help save the bank from collapse, will be audited to calculate losses and determine whether taxpayers got a fair deal.

Neil Barofsky, inspector general of the U.S. Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, agreed in an Aug. 3 letter to audit the program after a request by U.S. Representative Alan Grayson. Barofsky will examine why the guarantees were given, how they were structured and whether the bank’s risk controls are adequate to prevent government losses.

The Treasury, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve provided the guarantees last November, when a plunge in Citigroup’s stock below $5 sparked concern that a run on the bank might rock global markets and impede an economic recovery. New York-based Citigroup paid the government $7.3 billion in preferred stock in return for the guarantees.

“What kind of toxic assets did the Federal Reserve guarantee, and what off-balance-sheet liabilities have been pinned on us?” Grayson, a Florida Democrat who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, wrote yesterday in an e- mailed response to questions on the audit. “How much money have the taxpayers already lost? We need to know.”

Citigroup’s guarantees are among $23.7 trillion of total potential government support stemming from programs set up since 2007 to ease the financial crisis, according to a report last month by Barofsky’s office. The “total downside risk” from Citigroup’s asset guarantees is about $230 billion to the Federal Reserve alone, Grayson said in a June 24 letter to Barofsky requesting the audit.

A few thoughts, in no special order:

  • Every single transaction undertaken under TARP should be audited. No exceptions, no mercy.
  • The loans on Citi’s books need to be priced at their true market value, right now. And if the result is that Citi is insolvent, which would not in the least surprise me, then nationalize it, shut it down and sell it off.
  • We can afford to put ourselves on the hook for $23.7 trillion to bail out a lot of banks that should have been allowed to fail, but apparently we can’t afford $100 billion a year for health-care reform. That’s some whacked-out math. There may be good reasons to oppose any/all of the currently pending bills, but “We can’t afford it” definitely isn’t one of them.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 10:14 pm

That plow’s gonna get a workout

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 10:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

First Goldman, now Citi:

Citigroup Inc., the U.S. bank that got $45 billion of government funds, will raise base salaries by as much as 50 percent to help compensate for a reduction in annual bonuses, a person familiar with the plan said.

The biggest increases will go to investment bankers and traders, said the person, who declined to be identified. Workers in consumer banking, credit cards, legal and risk management will see smaller salary adjustments. The New York-based company also plans to award stock options to try to keep employees after Citigroup’s market value plummeted 84 percent in the past year.

Citigroup joins Morgan Stanley and UBS AG in boosting salaries for executives and employees. Morgan Stanley said last month it will increase base pay for many of the New York-based firm’s top executives and double the pay of Chief Financial Officer Colm Kelleher.

Well, sure, because the last time a company I ran lost $28 billion in one year and sucked $45 billion from the taxpayers’ teat, I got a 50% raise, too.

I oppose eliminationist rhetoric, so I’ll have to make do with thoughts of torches and pitchforks and “Let them eat cake.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 9:46 pm

… and they would deserve it

A couple of posts down, I speculated that Citi may be a takeover target for the Feds. Here’s some evidence that it should be: the apparent, and utter, cluelessness of its new chairman:

Citigroup Inc.‘s new board chairman, Richard Parsons, said financial institutions are being targeted for creating the nation’s financial crisis, but they aren’t the only ones responsible.

“Everybody participated in pumping up this balloon. Now the balloon has deflated,” he said Monday. “Everybody, in reality, has some part of the blame. But it’s much more in the culture to find a villain and vilify the villain.”

Besides banks, there was reduced regulatory oversight, loans to unqualified borrowers were encouraged and people took out mortgages or home-equity loans they couldn’t afford. …

” … to demonize the bankers alone for creating this financial meltdown is both inaccurate and shortsighted.”

Now, it is technically true that all these factors contributed to the now-deflated balloon. But it is also true that the most damage has been done by bank holding companies like Citi and other nonbank (i.e., essentially unregulated) financial institutions, who got themselves way overleveraged and then looked to the taxpayers for a bailout.

And their mistakes weren’t limited to overleveraging themselves: A lot of lenders committed outright fraud.

But here’s my favorite part:

“Any time you have these financial crises, the bad news seems to overwhelm all the good news,” he said. “But within the envelope, Citigroup is still a very powerful, vibrant, highly profitable, good bank.”

That little gem comes after this little bit of the story:

Citigroup has suffered five straight quarters of losses, including $8.29 billion in the fourth quarter alone.

It has received $45 billion in bailout aid, and the government also agreed to cover a portion of losses on hundreds of billions of troubled assets and loans as Citi looks to right itself.

“Vibrant, highly profitable”?? Heck, forget his disingenuous spin. He should be fired because he can’t even count.

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