This is episode 6 of the Moment of Clarity Show: In this episode of the Moment of Clarity Show, we cover why unemployment is here to stay, how hedge funds ruined your favorite food, why I hate "The Big Bang Theory," and I interview rapper Speciez on how money ruined rap.
In his latest article for Rolling Stone, "Looting the Pension Funds: Five years after the financial crisis, Wall Street is picking at the carcass of flat-broke city and state governments, blaming public workers and making millions to 'rescue' them,” Matt Taibbi reports that Wall Street firms are now making millions in profits off of public pension funds nationwide. "Essentially it is a wealth transfer from teachers, cops and firemen to billionaire hedge funders," Taibbi says. "Pension funds are one of the last great, unguarded piles of money in this country and there are going to be all sort of operators that are trying to get their hands on that money."
Matt Taibbi joins Amy Goodman, and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! to discuss his new article.
Matt Taibbi: "The primary focus of my piece, there were a couple of things. Number one, how did these funds come to be broke the first place? I think everyone realizes that states are in fiscal crises or having trouble paying out their obligations to workers. One of the reasons is that at least 14 states have not been making their annual required contributions to the pension fund for years and years and years. So essentially, they have been illegally borrowing from these pension funds, sometimes going back decades. Another focus of the piece was the solution that a lot of sort of Wall Street funded think tanks are coming up with now is to get higher returns by putting these funds into alternative investments like hedge funds. In a lot of cases what I’m finding is that the fees that states are paying for these new hedge funds and these new types of alternatives investments are actually roughly equal to the cuts that they are taking from workers. Like in the state of Rhode Island, for instance, they have frozen the cost of living adjustment and the frozen cola roughly equals the fees that they’re paying to hedge funds in that state. So essentially it is a wealth transfer from teachers, cops, and firemen to billionaire hedge-funders."
A Robin Hood Tax on the banks could raise tens of billions to help protect public services, fight poverty and tackle climate change at home and abroad.
This tax has gathered support from dozens of countries, including Germany, France, South Africa and Brazil. Bill Gates, Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Vatican and 1,000 economists have added their support. Yet the U.K. Government is continuing to resist this growing international pressure to introduce a Robin Hood Tax.
It’s simple: the financial crisis and the recession have left a massive hole in the U.K.’s public finances. Jobs and public services are at risk in the U.K. while many other developed and developing countries face a similar struggle.
But there is another way. Thousands of Robin Hood supporters believe that banks, hedge funds and the rest of the financial sector should pay their fair share to clear up the mess they helped create.
In a nutshell, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate billions of pounds – hopefully even hundreds of billions of pounds. That money will fight poverty in the U.K. and overseas. It will tackle climate change. And it will come from fairer taxation of the financial sector.
A tiny tax on the financial sector can generate £20 billion annually in the U.K. alone. That's enough to protect schools and hospitals. Enough to stop massive cuts across the public sector. Enough to build new lives around the world – and to deal with the new climate challenges our world is facing.
As a result of the financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has calculated U.K. government debt will be 40% higher. That 40% equates to £737 billion pounds, or £28,000 pounds for every taxpayer in the country. Having to pay back that debt means cuts in vital services on which millions of people around the country rely.
Total cost to the U.K. of financial crisis in terms of lost output according to the IMF was 27% of 2008 GDP.
So it's time for justice. It's time for justice for ordinary families and businesses. For the one in five British families faced with a choice between buying food or paying the heating bill. For the millions of people around the world forced into poverty by a financial crisis they did absolutely nothing to bring about.
The Robin Hood Tax is justice. The banks can afford it. The systems are in place to collect it. It won't affect ordinary members of the public, their bank accounts or their savings. It's fair, it's timely, and it's possible.
DemocracyNow! discusses a major new exposé on the cover of The Nation magazine called "Mitt Romney’s Bailout Bonanza: How He Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit." Investigative reporter Greg Palast reveals how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney’s top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout. Palast’s report is part of a film-in-progress called "Romney’s Bailout Bonanza." Palast is the author of several books, including recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."
Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan, blamed “errors, sloppiness and bad judgment” for the loss, which stemmed from a hedging strategy that backfired.
The trading in that hedge roiled markets a month ago, when rumors started circulating of a JPMorgan trader in London whose bets were so big that he was nicknamed “the London Whale” and “Voldemort,” after the Harry Potter villain.
The losses are expected to take a toll on the bank’s larger earnings, with the corporate group expected to lose $800 million in the second quarter, the company said today in its quarterly securities filings. JPMorgan had previously estimated that it would report a net income of roughly $200 million. The final report will depend on if the company can recover, though Dimon said things could “easily get worse.”
Given Dimon’s resistance to the ban and new regulations, “he’s got a lot of egg on his face right now,” said Craig Pirrong, a finance professor at the University of Houston. “Any chance they had of getting a relative loosening of Volcker rule, anything of that nature, that’s out the window.”
“It’s classic Wall Street hubris, which we’ve seen so many times before,” said Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund who now teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “What’s particularly ironic here is that Jamie presents himself, and is believed by others to be, the king of risk management.”
In an emailed correspondence, Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and co-author of the Merkley-Levin language establishing the Volcker Rule, issued the following statement Thursday in reaction to news that JP Morgan had suffered a $2 billion trading loss:
“The enormous loss JP Morgan announced today is just the latest evidence that what banks call ‘hedges’ are often risky bets that so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks have no business making. Today’s announcement is a stark reminder of the need for regulators to establish tough, effective standards to implement the Merkley-Levin language to protect taxpayers from having to cover such high-risk bets.”