Thursday, April 30, 2009

Right to Decide on Health Care

Who should have the right to decide the health care you need?
A. You and your doctor
B. An insurance corporation

The entire health care debate comes down for me to this 1 single question. If the answer is “A,” then there should be no place in providing health care to human beings for insurance corporations. The only solution is Medicare for everybody — a single-payer health care model.

With the federal budget blueprint now passed by Congress, attention will soon turn to health care “reform.” The article below starkly lays out the challenges — and the contrasts.


Published on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 by
Standing Against Single Payer

My Ron Pollack Problem ­ and Yours
by Russell Mokhiber

Karen Ignagni is not the problem.

As president of America's Health Insurance Plans, Karen Ignagni represents the health insurance industry.

The same health insurance industry that would be wiped out by a single payer national health insurance system.

We know where Karen Ignagni stands.

She stands with the health insurance industry.

Against the will of the American people.

If she stood with the will of the American people, she would effectively be asking her member insurance companies to commit suicide.

Not going to happen.

Ron Pollack is executive director of Families USA.

Ron Pollack identifies himself as a consumer advocate.

Or more precisely as an advocate for health care consumers.

The majority of the American people stand with single payer.

And against the health insurance industry.

And against the pharmaceutical industry.

But Ron Pollack stands against single payer.

Against the will of the American people.

With the health insurance industry.

And with the pharmaceutical industry.

Think we're kidding?

Well, on Thursday at 3 p.m., Ron Pollack will join Karen Ignagni in a live web chat to discuss "health reform."

The live web chat is sponsored by The Campaign for an American Solution. [1]

The Campaign for an American Solution is a fake grassroots group created by the health insurance industry.

The idea is that we can't have single payer because it's not American.

Or as Senator Max Baucus put it when asked about single payer last month - "We have come up with a uniquely American solution which is a combination of public and private, because we are America."

Yes we are, Max.

But there is a uniquely American solution and it's called single payer.

Check out Jonathan Cohn's New Republic interview [2] with Michael Chen of Taiwan's single payer system. Chen told Cohn that when Taiwan was in our predicament years ago, they searched the world for a better health care system. They came to the United States and studied Medicare. And they then went back to Taiwan and modeled their single payer system on Medicare.

Anyway, on Thursday at 3 p.m.,this so called consumer advocate, Ron Pollack, will be standing with Karen Ignagni, advocating against single payer.

Last week, Ron Pollack joined with Billy Tauzin, the head of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and unveiled [3] "a campaign to promote three key policies designed to help achieve high-quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans."

None of which will do anything to fundamentally alter the private health insurance industry and drug industry's death grip on America's health consumers.

So, no Karen Ignagni is not the problem.

Billy Tauzin is not the problem.

The Republican Party is not the problem.

We know where they stand.

They stand with big corporations.

Against the American people.

The problem is Ron Pollack.

The problem is Max Baucus.

The problem is the Democratic Party.

The problem lies with people who say they stand with the people.

But end up standing with Billy Tauzin.

And Karen Ignagni.

And big pharma.

And the private health insurance industry.

The problem is that the so called opposition is no opposition at all.

Yesterday, I attended a conference on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform - another "collegial group."

Dirksen 106 was packed with over 200 staffers and lobbyists.

The topic: Public Plan Option: Fair Competition or a Recipe for Crowd Out?

There were four people on the panel.

Two argued against giving consumers a choice between public plan and private plan - Karen Ignagni and Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation.

Two argued for giving consumers a choice for a public plan - John Holahan of the Urban Institute and Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund.

In opening remarks, John Holahan was downright defensive.

Holahan said a public plan was not part of a "a secret plot to destroy the insurance industry and bring about a single payer system."

There were no advocates for single payer at the table.

Of the 75 or so health policy experts listed in the packet, I couldn't find one advocate for single payer.

So, when question time arrived, I got to a microphone:

"John Holahan said that he's not part of a secret plot to destroy the insurance industry," I said. "But there is actually a public plot to destroy the private insurance industry. It's called HR 676. It's single payer. And it has 76 members of the House who support it. The Lewin Group did a side by side analysis of all of the plans, and they found that single payer saves the most money. The single payer idea is that the private health insurance industry deserves to be destroyed. In Canada and the UK it's unlawful to sell private health insurance for basic health needs. That's the idea behind single payer. Other than the fact that it would be the death penalty to Karen Ignagni's companies, why not do it?"

Out of deference to Karen Ignagni, the panelists pretty much ignored the question.

It was as if the question hadn't been asked.

That's the problem with collegiality.

The industry is facing the death penalty.

It's either them.

Or us.

No amount of collegiality can mask that stark reality.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter [4]. He is also founder of [5].

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Education and Action on Bank Bailouts

There is both hope and concern about the increasing awareness and actions on the ongoing plunder of the public treasury to bail out the mega banks and their investors.

The hope springs from this fact from a recent email from A New Way Forward...

1. 94% of Americans don't agree with the bailout plans. More than 50% of people support temporary nationalization (1).

A major concern is based on two other facts from the same A New Way Forward email...

2. So far, the bailouts have cost each U.S. household $18,584. If you factor in the money we have thrown at banks in the form of guarantees, that figure jumps to $79,646 (2).

3. Companies that received TARP bailout funds spent over $114 million lobbying in 2008 (3).

Based on the actions of Congress concerning the banks, one must conclude the $114 million was money very well spent...or invested. Note, our federal elected officials have yet to:
- Audit bailout funds that went to banks (where have our tax dollars actually gone?)
demand that misused bailout funds be returned
- Investigate and prosecute those in the financial sector responsible for the global financial crisis
- Demand that insolvent banks be taken over (as federal statute requires under the Prompt Corrective Action Law)
- Oppose any additional funding in the fiscal year 2010 budget for bank bailouts.

Our challenge is immense. Due to the lack of financial literacy in our schools, media, and rest of society, most of the public (myself included) are trying to catch up and understand the ABCs of money and finance. Banksters already know this stuff...and their lobbying and campaign contributions are powerful reinforcements to elected officials dependent on huge sums of money to remain in office.

On the other hand, none of us need to become financial wiz kids to understand that this issue is more than just about dollars (be they millions, billions, or trillions).

It’s also, if not primarily, about self-governance...
- The ability to limit or prohibit banks from creating arcane financial “products” that don’t add anything to the real economy or to the lives of people and communities
- The power to hold those who have acted unaccountable to the public responsible for their actions
- The authority of the public to be the primary agent for issuing money rather than private banks.

These are critical if we have any hope of being in charge of our money and finances...which are the basis of most everything else.

Public Education Opportunities

Several efforts are underway to encourage public education on the bank bailout and related issues of justice and self-governance. They are listed here to inspire you to consider taking part in or replicating them where you are:

Bail-out working people — Not the Banks”
May 9, San Francisco

A New Way Forward Financial Crisis Forums -- June 10
If you want to hold a forum, show a video, invite speakers, etc. on the financial crisis in your city, sign up here:



1. Forbes article on 6% in support of current bailout plans.

2. Where's My Money?

3. TARP Funds from Open Secrets.

Workers Emergency Recovery Campaign
American Monetary Act
Transparency in the Creation of Wealth Act of 2008
Introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, October 3, 2008

Geithner, Member and Overseer of Finance Club
BofA, Citi May Need More Capital

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


From the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee
April 22, 2009

Many of the largest banks in the nation are effectively insolvent. They continue in existence only because they have received hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. The proposed FY 2010 federal budget contains upwards of $750 billion to bailout insolvent banks and other financial institutions. This is in addition to the $700 billion in emergency funding approved by Congress last year plus another $3.3 trillion the executive branch approved in loans and leverages.

The Prompt Corrective Action Law (Title 12, Chapter 16, Section 1831o) was created following the bailout of the Savings and Loan crisis to protect taxpayers. The law mandates that severely undercapitalized banks be promptly put into receivership (i.e., nationalized or democratized).

William K. Black, former senior regulator during the 1980’s savings and loan crisis and current Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, asserts that both the Bush and Obama administrations have consciously and deliberately violated this law by not taking over insolvent banks. By not doing so, the US continues to pour billions of taxpayer dollars down the bank bailout drain.

We ask that you call on the Obama Administration to enforce the Prompt Corrective Action Law. We ask that you communicate this message through your legislative powers — write a letter, speak out on the floor of Congress, call or organize a congressional hearing, and/or introduce legislation.

Earlier this week, Neil Barofsky, the Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) concluded that federal bank bailout program is “tilted in favor of private investors.” Taxpayers are the losers.

JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo Wachovia, the five major US-based banking corporations, hold the vast majority of all known toxic assets. Their speculative financial gambles have imperiled the overall economy, citizens and taxpayers. The Prompt Corrective Action Law should be applied first and foremost to any or all these banks if they are proven to be insolvent.

Present US taxpayers and their descendents cannot afford to bailout insolvent banks. Our federal budget priorities demand that our tax dollars should be spent helping the real economy and real people through investments in jobs, health care, education, alternative energy, and infrastructure.

Laws meant to protect our institutions and society in general should be enforced, not ignored. That includes the Prompt Corrective Action Law.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bank Bailout Report: Investors Favored Over Taxpayers

Now here's shocking news.

The US Inspector General says in a quarterly report that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is tilted in favor of bank investors over taxpayers.

Isn't this what the average person on the street has been saying for six months?

Taxpayer bailout money hasn't resulted in increased bank lending, which has declined. Instead, banks have used taxpayer money to bail out their investors.

In a twist of the military "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the report states the US Treasury has also refused to adopt the inspector general's earlier recommendation that all recipients of TARP funds account for the use of all government money received. Consequently, banks haven't had to disclose where and how our tax dollars have been spent.

The historic heist of our tax dollars can only be remedied by public take over of failed banks.


Bank bailout may hurt taxpayers, be open to fraud
April 20, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Taxpayers are increasingly exposed to losses and the government is more vulnerable to fraud under Obama administration initiatives that have created a federal bank bailout program of "unprecedented scope," a government report finds.

In a 250-page quarterly report to Congress, the rescue program's special inspector general concludes that a private-public partnership designed to rid financial institutions of their "toxic assets" is tilted in favor of private investors and creates "potential unfairness to the taxpayer."

The report, which examines the six-month old, $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, is scheduled for release Tuesday.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Greg Coleridge April 16, 2009 Epiphany Catholic Church Cleveland

My name is Greg Coleridge. I’m the Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker related social action organization. We work for the dignity and respect of every person, regardless of race, gender, income, religion, ethnicity, physical ability, or sexual orientation.

The proposed FY 2010 federal budget contains upwards of $750 billion to bailout out insolvent banks and other financial institutions. This is in addition to the $700 billion in emergency funding approved by Congress last year plus another $3.3 trillion that the administration slipped through the back door in loans and leverage for crappy mortgage paper.

- These are the same insolvent banks and financial institutions largely responsible though their wild and bizarre investments for the massive housing foreclosure crisis that have caused an economic Katrina in communities like Cleveland
- They are the same insolvent banks and financial institutions that have drawn from $700 billion in emergency funding and another $3.3 previous taxpayer bailout funds to give their CEO’s huge bonuses and perks, buy other banks, and bailout wealthy investors.
- The same insolvent banks and financial institutions that have refused to disclose to the federal government how they have actually spent the tax payers dollars they have already spent.
- Many of the same insolvent banks and financial institutions who still are not lending money to businesses or people – the reason for the bailout to begin with
- And many of the same insolvent banks and financial institutions who lobbied and gave political contributions to reduce or eliminate regulations prior to the financial crisis and to continue to lobby and make political contributions today to prevent tough regulations and controls.

Not a penny more of our tax dollars should be flushed down the bank bailout drain. Rather, federal funds should be used to clean up the financial mess and help real people and the real economy. Here are 4 proposals:

1. Federal funds should be directed to enforce the Prompt Corrective Action Law, a federal law that mandates the government seize insolvent banks to protect tax payers. Insolvent banks are a financial drain that we can no longer afford. Banks that are too big to fail are simply too big to exist.
2. Federal funds should be directed to low and moderate income people facing home foreclosure. Foreclosures soared in March, up 44 percent over February’s high. This is a crisis that must immediately be addressed.
3. The global financial crisis has led to a real unemployment rate, what economists call the U-6 rate, of 16%. This is almost at Great Depression levels. More federal funds are needed to hire people of all races and genders.
4. Federal funds need to be set aside to create a national bank -- to assume the responsibilities of the mis-named Federal Reserve Bank. With big banks unwilling to make money available for loans, it’s time for the federal government to create what many other federal governments have – a national bank independent from any corporate bank or financial institution. The creation and allocation of money is too important to be left to financial corporations who operate in a profit maximization mode. It’s time to create a national public bank accountable to the public to serve the needs of the public.

Thank you.

Tipping Point for Single-Payer Health Care?

The free market medical care system is bankrupt. Why is the US the only western so-called civilized nation in the world that does not provide national health care to ALL its citizens?

Maybe learning that injured US military contractors who worked in Iraq being shafted by insurance corporations, including AIG -- poster child for massive government welfare, will pierce the consciousness of at least some who see medicare for all as “socialism” (link below).

It will happen one of these days — not for moral or human reasons, but economic. US businesses (most notably at the moment the automotive) are in large part uncompetitive because they must add the cost of health care to their sticker price. Japanese, European, and Canadian auto companies do not.

There is simply no greater disconnect of any issue in this nation than what a majority of people desire and where politicians stand than on health care. The insurance corporations have bought, leased, rented, and retained public officials to keep insurance corporations in the loop of any/all health care “reforms.” Only a single-payer system (where individuals can still visit the doctors and other medical providers of their choice) removes them from the equation.

Injured War Zone Contractors Fight to Get Care
T. Christian Miller and Doug Smith, The Los Angeles Times: "Civilian workers who suffered devastating injuries while supporting the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home to a grinding battle for basic medical care, artificial limbs, psychological counseling and other services. The insurance companies responsible for their treatment under taxpayer-funded policies have routinely denied the most serious medical claims. Those insurers - primarily American International Group (AIG) - recorded hundreds of millions of dollars in profits on this business."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Democracy Taxed

Nobody prefers paying taxes...with the possible exception of IRS employees who realize that their tax returns along with those of others keep them employed.

Hardly anyone enjoys coughing up hard-earned money to “the government.”

Everyone likes to rail about taxes especially today, “Tax Day,” April 15.

But taxes are the necessary price for a civil society.

Fire and police protection. Food inspectors. Air traffic controllers. Libraries. Unemployment insurance. Water and sewer systems. Border protection. Medical care for senior citizens. Courts. Public parks and open spaces. Educational, nutritional, and medical programs for pre-school age children. Boards of elections. Enforcement of clean air and water laws.

These and hundreds of other social, economic and political functions are the glue that bond people and their/our institutions together to forge community. Humans are social beings. We need social networks — both informal and formal.

Governments are one type of formal network that at their best reflect the will of their inhabitants through their constitutions, rules, laws, policies and programs. Taxes provide the funds that allow governments to create and maintain these functions.

Are all taxes fair? No. Are tax dollars wasted? Absolutely. Can other formal networks besides governments sometimes perform the same social function without tax dollars. Sure.

This doesn’t mean we don’t need taxes.

At their best, governments are us. We need public structures and institutions that create, maintain, protect, and defend the commons and collective goals. We also need governments to control and define the other major organized structure and institution in our societies that threaten self-governance — the major one being business corporations.

As problematic as governments may be in representing its citizens, they are bastions of self-governance compared to business corporations. Business corporations are not democratic. Employees have no Bill of Rights protections. Business corporations are not loyal to any people or place. Business corporations, in fact, seek to supplant the role of government not just economically but politically. That’s what drives privatization of public assets and institutions.  

Several dozen “Tax Day Tea Parties” are taking place today across Ohio — as part of a nationwide revolt against  taxes. They’re billed as nonpartisan. Many I’ve read about are focused on opposing President Obama’s stimulus programs. Whether deliberate or not, the tenor of these brewing tax revolt actions, however, seems to be much more — to reduce the power, authority, and wherewithal of government to:

  1. Define and control corporate actions
  2. Ensure that governments can’t assume new authorities that may be better in the public rather than the corporate domain — i.e. controlling the issuance of national currency, and/or
  3. Decrease the ability of government to meet basic public functions, thereby, opening the door to selling or leasing them to for-profit business corporations.

There’s no question we need a tax revolt. The proposed fiscal year federal budget calls for over $700 billion for military spending (to maintain a military empire with bases and troops in more than 100 nations, including current wars and occupations in several) and $750 billion more to bailout banks that lost trillions in risky and bizarre financial gambles. An increasing amount of our tax dollars are in the form of corporate welfare. None of this increases housing security, health care security, environmental security, job security (expect for bankers and military contractors), or education security. It’s not taxes that are revolting but how and where they’re spent.

Reducing taxes for any of the three reasons above simply taxes democracy by decreasing the ability of governments to set and enforce laws, rules, priorities and programs that reflect the wishes and interests of the vast majority of the public --- and against those running national and transnational business corporations.

In a time when the “free market” and Wall Street has demonstrated beyond doubt its lack of service to the public interest and lack of public accountability, government provides the best institutional path to authentic public accountability and responsibility.

Tax Day Tea Parties only brews blanket hostility at the government and represents an effort to divert popular anger away from where it most needs to be — against the growing power and rights of business corporations and toward creating a government ruled by people.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A New Way Forward

Protests Scheduled Across the Country Calling on Banks to Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize


National demonstrations are scheduled in more than fifty cities across the country tomorrow to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis. The demonstrations are organized by the recently launched group A New Way Forward. They are calling on the government to take three main actions on the country’s banks: nationalize, reorganize and decentralize. [includes rush transcript.


Greg Coleridge, Director of the Economic Justice and Empowerment Program at the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. They are sponsoring one of the rallies taking place across the country on April 11th that is being coordinated “The Way Forward.”

Related Links

AMY GOODMAN: National demonstrations are scheduled in more than fifty cities around the country Saturday to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis. In Phoenix, a demonstration is being held outside the headquarters of AIG. In Chicago, protesters will march in front of Bank of America. In Atlanta, people are demonstrating outside the Federal Reserve Bank. In New York, a rally is being held at Union Square. And many more actions are taking place across the country.

The demonstrations are organized by the recently launched group A New Way Forward. The group was formed to support alternative bailout than the ones already in place. They’re calling on the government to take three main actions on the country’s banks: nationalize, reorganize and decentralize.

Greg Coleridge is director of the Economic Justice and Empowerment Program at the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. They are sponsoring the protest being held in Cleveland on Saturday. He joins me here in Athens, Ohio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Greg. And thanks so much for taking the, what, four-hour drive from Cleveland to Athens.

GREG COLERIDGE: Just about. Good to be here with you. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about A New Way Forward. What is this decentralized action that’s happening around the country?

GREG COLERIDGE: Well, A New Way Forward is a relatively new organization, a grassroots citizen initiative, bottom-up, not affiliated with any existing formal, long-established organization, which gives it, I think, flexibility and mobility to respond to the needs and interests of people at the grassroots, who are increasingly concerned, angry, outraged at what has been going on since last fall, the blank check bailout of financial institutions from coast to coast, particularly the largest banks in this country that many people feel should not be helped in the way they have been but should be at least temporarily taken over, nationalized or democratized, depending on how people want to call it.

A New Way Forward, put together by a number of young activists who were very involved in the Howard Dean presidential campaign, decided they needed to organize this grassroots initiatives and serve as—I think it’s an arena where people from across the country can go and find information, inspiration and dedication of other people to organize grassroots, bottom-up protests that will be beginning this Saturday across the country at 2:00 in most cases, some communities elsewhere.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain your demands.

GREG COLERIDGE: Well, it’s as you pointed out in your introduction. It largely is based on the premise that we need profound structural reform and that that should include at least temporarily a takeover of some of the largest, most egregious and what many believe are fundamentally insolvent financial institutions. And some believe it’s like the big five or six—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo-Wachovia—that those five financial institutions alone house or are responsible for something like over 90 percent of the—what are considered to be the most toxic derivatives. And we should not be bailing out—people connected to A New Way Forward—those financial institutions. We need something else.

And what many people have called, including many Nobel Prize winners, is at least a temporary nationalization to take over these banks, get rid of their toxic assets, and put them back out on the market. And by doing so, it will save taxpayers billions, if not trillions, of dollars and move control back where I think it should be and was meant to be from day one in this country, under the realm of we the people, the public, that financial institutions, that the issuance of money and credit, are too important to be left exclusively to the hands of private business corporations.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what’s happening in Cleveland. For a time, wasn’t it ground zero for foreclosures? Whole neighborhoods closed?

GREG COLERIDGE: It sure was. To a certain extent, it still is, has been eclipsed to a certain extent by many of the Southern states now and Florida and Nevada and Arizona, California. But city of Cleveland and many inner cities in Ohio and elsewhere. Maybe Cleveland was the poster child, if you will, for the foreclosure crisis. In some communities in Cleveland alone, Slavic Village, in particular, was considered to be maybe among the worst and was seen coast-to-coast, if not around the world, people losing their homes, hard-working people, people who are solid salt of the earth who followed the rules, but who got caught up in the whole effort to—the lure, the temptation, that many banks put out there to get in over their heads to get a second mortgage, to become involved in these teaser early loan rates that may have been affordable in the first year or two, but then completely went out of control in years, you know, four, five and six, and so on.

And so, it’s communities like that that had been devastated, what some people have called an economic aftereffect of 9/11 or Katrina or the like, that we in the Cleveland area and across the country are trying respond to and feel that one of the principal causes for those conditions, economic conditions, were not the inappropriate actions or behaviors of those hard-working, follow-the-rules, salt-of-the-earth residents of Cleveland, Ohio, but the big banks.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about how you’re linking in Cleveland the issue of corporate personhood, this whole movement that has been growing around this country, not just this year, but for years?

GREG COLERIDGE: Well, we think they’re inextricably connected, that giving business corporations not just economic powers but, if you will, political powers to define and shape public policies, which they have done for a very long time and largely because they have hidden behind or shielded themselves underneath the Bill of Rights, where over literally decades—well, actually maybe more than a century now, business corporations have, like a salami, gradually won personhood rights of First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh Amendment rights, to be involved and engaged in the public policy arena. And certainly, the First Amendment rights to be involved, say, in being able to be involved in political campaigns has been part of the problem. By these financial corporations—well, all corporations, but most particularly, most recently, financial corporations contributing or investing in public policy and in campaigns and in candidates has resulted in the distortion of public policy and the mass shifting of regulations away from themselves to permit them to engage in these dangerous, bizarre and incredibly risky financial investments that have caused now this global—what’s called this global financial crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, how are you trying to make this real, in practice? How do you deal with this issue?

GREG COLERIDGE: Yeah. Well, we’re trying, number one, to make people aware that these realities exist, that these financial corporations have been party to contributing or investing $5 billion to public officials over the last number of years, that have resulted then in the deregulation through the reversal of Glass-Steagall and the Commodity Modification Act and the like. That’s an important first step, to make people aware of the distortion of public policy through campaign contributions, but also to call attention, that—right now, what should we do? Who really should have more rights to decide issues of credit or issues of the circulation of money in our communities? Should it be people, or should it be financial corporations and banks?

So what we’re trying to do is empower and energize, and thanks to A New Way Forward, it’s providing the forum or the arena where people can come together and try to offset financial power, money power, corporate power, that has been won over through the Constitution and laws and the like, and create a groundswell of people power, similar to what our forbearers a generation ago, several generations ago, did in the Populist Era, the 1870s and 1890s, where individuals came and realized that it was the banks and the railroad companies then that were controlling and ruling. And we’re trying to help people understand that the same kind of controlling and ruling by banking corporations are going on today, and that needs to be challenged fundamentally and profoundly.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, this Rasmussen poll that just came out that finds Americans are losing faith in capitalism?

GREG COLERIDGE: Well, I think if—unless you’ve been living under a rock or a tree for the last period of time, just putting all of our faith and eggs, if you will, financial and political, in the hands of these banking corporations to bring prosperity and tremendous global living standards to everyone and prosperity to people in this country has proven to be an enormous fraud. So people are, I think, responding appropriately. They’re saying that we need to have more of a role in the shaping of public policy, and that’s what these demonstrations—and actually, more than sixty communities, rather than fifty, are going to be doing this, A New Way Forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Coleridge, I want thank you very much for being with us. Greg Coleridge is director of the Economic Justice and Empowerment Program of the American Friends Service Committee of Northeast Ohio. We’re broadcasting here from Ohio University in Athens.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pillow Fighting Wall Street / April 11 Protests

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the Cleveland Plain Dealer today (Sunday) and saw a picture of a large crowd of people gathered on Wall Street on Saturday. Several organizations, led by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), sponsored a march calling for, among other demands, cuts in military spending and funding for bank bailouts.

The picture was opposite an article about how billionaire Warren Buffett has benefited from the bank bailout, with just 28 companies receiving more than 90 percent of the funds so far going to financial firms under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

Turns out the opposite picture wasn’t of the UFPJ march...but of a pillow fight. Literally. It was “Pillow Fight Day in the Financial District” with more than 1000 people taking part in this 4th annual event in New York and 108 other cities sponsored by “newmindspace,” a group devoted to free public gatherings.

Maybe the media decided to cover the pillow fight rather than the march since they’re more familiar with political pillow fights than mass marches as responses to the global economic crisis.

Political pillow fighting is probably a good way to describe the response in Washington to the economic meltdown, outright theft, and further consolidation of financial power caused by the taxpayer bailout of insurance giant AIG, banking zombies JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sacks, Bank of America, Citibank, and Well Fargo-Wachovia, and other financial institutions.

Despite all the tough talking, there’s still been:
- no Administration or Congressional demands to account for where public tax dollars have gone,
- no demands that the leaders of the zombie banks be fired (if not jailed),
- no calls for a return of public dollars misused/misspent,
- no action to explore legal challenges to how bailout money was used by some banks to acquire other banks,
- no demand that the Administration follow the Prompt Corrective Action Law, passed after the savings and loan crisis, stipulating that severely undercapitalized banks be promptly put into receivership (i.e., nationalized/democratized). This federal law says insolvent banks must be promptly nationalized/democratized. Former senior Savings & Loan Regulator William Black spelled this out Friday night on Bill Moyers’ Journal
Black charges the Administration with covering up the full extent of the financial calamity

This is unacceptable.

It’s time to end the Wall Street pillow fighting. Let “newmindspace” organize those.

It’s time to open up space in our minds to the urgent need to express outrage at what is happening...and to take it to the streets.

April 11 Protests in Cleveland and Columbus — Break Up the Banks

Rallies being planned all over the country at 2:00 PM
Decentralize – Nationalize - Reorganize
Sign up at

Cleveland, OH USA Willard Park
at corner of Lakeside and E. 9th
62 people plan to attend

Columbus, OH USA Ohio Statehouse
77 S High St
60 people plan to attend

If not near either of these two places, sign up to organize your own action. If April 11 is too soon, do it about Tax Day (April 15) or May Day (May 1).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Democratize the 5 Biggest Banks / April 11 Protests

The article below is a clear, short, and sobering assessment of the origins of the global financial crisis and what specifically in the short-term should be done — to democratize the 5 largest banks (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo-Wachovia Bank) which collectively “hold 96% of all US bank derivatives positions in terms of nominal values, and an eye-popping 81% of the total net credit risk exposure in event of default.” It’s all too easy to feel paralyzed that the problems and solutions are so large, complex and interwoven that nothing can be done to bring any real justice. This piece suggests otherwise — that a government take-over of just 5 banks and wiping out the nearly 200 TRILLION dollars of speculative derivatives will go a very long way to save citizen taxpayers and bank depositors.

As the article graphically asserts, “[c]ontinuing to pour taxpayer money into these five banks without changing their operating system, is tantamount to treating an alcoholic with unlimited free booze.”

Call or write your US Representative and Senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich. Tell them to democratize the 5 largest banks.

NOTE: National protests calling for Breaking Up the Banks are planned for Saturday, April 11 at 2 pm. Go to A New Way Forward to sign up. Protests are already planned for Cleveland and Columbus. There’s a way to sign up to organize a protest in your community. Please consider doing so.

Geithner’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: The Entire Global Financial System is at Risk
When the Solution to the Financial Crisis becomes the Cause
by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, March 30, 2009

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has unveiled his long-awaited plan to put the US banking system back in order. In doing so, he has refused to tell the ‘dirty little secret’ of the present financial crisis. By refusing to do so, he is trying to save de facto bankrupt US banks that threaten to bring the entire global system down in a new more devastating phase of wealth destruction.

The Geithner Plan, his so-called Public-Private Partnership Investment Program or PPPIP, as we have noted previously is designed not to restore a healthy lending system which would funnel credit to business and consumers. Rather it is yet another intricate scheme to pour even more hundreds of billions directly to the leading banks and Wall Street firms responsible for the current mess in world credit markets without demanding they change their business model. Yet, one might say, won’t this eventually help the problem by getting the banks back to health?

Not the way the Obama Administration is proceeding. In defending his plan on US TV recently, Geithner, a protégé of Henry Kissinger who previously was CEO of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, argued that his intent was ‘not to sustain weak banks at the expense of strong.’ Yet this is precisely what the PPPIP does. The weak banks are the five largest banks in the system.

The ‘dirty little secret’ which Geithner is going to great degrees to obscure from the public is very simple. There are only at most perhaps five US banks which are the source of the toxic poison that is causing such dislocation in the world financial system. What Geithner is desperately trying to protect is that reality. The heart of the present problem and the reason ordinary loan losses as in prior bank crises are not the problem, is a variety of exotic financial derivatives, most especially so-called Credit Default Swaps.

In 2000 the Clinton Administration then-Treasury Secretary was a man named Larry Summers. Summers had just been promoted from No. 2 under Wall Street Goldman Sachs banker Robert Rubin to be No. 1 when Rubin left Washington to take up the post of Vice Chairman of Citigroup. As I describe in detail in my new book, Power of Money: The Rise and Fall of the American Century, to be released this summer, Summers convinced President Bill Clinton to sign several Republican bills into law which opened the floodgates for banks to abuse their powers. The fact that the Wall Street big banks spent some $5 billion in lobbying for these changes after 1998 was likely not lost on Clinton.

One significant law was the repeal of the 1933 Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that prohibited mergers of commercial banks, insurance companies and brokerage firms like Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs. A second law backed by Treasury Secretary Summers in 2000 was an obscure but deadly important Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. That law prevented the responsible US Government regulatory agency, Commodity Futures Trading Corporation (CFTC), from having any oversight over the trading of financial derivatives. The new CFMA law stipulated that so-called Over-the-Counter (OTC) derivatives like Credit Default Swaps, such as those involved in the AIG insurance disaster, (which investor Warren Buffett once called ‘weapons of mass financial destruction’), be free from Government regulation.

At the time Summers was busy opening the floodgates of financial abuse for the Wall Street Money Trust, his assistant was none other than Tim Geithner, the man who today is US Treasury Secretary. Today, Geithner’s old boss, Larry Summers, is President Obama’s chief economic adviser, as head of the White House Economic Council. To have Geithner and Summers responsible for cleaning up the financial mess is tantamount to putting the proverbial fox in to guard the henhouse.

The ‘Dirty Little Secret’

What Geithner does not want the public to understand, his ‘dirty little secret’ is that the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act in 2000 allowed the creation of a tiny handful of banks that would virtually monopolize key parts of the global ‘off-balance sheet’ or Over-The-Counter derivatives issuance.

Today five US banks according to data in the just-released Federal Office of Comptroller of the Currency’s Quarterly Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activity, hold 96% of all US bank derivatives positions in terms of nominal values, and an eye-popping 81% of the total net credit risk exposure in event of default.

The five are, in declining order of importance: JPMorgan Chase which holds a staggering $88 trillion in derivatives (€66 trillion!). Morgan Chase is followed by Bank of America with $38 trillion in derivatives, and Citibank with $32 trillion. Number four in the derivatives sweepstakes is Goldman Sachs with a ‘mere’ $30 trillion in derivatives. Number five, the merged Wells Fargo-Wachovia Bank, drops dramatically in size to $5 trillion. Number six, Britain’s HSBC Bank USA has $3.7 trillion.

After that the size of US bank exposure to these explosive off-balance-sheet unregulated derivative obligations falls off dramatically. Just to underscore the magnitude, trillion is written 1,000,000,000,000. Continuing to pour taxpayer money into these five banks without changing their operating system, is tantamount to treating an alcoholic with unlimited free booze.

The Government bailouts of AIG to over $180 billion to date has primarily gone to pay off AIG’s Credit Default Swap obligations to counterparty gamblers Goldman Sachs, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, the banks who believe they are ‘too big to fail.’ In effect, these five institutions today believe they are so large that they can dictate the policy of the Federal Government. Some have called it a bankers’ coup d’etat. It definitely is not healthy.

This is Geithner’s and Wall Street’s Dirty Little Secret that they desperately try to hide because it would focus voter attention on real solutions. The Federal Government has long had laws in place to deal with insolvent banks. The FDIC places the bank into receivership, its assets and liabilities are sorted out by independent audit. The irresponsible management is purged, stockholders lose and the purged bank is eventually split into smaller units and when healthy, sold to the public. The power of the five mega banks to blackmail the entire nation would thereby be cut down to size. Ooohh. Uh Huh?

This is what Wall Street and Geithner are frantically trying to prevent. The problem is concentrated in these five large banks. The financial cancer must be isolated and contained by Federal agency in order for the host, the real economy, to return to healthy function.

This is what must be put into bankruptcy receivership, or nationalization. Every hour the Obama Administration delays that, and refuses to demand full independent government audit of the true solvency or insolvency of these five or so banks, inevitably costs to the US and to the world economy will snowball as derivatives losses explode. That is pre-programmed as worsening economic recession mean corporate bankruptcies are rising, home mortgage defaults are exploding, unemployment is shooting up. This is a situation that is deliberately being allowed to run out of (responsible Government) control by Treasury Secretary Geithner, Summers and ultimately the President, whether or not he has taken the time to grasp what is at stake.

Once the five problem banks have been put into isolation by the FDIC and the Treasury, the Administration must introduce legislation to immediately repeal the Larry Summers bank deregulation including restore Glass-Steagall and repeal the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 that allowed the present criminal abuse of the banking trust. Then serious financial reform can begin to be discussed, starting with steps to ‘federalize’ the Federal Reserve and take the power of money out of the hands of private bankers such as JP Morgan Chase, Citibank or Goldman Sachs.

F. William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order; and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation ( His newest book, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order (Third Millennium Press) is due out at end of April. He may be reached through his website,