WASHINGTON -- Sources close to God reported Thursday that the Supreme Being was angered at recent comments by Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein that's he's just a banker "doing God's work." Blankfein's comments, God and other experts believe, stand in sharp contrast to the firm's track record as helping spur all major crashes since the Great Depression through the manipulation of markets. It's latest role: selling to investors nearly-worthless mortgage-backed securities while secretly betting that the housing market would crash, according to McClatchy newspapers.
In response to Goldman Sachs's destructive financial maneuvers and allegedly false claims, it's not surprising that activists -- and the general public -- are becoming increasingly angry. The Lord supposedly is quietly blessing a protest rally scheduled on Monday, but, at press time, He was unavailable for comment about His support for the upcoming protest. Yet here's one key sign: an alliance of faith-based community groups with close ties to God, the PICO Network, is part of a coalition alligned with Public Citizen, SEIU and National People's Action that are planning a march Monday outside Goldman Sachs headquarters in Washington, D.C. The aim is to protest the huge bailouts, exorbitant pay (nearly $17 billion in bonuses this year) and ongoing failure to lend to communities and businesses. SEIU President Andy Stern will be among the speakers, and as an SEIU press release pointed out:
SEIU President Andy Stern and hundreds of taxpayers will converge on the Washington headquarters of Goldman Sachs to demand an end to multi-billion dollar bonuses and the Too Big To Fail Doctrine and call for immediate Congressional action on real financial reform. This is the latest in a national mobilization launched last month as 5,000 taxpayers from 20 states converged on the American Bankers Association convention in Chicago to demand Wall Street and big banks stop fighting reforms that will protect our families from the next crisis.
And Public Citizen, for instance, is a co-founder of the 200-group liberal advocacy coalition, Americans for Financial Reform, that has been pressing Congress and the Obama administration to take tougher measures to rein in Wall Street's abuses, protect consumers and curb the power of the big banks in calling the shots for the Federal Reserve.
Blankfein's latest comment comes in the wake of a startling claim by another Goldman Sachs International adviser, Bryan Griffiths: "We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all." As Think Progress pointed out about this assertion:
The Wall Street Journal reported that Wall Street banks are on pace to pay out a record $140 billion in compensation this year. "Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007," the Journal found.
The New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs has "set aside $16.7 billion for compensation and benefits in the first nine months of 2009," which is a 46 percent increase from last year. But according to a Goldman adviser, Wall Street's record pay is necessary "to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all":
Yet, the Bible, seen by many devout believers as reflecting God's point of view on these issues, has been highly critical of such greed and the self-interested claims of the wealthy. As Jesus reportedly told his disciples, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25) In addition, Jesus noted about the value of serving the poor: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
In contrast to the claims of Goldman Sachs executives, there hasn't been any trickle-down effect from the bailouts, let alone help for "the least of us." As FDIC chair Sheila Bair testified this week, the AP reported:
The head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said Tuesday she's "very worried" that the nation's biggest banks aren't lending enough and warned the economy could take another turn for the worse without increased access to credit.
FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the FDIC's upcoming quarterly report would show that "not many large institutions are doing a very good job of lending." Instead, she said, some are taking advantage of near-zero interest rates by borrowing dollars cheaply to buy higher-yielding assets like stocks or commodities - a move known as the "carry trade."
"I don't see much money going out (from banks). I see a lot of carry trade," Bair told a banking conference in New York. "It used to be you take deposits and you lend out money. We'd like to see more of that."
In announcing the protest for Monday, Public Citizen declared:
Goldman Sachs and the other banksters are back to making record profits and on track to hand out multi-billion dollar bonuses. Meanwhile, back in the real economy, unemployment has risen above 10 percent, millions have lost their homes and the banks keep nickel and diming us.
Enough is enough - it's time to take our demands for more accountability to the streets.
Join with Public Citizen's president, Robert Weissman, and hundreds of other fed up consumers and activists in a protest in front of the Goldman Sachs offices on Capitol Hill this Monday, Nov. 16! Let's demand an end to billions in bonuses!
What: Protest the banksters in front of Goldman Sachs and rally at the Capitol.
Where: Goldman Sachs, 101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. (close to Union Station).
When: Monday, Nov. 16 at High Noon.
Too big to fail is too big to exist. It's time to break up the banks and put a watchdog to work for everyday Americans.
New York Times columnist Maureen Down highlighted this week the reasons for outrage:
Mr. Blankfein's trickle-down catechism isn't working. Now we have two economies. We have recovering banks while we have 10-plus percent unemployment and 17.5 percent underemployment. The gross thing about the Wall Street of the last decade is how much its success was not shared with society.
Goldmine Sachs, as it's known, is out for Goldmine Sachs.
While business and banking interests have sought to water down financial reform legislation that's moving through the House, including a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), facing a tough re-election race, has introduced more sweeping reforms that aim to limit the Fed's powers to regulate. He also proposes to set up a new super-agency to monitor the banking system.
At the same time, his proposals could slow down reform as free-spending investment firms and banks continue to lavish their executives with bonuses and pay while also engaging in largely unregulated trading in risky investment vehicles known as "derivatives," backed by trillions in U.S. guarantees, practices potentially leading to yet another meltdown. But Dodd's bill takes a stronger stance on putting more trading in derivatives on open exchanges that can be monitored.
As PBS News Hour explained the differences in the House and Senate legislation:
Dodd's bill would strip the Federal Reserve of proposed authority to supervise and restructure the nation's biggest banks and financial firms.
Instead, the bill would consolidate authority in a single national bank regulator. Gone would be most bank regulatory power held by the Fed and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision, two regulatory units of the Treasury, would be eliminated altogether.
"This is not a time for timidity in this area. This is a time for some sweeping and bold changes," Dodd said Tuesday at a news conference. "It's been a long time coming."
In draft legislation unveiled last month, Rep. Barney Frank, head of the House Financial Services Committee, proposed that the Fed take a lead role in overseeing large firms and, if necessary, intervene in those whose failures pose a risk to the economy. Dodd's bill would remove that clout.
"It's not designed to basically punish the Federal Reserve at all," Dodd said. "But rather to enhance their role and their independence. You start loading up the Fed with additional responsibilities and that independence could be threatened..."
Both bills support the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which would regulate consumer products such as credit cards and home mortgages, though details differ on the composition of the agency's board...
The primary reform measures moving in both the House and Senate do not propose to break up the major financial institutions that are deemed now too big to fail. Even so, there are mounting calls from financial experts like former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker ,joined by legislators like Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, to break up the big firms. One way is by separating the risky investment divisions from the safer commercial and consumer lending companies under the guidelines of the original Glass-Steagall Act that was weakened, then repealed, in the '90s in a burst of deregulation mania.
But Blankfein resists such pressures. As Bloomberg News reported this week:
"Our business is very complex, and I won't deny that, but it's far, far simpler than most of the competitors," Blankfein, 55, said today at a conference in New York sponsored by Bank of America Corp. "I wonder myself how some of these things get managed."
Politicians and regulators are debating whether last year's credit crisis and government bailouts showed that some finance companies had become so big that their failure would put the entire economy at risk. The Obama administration wants to boost the Federal Reserve's ability to set stricter capital and liquidity standards to reduce that threat, while lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, have proposed limiting the size of banks.
Simon Johnson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said in a Bloomberg radio interview today that Goldman Sachs's assets nearly quadrupled over the last decade. "What have we gained from a societal perspective from Goldman Sachs becoming four times bigger? Nothing," said Johnson, a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund. "Break Goldman Sachs up into four pieces, let them choose how they break up."
While resisting calls to break them up, the banks are also gathering their well-funded forces to defeat stronger regulations. These include the new agency proposed by Dodd and pending amendments that would grant the federal government more power to break up financial institutions -- even before they're on the verge of failing.
Americans for Financial Reform, the leading citizens' group pressing for a major overhaul in the financial regulatory system, endorsed most of the initiatives in the Dodd plan. The AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, part of the AFR alliance, joined in: "It is a very significant step forward toward the kind of strong, comprehensive financial regulation that our country needs if we are to turn away from the practices that led to the economic crisis that did such harm to working people. "
The AFR and most major unions have reserved judgment on Dodd's call for a new agency to oversee banks and haven't yet backed restoring the Glass-Steagall act, although that's now under active consideration by reform groups. Even so, as Heather Booth, the executive director of Americans for Financial Reform puts it, "The power of the financial industry is crushing, so we're heartened by the changes we've seen," while planning to press for further strengthening of the bills in both the House and Senate. "The crisis is so big that it demands a big solution," she adds.
Yet so far on Wall Street, the executives' irresponsible spending, fueled with taxpayer funds, has gone essentially unchecked while Washington has yet to crack down on the financial industry's most egregious abuses and risky investments. All this, of course, has continued for more than a year after the meltdown.
Maureen Dowd offered this scathing assessment:
"Saturday Night Live" was tougher on Goldman Sachs than the government, giving the firm flak about commandeering 200 doses of the swine flu vaccine -- the same amount as Lenox Hill Hospital got -- while so many at-risk Americans wait.
"Can you not read how mad people are at you?" demanded Amy Poehler. "When most people saw the headline 'Goldman Sachs Gets Swine Flu Vaccine' they were superhappy until they saw the word 'vaccine.' "
Seth Meyers chimed in: "Also, Centers for Disease Control, you sent the vaccine to Wall Street before schools and hospitals? Really!?! Were you worried the swine flu might spread to the Hamptons and St. Barts? These are the least contagious people in the world. They don't even touch their own car-door handles."
And as far as doing God's work, I think the bankers who took government money and then gave out obscene bonuses are the same self-interested sorts Jesus threw out of the temple.
But it took MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan to put it all in perspective during an interview with former Goldman Sachs executive Nomi Prins, author of It Takes A Pillage: