Top officials willfully concealed the true extent of the 2008-’09 bailouts from Congress and the public.
By Les Leopold for AlterNet
We now have concrete evidence that Wall Street and Washington are running a secret government far removed from the democratic process. Through a freedom of information request by Bloomberg News, the public now has access to over 29,000 pages of Fed documents and 21,000 additional Fed transactions that were deliberately hidden, and for good reason. (See here and here.)
These documents show how top government officials willfully concealed from Congress and the public the true extent of the 2008-’09 bailouts that enriched the few and enhanced the interests of giant Wall Streets firms. Here’s what we now know:
- The secret Wall Street bailouts totaled $7.77 trillion, 10 times more than the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) passed by Congress in 2008.
- Knowledge of the secret bailout funds was not shared with Congress even while it was drafting and debating legislation to break up the big banks.
- The secret funding, provided at below-market rates, gave Wall Street banks an additional $13 billion in profits. (That’s enough money to hire more than 325,000 entry level teachers.)
- The secret loans financed bank mergers so that the largest banks could grow even larger. The money also allowed banks to step up their lobbying efforts.
- While Henry Paulson (Bush’s Secretary of the Treasury) was informing Congress and the public that only minor reforms were needed to protect Fannie and Freddie from collapse, he met secretly with leading Wall Street hedge fund managers — among them his former colleagues at Goldman Sachs — to alert them that he was about to nationalize the giant mortgage companies – a move that would eradicate nearly all the stock value of the companies. This information was enormously valuable because it allowed these hedge funds to short Fannie and Freddie and thereby make a fortune.
- While Timothy Geithner was head of the NY Federal Reserve, he argued against legislative efforts by Senator Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware, to limit the size of banks because the issue was “too complex for Congress and that people who know the markets should handle these decisions,” Kaufman recalls. Meanwhile, Geithner was fully aware of the enormous secret loans while Senator Kaufman was kept in the dark. Barney Frank, who was authoring key bank reform legislation was also not informed of the secret loans. No one in Congress was told.
So what does this all mean?
1. The big banks and hedge funds were in much more trouble than we were led to believe.
As many of us suspected, all the big banks were on their knees begging for help – secretly – while telling their investors, the public and Congress that all was well. They had gambled and lost. Under the rules of ideal capitalism, they should have suffered some “creative destruction,” and seen their shareholder value eliminated through bankruptcy, and their managers replaced. The entire banking system should have been reorganized from top to bottom as well. Instead, these colossal failures were secretly rewarded.
2. Wall Street’s secret government made sure the largest banks would grow even larger, aided by the secret funding.
While Congress was debating legislation to break up the large banks and reinstitute Glass Steagall (to separate risky investment banking from insured commercial banking,) the secret government was using public funds to grow even larger through mergers and acquisitions. Because Congress and the public were unaware of the secret funding and ill-health of all the banks, the legislation was easily defeated. As the chart below makes painfully clear, too-big-to-fail banks grew even bigger.
Read the rest of the article over at AlterNet.
If you’re interested in this issue, stay tuned for our forthcoming book on the global economic situation, Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform by Ross Jackson.