Big Banks Profit While Main Street Suffers

If anyone doubts that the Western world’s monetary order is rigged to enrich the banking system, the first quarter financial reports of America’s top banks should disabuse any unbelievers.

The Financial Times reported that four of the five big U.S. trading banks had a combined revenue of $19.4 billion in the first quarter of 2015. Goldman Sachs had a 14.7 percent* return on its equity in the first quarter, while J.P. Morgan, the nation’s largest bank, earned $5.91 billion (or $1.45 a share), up 3.6% from a year earlier.** Revenues for J.P. Morgan grew 4% to $24.8 billion.

The enthusiastic coverage of the big banks’ healthy first quarter proceeds and the chest-thumping of its bank executives left out, not surprisingly, the real reason for their windfall gains – the Federal Reserve. The big banks have been the chief beneficiaries of the Fed’s easy monetary policy since the start of the financial crisis.

The Fed’s “zero interest rate policy” (ZIRP) and its “quantitative easing” (QE) program have been the catalyst for the large banks’ recent record performance. Ostensibly, these policies were instituted to assist the economy in its recovery from the Great Recession; however, in actuality they have been done to save the big banks from collapse while the economy has been flooded with billions of increasingly worthless dollars causing significant price inflation.

Low interest rates have enabled the banksters and financial houses to borrow at next to nothing and invest in all sorts of ventures, many of which are highly risky. Easy money is also the cause for the huge run up in assets prices and the highs in nominal stock prices.

Worse, ZIRP has allowed the federal government to sustain its ridiculous level of spending, borrowing what it cannot raise in taxes at a near zero rate of interest. When interest rates do rise, the federal government will most likely default, bringing the banks down with them.

While the big banks and Wall Street have done quite well from the Fed’s massive money printing, everyone else has suffered and has seen their standard of living plummet even from official estimates.

The Federal Reserve reported a slowdown in hiring in March, a big drop off in industrial production, and lower housing starts in the first quarter–to mention just a few troubling statistics. Things are getting to the point that the Fed is reconsidering whether it should raise interest rates in the second half of the year as it had hoped to do. Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, admitted that “Data available for the first quarter of this year have been notably weak.”***

The first quarter sizable earnings of the big banks are an example of what a number of commentators have termed “crony capitalism.” Through government assistance, businesses earn wealth not by pleasing customers and satisfying their needs, but by currying favors from the state. In the banksters’ case, instead of making wise and prudent loans, they receive largesse in the form of billions of Federal Reserve notes.

Not only is such a system immoral, but it gives legitimate market activity – those firms that do not receive state assistance – a bad rap as profitable enterprises are lumped in with state favorites. This ultimately leads to greater regulation as calls for the government to tax “windfall profits” would affect all firms–even those who earned rightful profits.

The solution to crony capitalism and the ill-gotten gains of the banking system is not greater oversight, but instead the abolition of the Federal Reserve and a return to sound money based on gold or silver. Under such a system, banks and financial houses would profit only if they satisfied consumers’ wants.

In the banks’ case, this would mean safeguarding depositors’ money and making prudent loans with the funds they were entrusted with to lend. For those financial institutions that succeed at such tasks, profits would be their reward; those who do not and mismanage investment funds would be out of business and allowed to fail. Banks would operate under the same economic laws as any other enterprise.

The prevailing system of crony capitalism which benefits the 1% must be exposed for the grand redistribution scheme that it has long been. Only when bankers earn their wealth as Main Street does will America return to a just and sound monetary order.

*Tom Braithwaite & Ben McLannahan, “Goldman in Robust Return on Equity Showing,” Financial Times, 17 April 2015, 14

**Ciaran MCEvoy, “JPMorgan Profit Beats Wall St. Views, As Does Wells Fargo by Shrinking Less,” Investor’s Business Daily, 15 April 2015, A1.

***Jon Hilsenrath, “Fed Shies Away from June Rate Hike,”  The Wall Street Journal,  17 April 2015.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth

The Obama Admin Just Proved How Corrupt It Is, And What They Did Will Make You Want To Scream

Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock.com

The last eight years have been extremely tough on middle-class Americans.

Real wages have stagnated and even decreased, while full-time jobs are being replaced by part-time work waiting tables and delivering packages for online mega stores.

What’s more, a recent study of college graduates shows that those who entered the workforce during the great recession might never make the same wages as their peers who graduated just a few years earlier.

All told, the future looks bleak… That is, unless you happen to be an Obama donor.

That’s right. Even in the midst of a sluggish economy, Obama donors have been scoring incredible windfalls.

Crony Capitalism at its Finest

Take, for example, David Grain. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Grain gave $60,000 to Obama’s campaign and the DNC in 2008; and he gave $22,500 in 2012.

Grain has also been a lucrative fundraising partner for Obama. In 2008, Grain helped raise an additional $200,000 to $500,000 for Obama, according to a report in Bloomberg News.

And now, money is set to flow the other direction…

You see, Grain owns a private equity firm called Grain Management, LLC. that failed to qualify under existing rules as a small business for an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) airwave license auction.

Luckily for Grain, the FCC suspended the rules in a closed-door, party-line vote; and the Head of the FCC, Democrat Tom Wheeler, took the lead on a waiver to the action rules.

Republicans objected fiercely, but the final vote was 3 to 2. That means that when the auction is held, Grain Management will be designated as a small, struggling business by the FCC, in spite of its size. This will allow Grain to get exclusive discounts not otherwise available to major telecom firms.

The worst part is that Grain’s firm isn’t even a telecom company. Instead, it’s a private equity and financial firm that has no real interest in the airwaves other than flipping them for a massive profit.

Essentially, Grain’s Obama connection helped him manipulate the system and facilitate a lucrative arbitrage deal.

What Will the Future Hold?

Grain’s plan is a perfect example of how donors are able to profiteer off of the government. In the old days, donors were given perks such as an ambassadorship in Jamaica. But now, with the government virtually in control of the economy, the payoffs are far more lucrative.

And even though Grain Management will add no value to the transactions undertaken, David will most likely score a huge payday. It’s a perfect example of the crony capitalism that Americans detest.

Going forward, it’ll be interesting to see how much Grain makes from having such awesome inside connections with Obama.

Since the FCC controls “public airwaves,” we’ll be able to calculate how much Grain profits after the auction results. Likely, the final dollar amount will be many times what Grain paid to the DNC and Obama campaigns.

Once I know how much this shady deal nets, I’ll be sure to share the dollar amount with you.

 

This commentary originally appeared at WallStreetDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission. 

Photo credit: 360b / Shutterstock.com

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

Scary: Eric Holder May Have Found A New Way To Keep Guns Away From Americans

Eric Holder-bullets

In a free-market capitalistic system, the economy grows as companies compete freely for consumer dollars by producing superior products and services, adding jobs while their bottom-line grows. In such a system, the government plays a role as referee by protecting consumers and ensuring all corporate players compete legally and fairly. But in a crony-capitalistic system, the government does more than referee — it intervenes, attempting to assure success of some sectors and companies while thwarting and even penalizing those that are out of favor with the prevailing ideology. Over the past six years, our economic system has become increasingly controlled through governmental cronyism; and it just got much worse–and it’s based purely on ideology.

Early last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a new probe into questionable mercantile ventures facilitated by commercial banks. Initially, “Operation Choke Point” targeted banks that service payday lenders (especially online ones) and other services that they thought to be dubious. DOJ pressured banks doing business with such firms to “choke” or restrict access of such firms to banking services, even to the point of closing the accounts of such firms.

This policy is not traceable to the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as FinReg. That Act created consumer protection regulations as well as other measures such as “too big to fail,” which were designed to prevent a collapse of the financial services industry as we saw in 2008. Those regulations are enforced through the Department of the Treasury.

Operation Choke Point, however, is being run through the DOJ as an extension of the president’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). The Task Force was created in November 2009 for the express purpose of holding accountable the individuals and institutions that created the last financial crisis. This task force, headed by the DOJ, includes the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The evidence for potential abuses is generated by banks through their reporting of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), making banking institutions partners with law enforcement agencies in identifying and flagging questionable financial activity.

This puts banks in a tenuous position with law-enforcement and government agencies. As the Wall Street Journal reported last month, “Banks, which need a reliable and safe payments network to survive, have always worked with law enforcement to fight fraud and even terrorism in the financial system. Banks provide tips to law enforcement when a customer’s behavior seems fishy, and they assist in investigations when asked. In the past year alone, banks have filed nearly a million suspicious activity reports with regulators, including suspicions of mortgage fraud, identity theft, counterfeit debit and credit cards, tax evasion and wire-transfer fraud.”

Clearly, the intent of the FFETF is appropriate, as it relates to curtailing illegal or dubious financial ventures and transactions and restricting money-laundering schemes. The problem is, it’s now gone much further than the original intent.

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

GOP: Just Say ‘No’ To Ex-Im

Photo credit: House GOP (Flickr)

Why in the world would Congress want to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank? Known as “Bank of Boeing,” Ex-Im is the perfect example of corporate welfare, crony capitalism, fraud, and corruption.

Get rid of it. It’s a government-sponsored menace that actually damages American business competitiveness and reduces jobs at home. Voting against Ex-Im should be a no-brainier.

For those who may not be following this story, Ex-Im is a government-run bank that finances foreign competition with the use of loans and loan guarantees to buy American goods. For example, in fiscal year 2013, Ex-Im backed a $117.5 million loan guarantee to support Boeing 737 purchases by Dubai. (Hat tip Charles Lane of The Washington Post.) Dubai is a wealthy country. This is a state-run airline. Why does the United States have to subsidize it? Plus, Dubai has a history of financing jihadist terrorists. So why do we want to help them?

And with our economy growing at a snail’s pace, why should taxpayers subsidize Boeing? I don’t want to knock Boeing. It’s a great company. The best airplane maker in the world. In addition to Dubai, it sells planes to China, India, and other nations worldwide. But it does not need corporate welfare.

Actually, 60 percent of Ex-Im money goes to 10 mega-corporations. Boeing is the best example. But down through the years, Ex-Im cash has flowed to the likes of General Electric, Caterpillar, and Bechtel. Less than 20 percent goes to smaller businesses. But they’re actually not that small. The Ex-Im definition of a small business is 500 to 1,500 workers.

And the Ex-Im subsidies to foreign competitors often backfire and damage U.S. companies. For several years now, Delta has publicly argued that Ex-Im loans have given foreign airlines a competitive advantage over U.S. carriers. Delta’s CEO has suggested that subsidizing foreign state-owned airlines may have cost Delta as many as 2,500 domestic jobs.

The Ex-Im bank boasts that it’s a job-creator. But in fact, it’s a job re-allocator. By definition, Ex-Im doesn’t loan to new businesses. But it’s the new businesses that actually create new jobs.

The Valero energy refining company offers another example of Ex-Im foreign largesse gone wrong. Valero recently complained to Jeb Hensarling, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee who opposes Ex-Im, that a $641 million Ex-Im loan to a Turkish refinery builder jeopardizes American refinery manufacturers. Again, costing U.S. jobs. Why help the competition?

Now, I’m all for free-market competition on a global scale. But I am not for picking winners and losers, especially when putting taxpayers on the hook. No government meddling.

If it’s profitable to build airplanes or refiners, or whatever, fine. Go ahead and do it. That’s capitalism at its best. But when the government doles out favors, that’s crony capitalism — something to be devoutly avoided.

Again, ironically, the roughly $140 billion Ex-Im portfolio could be redirected to major U.S. corporate tax cuts, maybe dropping the rate from 40 percent to 20 percent. That would make all American companies, both large and small, truly competitive around the world. And small S-Corps also could make use of the tax-reform incentive. (Someday, I’d like to see the entire corporate tax abolished.)

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

This Single Issue Shows How Dramatically The GOP’s Politics Have Changed…

Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service (Flickr)

Well, the selection of the new House Majority Leader was certainly much less eventful than the previous Majority Leader’s downfall.

The No. 3 Republican, Kevin McCarthy, easily moved up to take the No. 2 spot from Eric Cantor, who was defeated in the primaries by David Brat.

And given that the names in leadership haven’t changed much, you’d think that the politics would mostly stay the same, as well.

But nothing could be further from the truth…

In fact, one of the first moves made by the new Majority Leader was to declare the Export-Import Bank, an 80-year-old institution, dead.

The Export-Import Bank was created in order to help push American products, by guaranteeing loans for foreign customers buying anything from airplanes to earth-moving equipment.

By guaranteeing the loans, Ex-Im shifted the risk from the lending bank to the American taxpayers, greatly incentivizing more purchases.

Kevin McCarthy went on Fox News Sunday and made headlines by announcing, “We’ve got hearings going on next week in [the] Financial Services [Committee], which I sit on. I think Ex-Im Bank is… something government does not have to be involved in. The private sector can do it.”

The show’s host, Chris Wallace, responded: “You would allow the Ex-Im Bank to expire in September?”

“Yes,” McCarthy replied, “because it’s something that the private sector can be able to do.”

McCarthy’s decision has sent shockwaves through the K Street lobbyist crowd… and sent the crony capitalists who depend on government guarantees reeling.

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

This single issue shows how dramatically the politics of the Republican Party have changed.

Traditionally, the CEOs of America’s largest corporations could count on the Republicans to jump and do their bidding. Republicans have supported corporate welfare almost as consistently as the Democrats have supported food stamps, housing subsidies, and welfare payments to the poor.

Indeed, when the program was reauthorized in 2012, Kevin McCarthy voted with the crony capitalist establishment to keep the corporate welfare rolling.

But the Tea Party is changing the culture inside the GOP.

No longer will the Republicans reflexively do the bidding of big business. The votes and attitudes of politicians are following the Tea Party, and more members of Congress are turning their backs on corporate welfare.

For now, it remains to be seen how changing attitudes will affect the other issues that big business covets.

The immigration reform movement, for example, has been powered by dollars from hospitality companies, restaurant chains, construction firms, and meat packers that want low-wage workers coming across the border. House Speaker John Boehner has flirted with passing immigration reform at the behest of big business all year.

But the Tea Party is firm in its belief that the border needs to be secured… and suddenly, talk of a vote on immigration reform has gone silent.

Of course, that could be because of election season. But the trend in the Republican Party is undeniable… and big business is officially on watch.

 

This commentary originally appeared at WallStreetDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.

Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service (Flickr)

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom