domenica 14 febbraio 2010
Submitted by cpowell on Sun, 2010-02-14 02:54. Section: Daily Dispatches
By Liam HalliganThe Telegraph, LondonSaturday, February 13, 2010
Could the endgame of this Greek tragedy be a eurozone breakup? The single currency's supporters maintain that such an outcome is mere mythology.
Greece accounts for only 3 percent of the 16 member states' combined GDP, they say, and has lower debts than some of the banks bailed-out during sub-prime. A loan of E20 billion (£17.5 billion) would do the trick, we're told. That's less than the British government injected into either Lloyds or the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Such analysis sounds vaguely plausible. But its naïve and politically dishonest. Then again, the single currency was built on political dishonesty. That's because, at the heart of the eurozone project there was always a fundamental contradiction -- one that the architects of monetary union never dared to address. Now its being highlighted for them, whether they like it or not.
While the European Central Bank controls eurozone interest rates and the money supply, the size of each country's fiscal deficit results from the spending and taxation decisions of its own sovereign government.
How can you enforce collective fiscal discipline in a currency union of individual sovereign states, each answerable to their own electorate? The truthful answer is you can't -- not unless you subjugate the autonomy of democratically-elected politicians and, by proxy, their voters.
Voters don't like that. Neither do politicians. Faced with a choice between seriously annoying their own voters and seriously annoying the ECB, the most ardently "pro-European" lawmakers, even those with years of Brussels trough-nuzzling under their belt, will always side with their own. That's why the eurozone will ultimately break up -- whether Greece is bailed out or not.
The eurocrats blame "speculators" for the single currency's woes. That's a bit like sailors blaming the sea. The eurozone is ultimately doomed because, in the end, economic logic wins and the will of each country's electorate bursts through. This current Greek saga won't end the eurozone -- but future historians will identify it, perhaps, as the beginning of the end.
Many have said it's hardly surprising that Greece -- with its history of financial profligacy and capital flight -- has emerged as the eurozone's Achilles heel. A more germane observation is that, while fiscally wayward, Greece is also the birthplace of democracy. If the Greek population wants to get upset, throw out its elected politicians and reject austerity, it must be allowed to do so. I think they'd be mad, but it must be their choice.
If Berlin and Brussels try to impose their own view on Greece and the "cuts" come from outside, the situation will become absolutely incendiary. Protests will turn into full-blown riots. Greece will endure very serious social unrest. Deep-seated rivalries and suspicions between countries will be re-ignited. And for what?
Greece is running a budget deficit of 12.7 percent of GDP. The real number could be 15 percent or more as Greek politicians have lied for years about the extent of their country's liabilities. They're not the first European leaders to do so and they won't be the last. But Greece was, almost uniquely, assisted in its fiscal cover-up by Brussels -- with the usual "convergence criteria" being bent to allow Greek euro entry.
As recently as September 2008, the euro seemed to be going well, despite the massive variation between member states. The five-year Greek credit default swap spread was less than 50 basis points. In other words, buying insurance against Greece reneging on its sovereign debt cost only slightly more than insuring German government bonds. Those, such as this columnist, who continued to warn that the eurozone was "dangerous and inherently unstable" were dismissed as cranks, xenophobes, or worse.
Then sub-prime hit in earnest. Insuring against Greek default suddenly became a lot more expensive, the CDS spread rising six-fold in eight weeks. The same risk measure is now around 400 basis points, the cost of insuring against Greek default no less than 20 times higher than it was in January 2008. Default risks are growing in Portugal and Spain too, the eurozone's fourth biggest economy.
The problem is that default dangers in Greece -- where E20 billion of debt falls due in April and May -- are making creditors think twice about lending to other cash-strapped governments. Even if Greece avoids default, this latest crisis means governments everywhere will have to pay more for their finance, which in turn will push up borrowing costs for everyone -- right across the eurozone and beyond, including in the UK. This is so-called "contagion."
The Greek government has been desperately trying to convince the rest of the world -- the Germans in particular -- that it will keep its promise to reduce the deficit in its still-shrinking economy to 8.7 percent of GDP next year and less than 3 percent by 2012. Yet this would amount to the most severe fiscal contraction in the history of modern Europe. It simply won't happen.
The reality is that Greece has two choices -- both disastrous for the eurozone. One is to default, leave the euro and re-establish the drachma at a rate low enough to stimulate exports and growth. To write this is heresy. But with general strikes now in the offing, and the Greek public-sector unions resurgent, such a scenario is possible.
For years, the ECB has set rates low to suit France and Germany. This has made life difficult, causing dangerous debt bubbles, in smaller and more inflation-prone eurozone members. Were Greece to take the exit route, the governments of several other single currency members would come under intense pressure to do the same. The eurozone's vital cohesion would be seriously undermined. Its ultimate breakup -- or at least shrinkage to a Franco-German rump -- would be only a matter of time.
The other, more likely option is that Greece accepts a German-led bailout and "muddles through." But even that would spark an eventual eurozone split. On extending assistance, Berlin and Brussels would talk tough and Greece would promise to behave. Anything less wouldn't be tolerated by German voters. After the horrors of inter-war hyperinflation, Germany has spent more than 50 years building policy credibility. Backing a Greek bailout would be a massive step -- the first time in decades Germany has departed from its fiscal and monetary hard line.
Yet the German government will do it. Refusing to bailout Greece would risk being labelled "bad Europeans" -- something anathema to Germany's post-war elite. Berlin also has a massive financial stake in the euro's status as the world's second most-used reserve currency.
Although Greece will be presented as a one-off -- a "very exceptional" case -- once that line has been crossed there is no going back. Other eurozone countries will want a bailout. Why should Portuguese, Estonian, or Spanish workers endure austerity and unemployment while those in Greece were spared? Why them and not us? If big banks can compete for bailouts, walking the line of "moral hazard," political leaders will do so too. A Greek rescue by the Germans would spark repeated bailouts.
In the end, voters in the big eurozone economies, faced with their own fiscal problems, will say enough is enough. Europe's monetary union will collapse, just like every other currency union in the history of man. The exception is America -- yet the US, as the eurocrats hate to acknowledge, had been through a century and a half of political union before the Federal Reserve was founded in 1913.
That's the key difference. America is a political union with a system of explicit inter-regional fiscal transfers, and the eurozone isn't. That's why the single currency will ultimately split and be exposed as what it is -- a triumph of European hubris and political vanity over unavoidable economic logic.
Submitted by cpowell on Thu, 2010-02-11 22:59. Section: Daily Dispatches
Goldman Sachs Faces 'Robin Hood tax' Vote-Rigging Claims
By Rupert NeateThe Telegraph, LondonThursday, February 11, 2010
Goldman Sachs is investigating claims that one of its computers was used to rig a public vote on the introduction of a so-called "Robin Hood tax" on bankers.
The Robin Hood Tax campaign alleged that a Goldman computer was one of two computers that allegedly "spammed" the Internet poll with more than 3,600 "no" votes in less than 20 minutes on Thursday.
Technical staff for the Robinhoodtax.org.uk website said the "no" counter increased at a "dramatic rate" from 3.41pm.
The number of "no" votes jumped from 1,400 to 6,000 before campaigners -- who are calling for the introduction of 0.05 percent tax on banking transactions -- tightened the site’s security.
Robin Hood's security team claimed it traced the erroneous votes to two computers, one of which is allegedly registered as belonging to Goldman.
A spokesman for Goldman said the bank had "just received this information and is investigating fully."
After being flooded with concerned messages from Facebook and Twitter users, the website displayed the following message: "For all those who have noticed something strange happening on the vote, please don’t worry. Someone is playing games. But at lunchtime we posted a spy in a high tree and are working to catch the culprit. The count has been reset to remove these false votes and our guards are now back on the gate. Please keep voting (fair) people."
By 8pm on Thursday the "yes" vote had a substantial lead on the "no" camp, with 21,300 votes compared with 2,600.
The campaign has attracted a string of celebrity endorsements, including Four Weddings and a Funeral writer Richard Curtis and Love Actually actor Bill Nighy.
The campaign, supported by groups including Barnado's, the RSPB, the NUT and the Unite union, claims the tax -- which is based on Nobel Laureate economist James Tobin's idea from 1972 -- could generate L255 billion worldwide a year.
Submitted by cpowell on Thu, 2010-02-11 17:09. Section: Daily Dispatches
Plot Thickens in Battle of 'The Plunge'
By John CrudeleNew York PostThursday, February 11, 2010
The Treasury Department has records of the secret meetings that its President's Working Group on Financial Markets held to discuss the troubled financial markets, after all.
That doesn't mean Washington wants us to know what was discussed, or whether Wall Street executives were in the meetings.
The working group was founded by President Reagan back in 1989, after the stock market nearly sustained its second big crash in two years.
Placed under the Treasury's jurisdiction, it lay dormant for years. It has been nicknamed the Plunge Protection Team because many people -- including me -- believe that in recent years it has been used to stabilize markets.
If so, the PWG could have encouraged the misconception that the stock market was a lot less risky than it really was. In that sense, the PWG would have been instrumental in inflating the stock bubble that burst in 2008, costing a lot of Americans their savings.
The PWG operates in total secrecy. Members include the heads of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and financial exchanges, but there is no record of who else participates.
It's been suspected that under Hank Paulson, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs who left the Treasury secretary post last year, Wall Street kingpins were brought into the circle.
The reasoning: "Market participants," as Paulson liked to call them, could best help fix problems. At the same time, they would be free to use these invaluable connections with the PWG for their benefit as well.
I first requested information on the PWG back in 2006. That request fell "through the cracks," according to an internal Treasury memo. A year and a half later, after an e-mail discussion among Treasury officials, I learned that minutes and notes of the PWG's meetings didn't exist.
In November 2007 the Treasury changed its tune and responded to my Freedom of Information Act request with 177 pages, which I described in a column as "crap."
"Included in the 177 pages that the Treasury said responded to our request on the actions of the PWG," I wrote, "were 53 pages on which something was redacted -- blacked out so that the discussion was unreadable."
Soon afterwards, the Post and I filed an appeal, saying we wanted internal documents, especially of a meeting held on Aug. 17, 2007. That was the day the Fed began a series of rate cuts, much to the delight of The Street.
Granted, I was fishing. But why should the PWG be allowed to operate unchecked inside our government? Why should this clandestine organization have so much potential control over the nation's financial markets and Americans' wealth?
Well, I got a response to our appeal -- more than two years after it was filed.
It turns out there are an additional 739 pages of PWG documents that the Treasury "withheld ... in full."
The latest Treasury letter, signed by Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Rutherford, said: "After carefully considering your appeal, I am affirming the actions on record referred to in your appeal."
Rutherford said the 739 new pages "concerns certain inter-and-intra agency communications protected by the deliberative process privilege."
It continued: "The material redacted pursuant to the deliberative process component subsection (b) (5) was determined to be both predecisional and deliberative." It was deliberative "in that it contains personal opinions, analyses, advice, thought processes, strategies, and recommendations, reflecting the 'give and take' of the department's consultative."
I misplaced my mumbo-jumbo-to-English dictionary, but I'll do my best to interpret.
The Plunge Protection Team either made "decisions" or contributed to decisions being made by others that it doesn't want us to know about. And this was in 2007 -- well before the so-called financial meltdown that gave Paulson and his crew a free hand.
What was the PWG consulting with Treasury and the Fed on? Rate cuts? Market-rigging operations? The decor of then-Treasury Secretary Paulson's office?
Since we already know about Paulson's exces sively close relationship with Goldman Sachs, shouldn't the Treasury at very least let the public know what sort of chatter was in those 739 pages?
John Crudele is business columnist for the New York Post.
Submitted by cpowell on Thu, 2010-02-11 16:39. Section: Daily Dispatches
By Niall FergusonFinancial Times, LondonWednesday, February 10, 2010
It began in Athens. It is spreading to Lisbon and Madrid. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that the sovereign debt crisis that is unfolding will remain confined to the weaker eurozone economies. For this is more than just a Mediterranean problem with a farmyard acronym. It is a fiscal crisis of the Western world. Its ramifications are far more profound than most investors currently appreciate.
There is of course a distinctive feature to the eurozone crisis. Because of the way the European Monetary Union was designed, there is in fact no mechanism for a bailout of the Greek government by the European Union, other member states, or the European Central Bank (Articles 123 and 125 of the Lisbon treaty). True, Article 122 may be invoked by the European Council to assist a member state that is "seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control," but at this point nobody wants to pretend that Greece's yawning deficit was an act of God. Nor is there a way for Greece to devalue its currency, as it would have done in the pre-EMU days of the drachma. There is not even a mechanism for Greece to leave the eurozone.
That leaves just three possibilities: one of the most excruciating fiscal squeezes in modern European history -- reducing the deficit from 13 per cent to 3 per cent of gross domestic product within just three years; outright default on all or part of the Greek government's debt; or (most likely, as signalled by German officials on Wednesday) some kind of bailout led by Berlin. Because none of these options is very appealing, and because any decision about Greece will have implications for Portugal, Spain, and possibly others, it may take much horse-trading before one can be reached.
Yet the idiosyncrasies of the eurozone should not distract us from the general nature of the fiscal crisis that is now afflicting most western economies. Call it the fractal geometry of debt: the problem is essentially the same from Iceland to Ireland to Britain to the US. It just comes in widely differing sizes.
What we in the Western world are about to learn is that there is no such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not "save" us half so much as monetary policy -- zero interest rates plus quantitative easing -- did. First, the impact of government spending (the hallowed "multiplier") has been much less than the proponents of stimulus hoped. Second, there is a good deal of "leakage" from open economies in a globalised world. Last, crucially, explosions of public debt incur bills that fall due much sooner than we expect
For the world's biggest economy, the US, the day of reckoning still seems reassuringly remote. The worse things get in the eurozone, the more the US dollar rallies as nervous investors park their cash in the "safe haven" of American government debt. This effect may persist for some months, just as the dollar and Treasuries rallied in the depths of the banking panic in late 2008.
Yet even a casual look at the fiscal position of the federal government (not to mention the states) makes a nonsense of the phrase "safe haven." US government debt is a safe haven the way Pearl Harbor was a safe haven in 1941.
Even according to the White House's new budget projections, the gross federal debt in public hands will exceed 100 per cent of GDP in just two years' time. This year, like last year, the federal deficit will be around 10 per cent of GDP. The long-run projections of the Congressional Budget Office suggest that the US will never again run a balanced budget. That’s right, never.
The International Monetary Fund recently published estimates of the fiscal adjustments developed economies would need to make to restore fiscal stability over the decade ahead. Worst were Japan and the UK (a fiscal tightening of 13 per cent of GDP). Then came Ireland, Spain and Greece (9 per cent). And in sixth place? Step forward America, which would need to tighten fiscal policy by 8.8 per cent of GDP to satisfy the IMF.
Explosions of public debt hurt economies in the following way, as numerous empirical studies have shown. By raising fears of default and/or currency depreciation ahead of actual inflation, they push up real interest rates. Higher real rates, in turn, act as drag on growth, especially when the private sector is also heavily indebted -- as is the case in most western economies, not least the US.
Although the US household savings rate has risen since the Great Recession began, it has not risen enough to absorb a trillion dollars of net Treasury issuance a year. Only two things have thus far stood between the US and higher bond yields: purchases of Treasuries (and mortgage-backed securities, which many sellers essentially swapped for Treasuries) by the Federal Reserve and reserve accumulation by the Chinese monetary authorities.
But now the Fed is phasing out such purchases and is expected to wind up quantitative easing. Meanwhile, the Chinese have sharply reduced their purchases of Treasuries from around 47 per cent of new issuance in 2006 to 20 per cent in 2008 to an estimated 5 per cent last year. Small wonder Morgan Stanley assumes that 10-year yields will rise from around 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent this year. On a gross federal debt fast approaching $1,500 billion, that implies up to $300 billion of extra interest payments -- and you get up there pretty quickly with the average maturity of the debt now below 50 months.
The Obama administration's new budget blithely assumes real GDP growth of 3.6 per cent over the next five years, with inflation averaging 1.4 per cent. But with rising real rates, growth might well be lower. Under those circumstances, interest payments could soar as a share of federal revenue -- from a tenth to a fifth to a quarter.
Last week Moody's Investors Service warned that the triple A credit rating of the US should not be taken for granted. That warning recalls Larry Summers' killer question (posed before he returned to government): "How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world's biggest power?"
On reflection, it is appropriate that the fiscal crisis of the West has begun in Greece, the birthplace of Western civilization. Soon it will cross the channel to Britain. But the key question is when that crisis will reach the last bastion of Western power, on the other side of the Atlantic.
The writer is a contributing editor of the Financial Times and author of "The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World."
Inserito il 09 febbraio 2010 alle 22:58:00 da LR_Cultura. IT - news
Francesco Neri, sostituto procuratore generale, nel processo contro i tre maggiori istituti di credito accusati di usura, chiede di potersi astenere dal procedimento. Il Magistrato avrebbe motivato la scelta per una palese incompatibilità in quanto avrebbe citato in giudizio il Corsera per gravi attacchi delegittimanti, ed è noto che la proprietà del quotidiano appartiene a Mediobanca di cui l’imputato Cesare Geronzi ne è il rappresentante. Il Procuratore però ha lasciato intendere che dietro a questa scelta ci sarebbe ben altro. Accade in un’aula del Tribunale della Corte di Appello di Reggio Calabria. Un magistrato, dr. Francesco Neri, ha chiesto l’astensione dal processo con delle gravissime motivazioni. Vi sarebbero state delle pressioni nei suoi confronti per impedire la prosecuzione dell’attività di Procuratore Generale nel processo alle banche accusate di usura. Pressioni che il magistrato ha puntualmente riportato nel corso dell’audizione con gli ispettori del Ministero, che stanno indagando su tali fatti.Questo è solo una parte, pur tremendamente grave, di quanto di strano sta avvenendo nell’ambito del processo che vede, ormai da oltre 5 anni, contrapposto l’imprenditore Antonino De Masi al sistema bancario. Il procedimento che si sta trattando in Corte di Appello a Reggio Calabria vede infatti imputati per usura i Presidenti di tre delle maggiori banche italiane (Geronzi per Capitalia; Abete per Bnl; Marchiorello, in qualità di ex presidente, per Banca AntonVeneta) oltre ad alcuni funzionari. In primo grado il Tribunale di Palmi ha sentenziato la conferma del reato (elemento oggettivo) in tutti i capi di imputazione individuati dalla Procura e il proscioglimento degli imputati per non aver commesso loro il fatto (elemento soggettivo).Contro questa sentenza che, pur riconoscendo il reato, non trova i colpevoli inizia quindi un procedimento di Appello dinanzi ad una Corte composta da Magistrati che, dimostrando grande capacità ed equilibrio, sta procedendo alla ricerca della verità processuale. Nel corso del dibattimento la Corte, con lo scopo di andare a fondo della vicenda, decide di affidare ad un funzionario di Banca d’Italia una consulenza per individuare chi determinava la politica dei tassi all’interno dell’organizzazione bancaria e quali responsabilità avessero i presidenti in tale ambito. La Banca d’Italia indica quindi il nome di un ex dipendente al quale viene affidato tale incarico. Consulenza questa che si è però svolta in un clima assolutamente intollerabile, senza il rispetto delle procedure, con assoluta mancanza di trasparenza e del contraddittorio e con diverse “scorrettezze procedurali” che sono state prontamente segnalate alla Corte alla quale è stato richiesto, sia a novembre che nel corso dell’ultima udienza, la sostituzione del consulente nominato e la sua sostituzione con un organismo collegiale di tecnici terzi che possa garantire tutte le parti del processo. Quanto accaduto è poi da mettere in stretta correlazione con la terra bruciata che è stata fatta attorno a De Masi in quanto, nonostante non abbia problematiche di protesti, insoluti o altro, non gli è consentito di aprire neanche un conto attivo. Unica colpa: essersi ribellato alle illegalità.Ma quanto sta accadendo non sembra importare a nessuno.A nulla sembrano servire le nuove denuncie che ha presentato negli ultimi tre anni e che sono ferme nelle procure, per reiterazione del reato di usura a carico delle stesse banche per i periodi successivi rispetto alla prima denuncia.A nulla sembrano servire le centinaia di procedimenti penali che, sulla scia della vicenda dell’imprenditore calabrese, si sono aperti in Italia; come a nulla serve analizzare di quali gravissime responsabilità si sono rese colpevoli le banche: la politica del massimo profitto, dei benefits per i manager, politiche scellerate ed illegali che le banche fanno per fare utili a danno dei risparmiatori e delle attività economiche, non curandosi delle illegalità commesse per ottenere gli obiettivi perseguiti. Nessuno sembra voler capire che ci troviamo di fronte ad un sistema che a tutti i costi, anche illegalmente, punta al profitto, agli utili, che si chiamino interessi usurai, derivati, bond, o che si passi dall’usura alle truffe agli enti pubblici o alla vendita di titoli spazzatura a ignari risparmiatori, poco conta. Anche gli interventi messi in atto dai vari governi per eliminare la commissione di massimo scoperto non hanno fatto altro che portare ad una nuova commissione che, come da studi fatti dall’Autorità Antitrust, arriva a costare sino a 15 volte in più rispetto a prima continuando quindi a rispondere alla logica del manovratore (i banchieri) per ottenere profitto, utili e super premi per i manager.Tutto ciò evidentemente conta poco.Ciò che conta invece sembra essere quello di affossare con tutti i mezzi il processo di Reggio Calabria, perché una condanna in tale processo porterebbe allo stravolgimento dell’intero sistema bancario, un vero e proprio cataclisma da evitare! Poco importa che il sistema ha operato, e tutt’ora opera, nell’illegalità, conta solo e sempre proteggere i potenti (banchieri). Quello che sta succedendo a Reggio Calabria è l’ennesima dimostrazione di forza del vero potere e di chi lo detiene, come afferma Mario Monti quando dice che le banche sono il governo occulto del Paese. Potere che è esercitato da decenni, che condiziona la vita democratica del paese e mette sotto i piedi la dignità ed il rispetto di principi e valori assoluti come l’uguaglianza di fronte alla legge e la libertà, arrivando sino al punto di fare pressione sui magistrati.«Quanto avvenuto a Reggio Calabria – dichiara Nino De Masi - non è solo figlio di una criminale arroganza ma, cosa ancor più grave, di una convinzione di “onnipotenza” e di intoccabilità, convinzione che ha portato i “signori delle banche” a tentare vilmente di condizionare pesantemente anche i miei legali, atteggiamenti questi che accomunano i rappresentanti di questo potere economico agli esponenti del potere criminale che imperversa nella nostra terra. Se comunque – continua l’imprenditore - credono che mi arrenda sbagliano tutti, sbagliano i “consigliori” (termini dispregiativo che indica la criminale collusione di alcuni consulenti), e sbagliano i banchieri. Fino all’ultimo mio respiro combatterò con tutte le forze contro questo arrogante, criminale e viscido comportamento, ed essendo io una persona per bene lo farò con gli unici strumenti che conosco, quelli della legge. Per fortuna vi sono ancora persone perbene che fanno dei mestieri nobili, che amministrano la giustizia e che credono nella nobiltà della loro professione e della loro missione, che vivono e lavorano per la loro vera ricchezza che è la dignità ed il rispetto del prossimo, e sicuramente tali persone non saranno mai al soldo dei potenti. A loro affiderò le mie ulteriori denunce ed a loro chiederò di perseguire chi si sta macchiando di tali illegali, pericolosi ed immorali comportamenti .»
venerdì 5 febbraio 2010
It Is Now Mathematically Impossible To Pay Off The U.S. National Debt
A lot of people are very upset about the rapidly increasing U.S. national debt these days and they are demanding a solution. What they don't realize is that there simply is not a solution under the current U.S. financial system. It is now mathematically impossible for the U.S. government to pay off the U.S. national debt. You see, the truth is that the U.S. government now owes more dollars than actually exist. If the U.S. government went out today and took every single penny from every single American bank, business and taxpayer, they still would not be able to pay off the national debt. And if they did that, obviously American society would stop functioning because nobody would have any money to buy or sell anything.
And the U.S. government would still be massively in debt.
So why doesn't the U.S. government just fire up the printing presses and print a bunch of money to pay off the debt?
Well, for one very simple reason.
That is not the way our system works.
You see, for more dollars to enter the system, the U.S. government has to go into more debt.
The U.S. government does not issue U.S. currency - the Federal Reserve does.
The Federal Reserve is a private bank owned and operated for profit by a very powerful group of elite international bankers.
If you will pull a dollar bill out and take a look at it, you will notice that it says "Federal Reserve Note" at the top.
It belongs to the Federal Reserve.
The U.S. government cannot simply go out and create new money whenever it wants under our current system.
Instead, it must get it from the Federal Reserve.
So, when the U.S. government needs to borrow more money (which happens a lot these days) it goes over to the Federal Reserve and asks them for some more green pieces of paper called Federal Reserve Notes.
The Federal Reserve swaps these green pieces of paper for pink pieces of paper called U.S. Treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve either sells these U.S. Treasury bonds or they keep the bonds for themselves (which happens a lot these days).
So that is how the U.S. government gets more green pieces of paper called "U.S. dollars" to put into circulation. But by doing so, they get themselves into even more debt which they will owe even more interest on.
So every time the U.S. government does this, the national debt gets even bigger and the interest on that debt gets even bigger.
Are you starting to get the picture?
As you read this, the U.S. national debt is approximately 12 trillion dollars, although it is going up so rapidly that it is really hard to pin down an exact figure.
So how much money actually exists in the United States today?
Well, there are several ways to measure this.
The "M0" money supply is the total of all physical bills and currency, plus the money on hand in bank vaults and all of the deposits those banks have at reserve banks. As of mid-2009, the Federal Reserve said that this amount was about 908 billion dollars.
The "M1" money supply includes all of the currency in the "M0" money supply, along with all of the money held in checking accounts and other checkable accounts at banks, as well as all money contained in travelers' checks. According to the Federal Reserve, this totaled approximately 1.7 trillion dollars in December 2009, but not all of this money actually "exists" as we will see in a moment.
The "M2" money supply includes everything in the "M1" money supply plus most other savings accounts, money market accounts, retail money market mutual funds, and small denomination time deposits (certificates of deposit of under $100,000). According to the Federal Reserve, this totaled approximately 8.5 trillion dollars in December 2009, but once again, not all of this money actually "exists" as we will see in a moment.
The "M3" money supply includes everything in the "M2" money supply plus all other CDs (large time deposits and institutional money market mutual fund balances), deposits of eurodollars and repurchase agreements. The Federal Reserve does not keep track of M3 anymore, but according to ShadowStats.com it is currently somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 trillion dollars. But again, not all of this "money" actually "exists" either.
So why doesn't it exist?
It is because our financial system is based on something called fractional reserve banking.
When you go over to your local bank and deposit $100, they do not keep your $100 in the bank. Instead, they keep only a small fraction of your money there at the bank and they lend out the rest to someone else. Then, if that person deposits the money that was just borrowed at the same bank, that bank can loan out most of that money once again. In this way, the amount of "money" quickly gets multiplied. But in reality, only $100 actually exists. The system works because we do not all run down to the bank and demand all of our money at the same time.
According to the New York Federal Reserve Bank, fractional reserve banking can be explained this way....
"If the reserve requirement is 10%, for example, a bank that receives a $100 deposit may lend out $90 of that deposit. If the borrower then writes a check to someone who deposits the $90, the bank receiving that deposit can lend out $81. As the process continues, the banking system can expand the initial deposit of $100 into a maximum of $1,000 of money ($100+$90+81+$72.90+...=$1,000)."
So much of the "money" out there today is basically made up out of thin air.
In fact, most banks have no reserve requirements at all on savings deposits, CDs and certain kinds of money market accounts. Primarily, reserve requirements apply only to "transactions deposits" – essentially checking accounts.
The truth is that banks are freer today to dramatically "multiply" the amounts deposited with them than ever before. But all of this "multiplied" money is only on paper - it doesn't actually exist.
The point is that the broadest measures of the money supply (M2 and M3) vastly overstate how much "real money" actually exists in the system.
So if the U.S. government went out today and demanded every single dollar from all banks, businesses and individuals in the United States it would not be able to collect 14 trillion dollars (M3) or even 8.5 trillion dollars (M2) because those amounts are based on fractional reserve banking.
So the bottom line is this....
#1) If all money owned by all American banks, businesses and individuals was gathered up today and sent to the U.S. government, there would not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.
#2) The only way to create more money is to go into even more debt which makes the problem even worse.
You see, this is what the whole Federal Reserve System was designed to do. It was designed to slowly drain the massive wealth of the American people and transfer it to the elite international bankers.
It is a game that is designed so that the U.S. government cannot win. As soon as they create more money by borrowing it, the U.S. government owes more than what was created because of interest.
If you owe more money than ever was created you can never pay it back.
That means perpetual debt for as long as the system exists.
It is a system designed to force the U.S. government into ever-increasing amounts of debt because there is no escape.
Of course if we had listened to our very wise founding father Thomas Jefferson, we could have avoided this colossal mess in the first place....
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
But we didn't listen, did we?
We could solve this problem by shutting down the Federal Reserve and restoring the power to issue U.S. currency to the U.S. Congress (which is what the U.S. Constitution calls for). But the politicians in Washington D.C. are not about to do that.
So unless you are willing to fundamentally change the current system, you might as well quit complaining about the U.S. national debt because it is now mathematically impossible to pay it off.
Swiss central bank aggressively pushes franc downSubmitted by cpowell on Fri, 2010-02-05 07:58. Section: Daily Dispatches
Swiss Franc Sinks; Central Bank Spotted Selling
By Takashi Mochizuki
Friday, February 5, 2010
TOKYO -- The Swiss franc fell to multi-month lows against the euro and dollar in Asia Friday as market participants said Switzerland's central bank made a rare and aggressive intervention to curb its currency.
The euro spiked around 0300 GMT to CHF1.4905, its highest since Dec. 28, from CHF1.4635. The dollar jumped to CHF1.0800, its highest since Aug. 18, from CHF1.0670.
Two dealers in the region said they saw franc-selling orders under the name of the Swiss National Bank on the EBS trading platform. The central bank was bidding for euros at CHF1.49, far above the spot rate of CHF1.46, they said.
"I've been in the currency market for two decades, but this is my first time to see the SNB doing intervention in Asian time," said one dealer.
The central bank has been talking down the franc, especially since Philipp Hildebrand became SNB president last month. It intervened several times last year, typically in the euro/franc cross.
Dealers in Asia said there was about $1 billion of franc-selling orders by short-term hedge funds, an unusually big amount, especially for a currency cross that seldom trades actively in Asian hours.
Euro/franc is "all over the shop--rumors of official buying interest," said a dealer in Singapore. "It jumped two big figures in a nanosecond."
At 0530 GMT, franc was off its lows, with the dollar at CHF1.0752 and the euro at CHF1.4735.
The dollar and euro were stronger against the yen as investors squared yen-long positions after steep gains overnight by the Japanese currency when investors fled risky assets amid stock falls and sovereign-credit worries. At 0530 GMT, the dollar was at Y89.65, down from Y88.94 Thursday in late New York, and the euro was at Y122.90 from Y122.20.
But dealers said the bias remains yen-positive as risk appetite is still low due to lingering concerns European public finances.
"The European Commission Wednesday approved Greece's plan to reform its fiscal health, but the plan is unrealistic," said Yuji Saito, head of foreign exchange trade at Calyon in Tokyo. "Along with Portugal, Italy and Spain, they could get a cut in ratings any time."
Indeed, the euro briefly fell below $1.3700 for the first time since May 20, showing investors' increasing concerns about the euro-zone periphery.
Investors will be closely watching for U.S. nonfarm payrolls data for January due at 1330 GMT. If the report misses economists' forecasts as it did last month, the yen would benefit most, dealers said. Economists in a Dow Jones Newswires poll expect payrolls to be unchanged in January from December.
The Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a trade-weighted basket of currencies, was at 80.144 from 79.907.
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Fury at Wall St. Banks Fuels Public Action for Move Your Money Campaign
A new campaign called Move Your Money aims to tackle the frustrations with the Wall Street banks, and the politicians they've bought off, head on. The campaign is based on a simple idea: Americans ought to move their money from the big banks -- that took billions in taxpayer money and continue to foist outrageous interest rates even as they cut lending -- to local financial institutions that actually are a part of their communities. Move the money back home.
In the first 48 hours of the campaign, which launched days before the New Year, over 100,000 people responded with inquiries on how to move their money and credit to the nation's 7,600 community banks and 8,000 credit unions.
Channeling anger for change
The action campaign isn't the first to base itself on widespread anger toward the largest banks in the country. In April last year, that anger was channeled into A New Way Forward (ANWF). The group organized protests across the country that sought to break up the "zombie" banks.
The worst of the bad guys, nearly everyone agrees, are the so-called Big Six: JP Morgan/Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Experts believe the first four alone hold at least 40 percent of our nation's deposits and half of all bank assets.
But despite ANWF's nationwide rallies -- which remained relatively small, though attended by voters of all political stripes -- breaking up the banks has never been on the legislative table. That may be one reason why Move Your Money has garnered so much excitement. It does not seek to force people on the Hill or in the White House, many of whom are indebted to banking interests, to act.
Instead, Move Your Money calls for direct action by regular people who are irate at the overly cautious pace of financial reform.
"Our money has been used to make the system worse -- what if we used it to make the system better?" wrote Arianna Huffington and Rob Johnson -- she of the Huffington Post, he of the Roosevelt Institute -- in their campaign introduction. They framed Move Your Money as a New Year's resolution for all (most) Americans who feel abandoned by their massive, bailed-out banks.
The campaign comes at an interesting time for small financial institutions. Since the 1980s, the number of banks with assets of $1 billion or less has fallen by more than half, according to Stacy Mitchell, head of the New Rules' Community Banking Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
As small banks and credit unions have gone out of business or been eaten up by the big banks, Americans have gotten used to banking at a distance. The banking experience is now usually characterized by automatic tellers, automated phone-trees, and other forms of faceless communication.
Of course, the growth of national banks has increased some conveniences, such as ATMs you can access anywhere in the country, but who cares about saving two dollars on your withdrawals when your bank is perfectly willing to up your credit card rate from 4.99 to 40.99 percent in one fell swoop (as Citi did to one man with good credit) for no fathomable reason? You're just as faceless to them as they are to you.
With examples such as these, Move Your Money hopes to dispel longstanding myths that big banks are cheaper -- and nicer -- than smaller ones.
A growing movement
As of this week, 23,000 -- or about 50 percent -- of all U.S. zip codes have been searched for through Move Your Money's "Find a Bank" feature, says Dennis Santiago, whose influential bank-rating firm Institutional Risk Analytics donated the tool.
One community bank with five branches in Northern California recently called Santiago to report it had a $1 million increase in deposits per branch since the start of the campaign, which the bank had not yet caught wind of.
While Move Your Money's search tool only includes community banks, the Credit Union Times reports that since the start of the campaign, two of the largest credit union associations have reported 300 percent search increases in their credit union databases since Move Your Money launched.
The American Debt Relief Challenge, which aims to get people to transfer their credit card balances from big banks to credit unions, shows that Americans have saved nearly $20 million by transferring. That's a monthly average of $200 in amortized savings per consumer, says Jamie Chase, a principal at Credit Union Strategic Planning, which is a sponsor of the challenge.
Local governments are jumping on the bandwagon, too. In New Mexico, a bill's been introduced to move the state's $1.4 billion cash account from Bank of America to local banks. In Oregon, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Bill Bradbury, is basing much of his candidacy on moving the state's money to Oregon-only community banks. And Michael Bloomberg, the New York City mayor who built his billionaire empire on financial information services, announced the city would move $25 million of its municipal tax dollars to neighborhood credit unions.
Even ANWF, which had based its organizing around breaking up the banks last year, will be waging a similar campaign that launches in a week, says Tiffiniy Cheng, ANWF's national coordinator. Called Break Up With Your Bank, it will ask people to stop using their credit cards and use cash as much as possible. If you must have a credit card, switch to a low-interest card from a local bank, Cheng says.
It's no surprise so many are so into the idea of moving capital into their communities. For starters, with smaller banks, you can kiss all that hollow interaction goodbye.
"Smaller banks can take a closer, personal look. Your loan request won't be decided by a computer model," says Stacy Mitchell. "A loan officer there understands the local market characteristics, sees the lender as a person with an individual character and history."
The face-to-face service is a plus but Mitchell's research shows even bigger incentives for making the switch. She says community banks and credit unions are very viable and generate real benefits for the communities in which they're located. Among the benefits she cites are more small business lending, lower costs for consumers, better lending practices and the nurturing of social capital on the local level.
Santiago, the bank-rater, agrees with most of these points but says lower costs for consumers can be spotty, depending on the financial institution.
That being said, however: "Right now, there are more good small banks than good big banks. And you should move your money to good banks," he says.
While there is a great deal of populist excitement behind Move Your Money, it also has a few detractors.
Just this week, Doug Henwood, publisher of the economic affairs newsletter, Left Business Observer, wrote: "Money is fungible, protean, and highly mobile even when it looks locally rooted."
To illustrate the argument, Henwood used Move Your Money's search tool to find recommended community banks in his area and discovered that one offered wealth management services through Merrill Lynch (now owned by Bank of America) in addition to being a major financier of the gentrification of predominantly black neighborhoods. Another suggested bank had three-quarters of its assets in U.S. Treasury bonds, instead of local loans.
"It's very, very hard to keep your hands clean in the world," Henwood said. "I generally tell people to hold their nose and do the right things with the rest of their lives because you can't really do a lot of good with your money."
Stacy Mitchell, however, points out that the Move Your Money search tool is not all-inclusive, adding: "Small financial institutions are far more oriented toward the needs of their local communities and the productive economy than big banks are. As a group, banks under $1 billion in assets have less than two percent of their assets lent via the federal funds market to other banks. They devote 67 percent of their assets to lending, almost all within their city or region, and more than one-quarter of that goes to small business lending."
Moving our money may not be enough on its own, Mitchell says, "but to suggest that the choices we make in the marketplace have absolutely no meaning is absurd."
Even Henwood concedes there are some "pretty great community development" banks worth moving your money to, if you do the research. Indeed, both community banks (which are for-profit) and credit unions (which are non-profit) can qualify for Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) certification, which means they are committed to offering financial services to under-banked markets or populations.
Naturally, there are detractors at the top, too. Last month Politico asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner whether he felt the Move Your Money campaign was a good idea. "I don't," he said, before adding that he believes consumers have a right to demand better service from their financial institutions.
From the grassroots up
The Move Your Money campaign has made many people realize that some elements of financial reform may lie in their own hands. While cynics may point out that populist reforms can only take you so far, one idea behind Move Your Money is that this grassroots take on financial reform -- if it continues to have impact and grow -- may actually increase the possibility of financial reform at the federal level.
The banking behemoths have used our dollars to destroy the economy. We can use those same dollars to fight back.
AlterNet, February 4, 2010
Mortgage Myths Endure While Lenders Laugh!
Lenders of any stripe, have known they were well served to have borrowers believe they were borrowing money, and that the lenders were lending them money; and the deception should remain. Lenders knew this was a transaction like any other; they understood it had buyers and sellers. Lenders knew they were selling money, and they knew the poor borrower didn’t know he or she was actually buying money from them.
When purchasing a home the buyer buys from two sources: the seller of the house, and the seller of the money. In other words, he or she buys the home, and buys the money used to buy the home.
Home buyers, meaning borrowers (now understood to be money buyers), real estate brokers, home sellers, and almost anyone else who has ever thought about buying a home, know it will be a difficult, involved, occasionally deceptive, sometimes fraudulent, usually long, and always expensive transaction. The general public – meaning anyone not considered a real estate professional who intends to profit when some one other than themselves buys or sells a home – again, the general public, because they think they are borrowing money instead of buying it, have unfortunately, readily accepted another myth served to them on the proverbial silver platter by the folks called real estate professionals. (Now, now, calm down any of you real estate pros out there who might happen to be reading this, I promise I’ll exonerate you and be nice in a little while.)
This myth is so pervasive, even Bob Herbert, one of the op-ed columnists for the New York Times used it in one of his recent columns entitled, “Chutzpah on Steroids”. He said, “The family home is the largest purchase most Americans ever make”.
Boy, do people believe that one, even though it’s a real howler and a knee-slapper. The lenders love it! After all, they are laughing all the way to the bank. Oh, I forgot, they’re already there, they own the bank. Hmm, or have they already sold their bank to the government, in which case they’re laughing even harder.
The myth works because we have all been taught to believe we borrow money rather than buy it. But then, if we follow the money, certainty returns, because we know we are buying the money just as assuredly as we are buying our new home.
Thus the old saw saying the family home is the single largest purchase most Americans will ever make, is just not the way it is – no matter what the meaning of the word “is” is, or how often somebody claims to smoke a little weed without ever inhaling. (By the way, I believe the President simply misspoke when he claimed he never inhaled; I think he meant to say he never exhaled.)
Anyhow, back to the myths at hand: After all this dancin’ around on my part, the truth is, the family home is not the largest purchase most Americans will ever make; it’s the money. Meaning – the money used to buy the family home, is the largest purchase most Americans will ever make! Lenders know this, or as least some of them know this. In either case, the lenders are once again, laughing all the way to their bank.
Under normal market conditions, some of the lenders are having a much better chuckle than others. But now, perhaps it is more correct to use the past tense on the poor lenders, since it is almost two years after the mortgage bubble burst, and many of those lenders have long since gone, or (because we can’t allow the home builders to go unrecognized) faded into a sunset of their own construction.
When the mortgage markets collapsed a year and a half ago, I wondered why anyone could possibly have been surprised. I called several old friends who were in the mortgage business with me in the 70s and 80s when these fancy financial vehicles then call collateralized mortgage obligations (later called collateralized debt obligations) were created, any of us could easily have told the new regime of financial experts the collapse was bound to happen. Underwriting had become non-existent. Too many people, legally or illegally, were making too much money. At least to some of us, nothing could have been clearer than this pending collapse of the mortgage markets. The world seemed to squirm, while some of us old codgers laughed, but unfortunately, not all the way to the bank.
Unfortunately and once again, I must stop holding forth for the time being. As I continue, this disquisition of mine should fill in some of the holes regarding the causes of our mortgage crisis. I, and many others my age worked our way through the last mortgage crisis when interest rates for home mortgages hit 22%. First came Volcker, then came Greenspan. Folks still bought homes, the country survived.
Lawsuits Accusing Banks of Illegal Overdraft Fees Start to Add Up
February 05, 2010
For the third time in a month, Washington, D.C.'s Tycko & Zavareei has filed a lawsuit challenging overdraft fees. The latest case, filed Monday in federal court in Atlanta, targets Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank.
Two similar suits were filed in January -- one against TD Bank in Washington, D.C., and the other against Citizens Financial Group in Chicago. The firm says more are in the pipeline.
In the Fifth Third suit, customers allege that the bank charges unjustified overdraft fees in violation of state and federal laws. Specifically, the suit accuses Fifth Third of manipulating debit postings to maximize overdraft fees, even when the customer has enough funds to cover some of the withdrawals or purchases. The suit also challenges the bank's practice of charging overdraft fees every day an account is overdrawn, even if it's overdrawn solely because of the overdraft fees.
The plaintiffs want the bank to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged unlawful overdraft charges.
"We're just trying to get people's money back. We're talking millions and millions of dollars ... . It just becomes this spiral of debt," said partner Hassan Zavareei, who is representing the plaintiffs in the Georgia, Illinois and Washington suits.
Zavareei said that manipulation of overdraft fees has been "going on for years without consumers knowing it."
"There's no disclosure when you go to your ATM machine or when you go to Starbucks. Most people assume that it's not going to accept your card if there's no money in the bank," he said. "It would be a very simple matter just for them to say, 'Hey, you don't have enough money in this account. We'll charge you $35 if you still want to do this anyway.'"
Officials at Fifth Third Bank declined comment. The bank has not yet filed a response.
No response has been filed in the Illinois suit, either. In the Washington suit, William Kayatta Jr. of the Portland, Maine, office of Pierce Atwood, who is representing TD Bank, declined to comment.
According to Zavareei, the banking industry made $24 billion in overdraft charges last year.
Tycko & Zavareei's suits are not the only ones seeking legal recourse over the fees. In Miami, seven lawsuits challenging overdraft fee policies were consolidated in July before Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King. A motion to dismiss was filed last month. The consolidated suit challenges high-low policies, whereby banks will clear the highest check or debit transaction first, causing several smaller ones to bounce, even though the highest one came in later.
A similar lawsuit challenging overdraft fees is pending against U.S. Bank in federal court in Oregon. And last summer, Bank of America and its affiliated banks agreed to pay $35 million to resolve class action claims that it unlawfully used overdraft fees to boost revenues.
giovedì 4 febbraio 2010
Domenico Moro, AprileOnline, 04 febbraio 2010
Economia La crisi economica, soprattutto nel settore auto, è un dato di fatto, eppure per le grandi imprese è una occasione d'oro per ristrutturarsi, ridurre i salari, ed eliminare personale, utilizzando per di più gli aiuti dello Stato. A questo proposito, la Fiat rappresenta un caso emblematico. Dopo aver beneficiato nel 2009 di consistenti aiuti statali, che hanno pesato per il 40,7% sulle nuove immatricolazioni auto in Italia (675mila veicoli su un totale di 1,67 milioni), la Fiat riceverà nel 2010 un ulteriore incentivo di 300-350 milioni, come prevede il decreto che dovrebbe essere approvato a breve dal governo Berlusconi. E tutto questo senza contare i consistenti aiuti statali sotto forma di cassa integrazione, che la Fiat ha esteso a tutti gli stabilimenti in questo inizio di 2010
Fino ad oggi, la Fiat è ricorsa al ricatto: niente aiuto statale, niente mantenimento dei livelli occupazionali. Una equazione che non ha sempre funzionato, e che non ha impedito alla Fiat di ridurre costantemente la forza lavoro impiegata in Italia, aumentandola globalmente negli ultimi tre anni, caso pressoché unico tra le multinazionali dell'auto europee e Usa.
Più recentemente, nonostante i soldi pubblici ricevuti, la Fiat ha decretato la morte dello stabilimento siciliano di Termini Imerese. In effetti, come ha spiegato la Repubblica, esisteva un piano Fiat per espandere Termini e renderlo più profittevole, portandolo dal semplice assemblaggio di pezzi a sito di produzione di un maggior numero di componenti. Questo progetto, però, è stato messo da parte, ufficialmente per ragioni burocratiche legate all'impossibilità dell'uso industriale dei terreni richiesti per gli impianti.
La ragione vera è, però, un'altra. Siamo ad un passaggio di fase importante nel modello di accumulazione, che si caratterizza nel contempo per una maggiore concentrazione, attraverso fusioni e alleanze, e per un maggiore impulso alla internazionalizzazione.
Gli investimenti che dovevano andare in Sicilia sono stati dirottati in Serbia. Qui, nello stesso giorno in cui Marchionne annunciava la morte di Termini, arrivava un investimento di 100 milioni di euro, la prima tranche di un totale di 700 milioni. La nuova Fiat serba rileverà la vecchia Zastava, che produceva nel passato modelli Fiat su licenza, e sarà al 67% della Fiat e al 33% dello Stato serbo. Quindi, anche in questo caso la Fiat beneficerà di un consistente aiuto statale.
In effetti, l'abilità maggiore della multinazionale italiana si sta rivelando quella di andare in giro per il mondo a raccattare soldi pubblici, come ha fatto negli Usa, dove, attraverso l'acquisizione della Chrysler, il gruppo torinese comparteciperà agli aiuti massicci concessi da Obama al settore auto.
Mentre in Italia la Fiat licenzia, in Brasile (che è il suo primo mercato mondiale e dove pure ha ricevuto un forte sostegno pubblico) ha assunto negli ultimi tre anni 8mila addetti e in Serbia ne assumerà almeno altri mille. Un altro aspetto "strano" della situazione è che la Fiat in realtà non sta andando così male, soprattutto in confronto alle altre case automobilistiche. La Fiat, tra le prime dodici case della Ue a 27 con una quota dell'8,7%, è una delle sole quattro ad aver registrato nel 2009 un incremento delle vendite (+6,3%), portandosi al sesto posto a poche decine di migliaia di pezzi dalla GM. Solo le ultime due in classifica, la Hyundai e la Kia, hanno fatto meglio, ma con volumi assoluti non paragonabili a quelli della Fiat.
Anche in Italia la crescita delle vendite Fiat nel mese di gennaio è stata consistente, con un + 30,2%.
Il fatto è che la Fiat ha spostato la sua produzione fuori dall'Italia, dove si produce appena un terzo delle auto assorbite dal mercato interno, una quota inferiore non solo a quella di Paesi di nuova industrializzazione ma anche a quella di Paesi capitalisticamente maturi come Francia e Germania. I modelli a marchio Fiat che stanno realizzando i volumi maggiori, la 500 e la Panda, sono prodotti in Polonia ed importati in Italia. La strategia Fiat è evidente: concentrarsi sulla produzione di massa di auto economiche a livello globale e pertanto spostare quote crescenti di produzione nei Paesi in via di sviluppo. Nel 2002, secondo uno studio di Société Générale, i ricavi Fiat venivano dai mercati emergenti per il 14%, nel 2009 per il 28%, e si prevede che la percentuale salirà nei prossimi 3-5 anni al 44%. Le produzioni di auto premium a maggiore valore aggiunto, che normalmente vengono conservate nei Paesi più avanzati come accade in Germania con BMW e Mercedes, sono state abbandonate.
Due marchi prestigiosi, prima Lancia e poi Alfa Romeo, sono stati praticamente distrutti dalla rinuncia ad adeguati investimenti da parte della Fiat. Come sempre, la competizione viene affrontata dalla Fiat non con l'innovazione, ma con la riduzione dei costi.
Ma torniamo al rapporto Fiat-Stato. Secondo l'ineffabile Marchionne, fino a poco tempo fa osannato come salvatore della Patria e novello conquistador in terra americana, "Siamo il maggiore investitore in Italia, ma non abbiamo la responsabilità di governare il Paese.", intendendo con ciò che si lavava le mani di Termini. Se Marchionne, il quale come amministratore delegato percepisce annualmente la quisquilia di 3,4 milioni di euro, ha ragione a ricordare che la Fiat è una impresa privata il cui fine è la massimizzazione del profitto, non si capisce perché, anziché affidarsi al mercato, la Fiat accetti e solleciti i soldi pubblici. Per coerenza dovrebbe rifiutarli, cosa che si guarda bene dal fare.
A questo punto, è bene fare un passo indietro.
Tralasciamo il fatto che la Fiat nasce come grande agglomerato industriale grazie alle commesse statali, prima con la guerra di Libia e la Prima guerra mondiale e poi con le guerre del fascismo, e veniamo ad epoche più recenti. Negli anni 90 gli aumenti di capitale della Fiat sono stati congegnati in modo da ridurre al minimo l'impegno diretto degli Agnelli, cioè del capitale privato. Indovinate su chi si sono scaricati allora gli oneri degli investimenti? Sulle finanze pubbliche, ovvero sui lavoratori dipendenti (tra i quali sono gli operai Fiat), gli unici che pagano interamente le tasse.
Infatti, Massimo Mucchetti in "Licenziare i padroni?" ha scritto: "Nel decennio 90 lo stato italiano ha dato al gruppo Fiat un po' più di 10 miliardi di lire e ne ha ricavato più o meno 6500 di imposte. Nello stesso periodo, gli azionisti della Fiat hanno versato un po' meno di 4200 miliardi nelle casse sociali sotto forma di aumento di capitale e ne hanno ritirati quasi 5700 sotto forma di dividendi.
Nel rapporto tra Stato e azionisti è chiaro chi ha dato e chi ha preso. (...) Nondimeno è curioso che i due terzi dei mezzi freschi immessi dalla Fiat negli ultimi dieci anni provenga dallo stato." No, per la verità non è affatto curioso, si tratta di un andazzo storico, che si ripete ancora oggi allorché la Fiat, da una parte, licenzia e prende soldi dallo Stato e, dall'altra parte, distribuisce un dividendo di 237 milioni ai suoi azionisti. All'estero le cose non vanno esattamente nello stesso modo. In Francia, ad esempio, la Renault è stata costretta dal governo Sarkozy a ritornare sulla sua decisione di spostare all'estero la produzione della nuova Clio, garantendo i livelli occupazionali. La stessa garanzia ha dovuto dare la Opel a fronte degli aiuti del governo tedesco, mentre, sempre in Germania, la Daimler si è accordata con i sindacati per assicurare il mantenimento dei 37mila addetti attuali fino al 2020, rinunciando a spostare la produzione della classe C negli Usa. La presunta efficienza privata sembra non poter resistere senza la comoda rete di salvataggio pubblica. Il capitalismo reale è dappertutto questo: profitti privati con soldi pubblici.
Ma in Italia il governo e lo Stato, assumendo una posizione del tutto subalterna di fronte alla Fiat, non ottengono neanche una contropartita minima in termini occupazionali in cambio dei soldi pubblici erogati, che finiscono per finanziare soltanto l'espansionismo estero della Fiat. A maggior ragione il governo di un premier, Berlusconi, che ha tutto l'interesse a non scontentare la Fiat in vista dei giochi di riassetto del potere economico in cui è impegnato in Italia.
ON "ABC-TV" Monday October 12, 2009
DURING THE "NETWORK SPECIAL ON HEALTH CARE".... OBAMA WAS ASKED:
"MR PRESIDENT WILL YOU AND YOUR FAMILY GIVE UP YOUR CURRENT HEALTH CARE PROGRAM AND JOIN THE NEW 'UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE PROGRAM' THAT THE REST OF US WILL BE ON ????"
THERE WAS A STONEY SILENCE AS OBAMA IGNORED THE QUESTION AND CHOSE NOT TO ANSWER IT !!!
IN ADDITION, A NUMBER OF SENATORS WERE ASKED THE SAME QUESTION AND THEIR RESPONSE WAS."WE WILL THINK ABOUT IT."
AND THEY DID. IT WAS ANNOUNCED TODAY ON THE NEWS THAT THE "KENNEDY HEALTH CARE BILL" WAS WRITTEN INTO THE NEW HEALTH CARE REFORM INITIATIVE ENSURING THAT THAT CONGRESS WILL BE 100% EXEMPT !
SO, THIS GREAT NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN THAT IS GOOD FOR YOU AND I... IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR OBAMA, HIS FAMILY OR CONGRESS...??
WE (THE AMERICAN PUBLIC) NEED TO STOP THIS PROPOSED DEBACLE ASAP !!!!
THIS IS TOTALLY WRONG !!!!!
PERSONALLY, I CAN ONLY ACCEPT A UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE OVERHAUL THAT EXTENDS TO EVERYONE... NOT JUST US LOWLY CITIZENS... WHILE THE WASHINGTON "ELITE" KEEP RIGHT ON WIHT THEIR GOLD-PLATED HEALTH CARE COVERAGES.
If you don't pass this around, may you enjoy his Plan!
The Republic has a CONSTITUTION???
Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators or Representatives, and Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.
Imagine what would happen if everybody passed this around?
di redazione, BlueRating, 04-02-2010 10:30
La procura ha aperto un’inchiesta per truffa a capo dei due istituti, in merito alla vendita di derivati all’ente pubblico per far fronte alla ristrutturazione della Sanità.
Merrill Lynch e Dexia-Crediop sono al centro di un giallo finanziario ambientato nella regione Puglia.
Due ex funzionari degli istituti sono infatti indagati per truffa aggravata ai danni della Regione Puglia in una inchiesta della procura di Bari per una vendita di derivati all'ente regionale per far fronte a un debito della Sanità nel 2003-2004. L’ammontare del danno si aggirerebbe intorno ai 100 milioni.
La notizia è diffusa dalla stessa Procura della Repubblica di Bari, che ha il controllo dell’inchiesta avviata nel 2009 e coordinata dal pm Francesco Bretone.
L’indagine fa riferimento alla ristrutturazione del debito sanitario regionale a cura delle due banche tramite il collocamento nel biennio di bond della regione per 870 milioni.
“Il reato contestato ai rappresentanti degli istituti di credito è quello di truffa aggravata ai danni di un ente pubblico”, si legge nel rapporto della procura.
Dalle parti coinvolte invece una nota di Dexia Crediop dichiara “di non aver sottoscritto con la Regione Puglia alcuna operazione in derivati”, sottolineando inoltre di “avere tempestivamente adottato sin dal 2003 il modello organizzativo previsto dal D.lgs 231 del 2001”.
Da Merril Lynch ancora nessuna dichiarazione ufficiale, ma nei confronti dell’istituto la procura ha richiesto la misura interdittiva del divieto di stipulare contratti con la pubblica amministrazione per due anni, che sarà discussa davanti al Gip in un'udienza il 10 marzo.Gli illeciti contestati a Merrill Lynch International, con sede estera a Londra e sede legale italiana in Milano, e Dexia-Crediop Spa con sede legale in Roma, riguardano il mancato utilizzo, prima della commissione dei fatti ascritti alle persone fisiche, di “ modelli organizzativi idonei a prevenire il verificarsi dei reati”.
Nell'ambito della medesima inchiesta, il nucleo di polizia tributaria della Guardia di Finanza di Bari ha eseguito oggi un sequestro preventivo, disposto dal gip di Bari, della rata semestrale che la Regione Puglia versa nel sinking fund, circa 30 milioni di euro, nonché il sequestro per equivalente del profitto sui beni patrimoniali degli istituti di credito internazionali fino a un importo di circa 73 milioni di euro. All'epoca dei fatti assessore al Bilancio era Rocco Palese, attuale candidato Pdl alle regionali, mentre presidente della Regione era Raffaele Fitto, oggi ministro per gli Affari regionali.
By Elisa Martinuzzi
Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s financial police are seizing 73.3 million euros ($102 million) of assets from Bank of America Corp. and a unit of Dexia SA as part of a probe into an alleged derivatives fraud in the region of Apulia.
Police are investigating losses on derivatives linked to the sale of 870 million euros of bonds sold by the regional government in 2003 and 2004, according to an e-mail from the prosecutor’s office in Bari today. The banks misled the municipality, located in the heel of Italy, on the economic advantages of the transaction and concealed their fees, the prosecutor said.
The region, also known as Puglia, joins more than 519 Italian municipalities that face 990 million euros in derivatives losses, according to data compiled by the Bank of Italy. In Milan, prosecutors seized assets from four banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS AG in April and requested they stand trial for alleged fraud. Hearings started this month.
“Italy, like other countries, is full of these examples,” said Dario Loiacono, a banking lawyer in Milan who isn’t involved in the case. “It’s the result of the unavoidable asymmetry of information between the banks and the municipal borrowers.”
Police are sequestering a further 30 million euros that the municipality was set to place in a fund managed by the banks on Feb. 6, the prosecutor said. The magistrate also asked that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America be stopped from doing business with Italian municipalities for two years. A hearing is slated for next month.
A spokesman for Bank of America in London declined to comment. Dexia Crediop SpA doesn’t have derivatives contracts with the region, the Rome-based Dexia unit said in an e-mailed statement. An official for the bank declined further comment.
Merrill Lynch, bought by Bank of America in January 2009, managed the bond sales for Apulia in 2003 and 2004. The bank didn’t provide the municipality with appropriate information on the financing, said the prosecutor. Officials at the municipality didn’t speak English, and contracts weren’t translated into Italian.
Merrill also recommended that Apulia seek advice from an international law firm, without disclosing that Merrill itself had a long-standing business relationship with the law firm, the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors allege that when the banks arranged swaps and created a fund that invests money the region set aside to repay the bonds in 2023, they misled the region about the economic advantages of the transaction. Banks skewed the swaps to their advantage to hide fees, the prosecutor said.
Derivatives are financial instruments derived from stocks, bonds, loans, currencies and commodities, or linked to specific events like changes in interest rates or weather.
The seizure of Apulia’s semi-annual repayment of the bond will neither affect the interest payments bondholders receive nor will it affect the final repayment, the prosecutor said. Apulia is rated A1 by Moody’s Investors Service, four levels below the top investment grade.
Legendary historian Eustace Mullins dies
Legendary author of hundreds of books and pamphlets demolishing the lies of warmaking mainstream media, historian Eustace Mullins died Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the home of his caretaker in a small town in Texas.
Mullins, who would have been 87 in March, suffered a stroke three weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio. He had been on an extended tour of his admirers for much of the past year, visiting and chatting with many of his thousands of fans who jumped at the chance to buy his books from him in person.
The author of such incendiary books as “Secrets of the Federal Reserve,” “Murder by Injection,” and “The Curse of Canaan,” Mullins was harrassed by the FBI for almost a half century, and had one of his books burned in Germany in the 1950s. These stories are recounted in one of his books, “A Writ for Martyrs.”
A protege of the imprisoned patriotic poet Ezra Pound, Mullins compiled a well-researched corpus of works that detailed the passage down through time of a hereditary group of banker killers who have essentially ruled the world from behind the scenes since ancient times.
“Eustace Mullins was the greatest political historian of the 20th century, and not just because he was not beholden to the power structure that deters candid reports about significant events, but because, guided by the greatest poet of the 20th century who was imprisoned for broadcasting for peace, his meticulous research eventually uncovered virtually every political secret of the last 400 years,” said Internet essayist John Kaminski of Mullins’ passing.
“It’s a pity so many people are afraid to believe what Mullins told them, because it was much more of the truth than has ever been seen in our schools or our media,” Kaminski added.
Funeral arrangements and appropriate memorial information have yet to be released.
How Chase Bank Has Left Homeowners in Limbo
For Herron, that was hard to understand. She was working two jobs and her mortgage payment still amounted to more than half of her income. She’d fallen two payments behind. If her money troubles were only temporary, it was news to her.
We at ProPublica reported last month that mortgage servicers are often not following the Treasury Department’s rules for the program and provided three examples. One involved another homeowner who, like Herron, had been denied a modification because his hardship was not “permanent.”
Since that story, we have found several other similar cases: homeowners who may well be eligible for the program but who were denied because their troubles were not deemed “permanent.”
The cases ProPublica found all occurred before Treasury explicitly barred such denials in December. Despite the change in guidelines, however, those homeowners are still in limbo. Some face the possibility of foreclosure.
Through interviews with housing counselors and homeowners, we found six cases in which homeowners were denied because the hardship was found not to be “permanent.” All were in November. All were denied by Chase Home Finance, JPMorgan Chase’s mortgage servicing arm.
Chase seems to be alone among the largest servicers in having used that reason for denial. It’s unclear just what criteria Chase used to judge a hardship temporary.
Housing counselors told us that homeowners denied a modification for that reason should reapply. The program does not allow homeowners to appeal denials, and housing advocates have often criticized the program for not providing an effective way to challenge servicers’ determinations.
Christine Holevas, a spokeswoman for Chase, said that the company “adapts as quickly as possible” to Treasury’s guidelines. When asked, she did not say whether Chase would review the applications of homeowners who’d been denied because their hardships were considered temporary.
As we reported last month, the largest servicers have lagged in approving homeowners for modifications. Together, those servicers account for more than 60 percent of the 3.4 million mortgages eligible for the program, but very few homeowners have been approved for lasting modifications. About 425,000 Chase customers are eligible for loan mods, according to the Treasury Department. Only a little more than 7,000 have received permanent modifications.
The Treasury Department has laid out extensive guidelines for the $75 billion program in an attempt to standardize servicers’ evaluations of applicants. When a servicer joins the program, it signs a contract that says it will abide by those guidelines. In return, the servicers receive incentive payments from the government for each modified mortgage.
To receive a modification under the program, homeowners must demonstrate that they can’t afford their mortgage payments. But Treasury’s guidelines, first issued last April and updated repeatedly since, never mentioned testing the permanence of a homeowner’s difficulties when evaluating an application. Last December, a new guideline explicitly prohibited servicers from distinguishing “between short-term and long-term hardships.”
A Treasury spokeswoman said that since the program’s launch, servicers had developed “varying interpretations of the guidelines” and that Chase’s use of the “temporary hardship” denial before the guideline update was “reasonably consistent” with the program’s rules. She said that homeowners who’d been denied for that reason can contact a hotline staffed with housing counselors for help.
It’s impossible to say how many homeowners were denied for that reason. Servicers were not required to systematically collect and report the reason for denials before December. The reporting system includes only 14 possible reasons for denial; having only a temporary hardship is not one of them. Holevas did not respond to a question about the number of denials.
Jennifer Murphy, director of servicer relations at the nonprofit Center for New York City Neighborhoods, said that she had often seen homeowners rejected for modifications because their hardships were deemed “not permanent”—both before and after the launch of the federal modification program last year. As a result, she said, she advises homeowners to state that their hardships are permanent when they apply.
ProPublica could not find an example of any of the other top three largest servicers using the same denial. Spokespeople for Wells Fargo and Citigroup’s servicing arm said they do not evaluate the duration of the hardship for the purposes of the program. A spokesperson for Bank of America gave a more general reply and said the bank follows the program’s guidelines when evaluating homeowners.
Homeowners must meet certain basic qualifications to be eligible for a modification under the program: the home must be the primary residence and the homeowner must be able to show she can’t afford the mortgage payments. If those hurdles are cleared, the servicer is supposed to run a secret formula developed by the Treasury Department to determine whether the investor would make more money modifying the loan or not. The program lowers the mortgage payments to 31 percent of the homeowner’s monthly income. If modification is likely to be more profitable, the servicer is obligated to offer the homeowner a modification.
Chase’s criteria for a “hardship ... of a permanent nature,” meanwhile, aren’t so easily explicable. The denial seems to have been applied in a range of cases. Some homeowners had been current on their payments when they applied for a modification, some were months behind. Some had been denied even a trial modification, while some had been denied after making trial payments for over half a year. The program is supposed to feature a three-month trial period before modifications are made permanent (as we’ve reported, trials frequently stretch much longer).
In the example we reported on last month, Chase told a mortgage broker named Nathan Reynolds that he’d been denied a modification because Reynolds had expressed optimism that the administration’s policies might rescue the housing market and thus boost his income. He told ProPublica that he’d likely declare bankruptcy if he didn’t receive a modification.
Yves Andre Vital, a housing counselor with Brooklyn Housing & Family Services, told ProPublica that Chase had denied one of his clients on the rationale that unemployment was only a temporary hardship.
In Lesa Herron’s case, she says a Chase employee told her she’d been denied because her gross income had not decreased since she refinanced into her loan in 2006. Herron works as an X-ray technician at a state-run center for people with developmental disabilities, but has supplemented her income by delivering pizza three nights a week for the past nine years.
Since last fall, she’d struggled to keep current on her loan, which carries a 9.5 percent interest rate and amounted to more than half of her income. But when she couldn’t cover the property tax, she fell two months behind. She was accepted to the federal program last May and was able to make the trial payments, because they’d been cut almost in half, from $3,350 to about $1,778.
Herron made six of those monthly payments before she received the denial letter for a permanent modification last November. She didn’t know what to do next. “I stopped paying my mortgage so that my family and I could get the money together to move when the bank made their next move.” She says she might try reapplying now that she knows her denial is against the federal program’s guidelines.