Archive

July 8th, 2016

Banks Don’t Commit Crimes, Bankers Do

    Hey, stop complaining that our government coddles Wall Street’s big, money-grubbing banks.

    Sure, they went belly-up and crashed our economy with their greed. And, yes, Washington bailed them out, while ignoring the plight of workaday people who lost jobs, homes, businesses, wealth, and hope.

    But come on, buckos. Haven’t you noticed that the feds are now socking the banksters with huge penalties for their wrongdoings?

    Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs, for example, was recently punched in its corporate gut with a jaw-dropping $5 billion punishment for its illegal schemes. It’s hard to comprehend that much money, so think of it like this: If you paid out $100,000 every day, it would take you nearly 28 years to pay off just $1 billion.

    So imagine having to pull five big Bs out of your wallet. That should make even the most arrogant and avaricious high-finance flim-flammer think twice before risking such scams.

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Another So-Called Scandal Fails To Hinder Hillary

    You read it here first: "Fearless prediction," this column began on April 6, "No legalistic deus ex machina will descend to save the nation from the dread specter of President Hillary Rodham Clinton ... no Kenneth Starr-style 'independent' prosecutor, no criminal indictment over her 'damn emails,' no how, no way.

    "Ain't gonna happen...

    "Those impassioned Trump supporters holding 'Hillary for Prison' signs are sure to be disappointed. Again. Played for suckers by a scandal-mongering news media that declared open season on Clinton 25 years ago. And hasn't laid a glove on her yet."

    If they wanted to prevent Hillary from taking the oath of office next January, I wrote, voters were "going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: defeat her at the polls."

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3 antidotes to the 'Brexit' crisis

    Britain's vote to leave the European Union has put a lot of stress on global financial markets: Even as I write, investors' flight to safety has pushed the yield on U.S. Treasury bonds down to levels that I would have deemed inconceivable just six months ago. In my view, the risk that financial turmoil will damage the economy is at its highest point since the twin European and U.S. debt crises of 2011.

    Financial stability is often said to be the U.S. Federal Reserve's third mandate, along with price stability and maximum employment. If Fed wants to play this role effectively, it will have to act quickly. I see three measures that it can take .

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July 7th

The real Libor scandal may be who isn't in court

    A London court has just convicted three former Barclays traders of rigging Libor, with sentencing expected later this week. Jonathan Mathew, 35, Jay Merchant, 45, and Alex Pabon, 38, were found guilty of conspiracy with other Barclays employees between June 1, 2005 and August 31, 2007. The real scandal, though, may be the long list of senior bankers and officials who haven't been hauled before a judge to account for their roles -- starting at the very top of U.K. financial markets.

    It's now clear that the manipulation of London interbank offered rates for more than a decade -- borrowing costs which in turn set the values for $350 trillion of global securities -- came in two very different flavors. There were many traders falsifying rates for personal gain. But there were also banks pretending in 2007 and 2008 that all was well with the world, concealing the true cost and availability of money from investors and the wider public. The question that needs answering is how high up in the financial hierarchy was the latter behavior sanctioned?

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Clintons are still drama junkies

    I like Bill and Hillary Clinton, but they don't make it easy.

    For more than a quarter century I have watched them slip and out of scandals, most of which were either generated or exaggerated by their Republican rivals.

    We've all learned to expect scandals by now. What irritates me is to see the Clintons slip and slide into a scandal that could have been avoided and can't honestly be blamed on anyone other than themselves.

    The latest example is tarmac-gate, so named because it occurred on one of former president Bill Clinton's favorite places to schmooze with VIPs: an airport tarmac amid the VIPs' private planes.

    Clinton was preparing to fly out of Phoenix during a seven-state fund-raising swing for his wife's campaign when he learned that Attorney General Loretta Lynch was in another nearby plane, according to reports.

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Yo, New Jersey! You don't have to cut a tax to raise a tax.

    Sure, New Jersey state politics are tricky. But policymakers in the Garden State are, for no good reason, creating a big problem for themselves and their constituents.

    By not raising the state's gas tax, which is the second lowest in the nation and hasn't been increased since the late 1980s, their transportation funding is running on empty, meaning that Gov. Chris Christie's administration will soon have to discontinue work on various road projects. Although "essential" projects and certain main toll roads will be spared, the shutdown will result in layoffs and in the suspension of needed repairs on roads across the state.

    In a nod to the urgent reality of the situation, both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly have proposed bills that would raise the state's gas tax from 14.5 cents to 37.5 cents per gallon to generate $2 billion per year for the Transportation Trust Fund. But in a nod to foolish politics, they've paired the gas tax increase with much larger cuts to other taxes.

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We disagree on the Declaration's self-evident truths' but we always did

    Every July 4, Americans celebrate a day and a document that proclaim our "self-evident" truths: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    It's a lovely concept, this celebration of our unity of purpose and vision. But do we really have the shared values recited in the Declaration of Independence? Did we ever?

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This is what Loretta Lynch is thinking now

    My Aspen Ideas Festival interview of Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been on the books for weeks. She was supposed to give a speech on criminal-justice reform, followed by a sit-down with me about the issue and other topics. A chance encounter with former president Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in Phoenix last month upended everything. That his wife's use of a private email server is at the center of an FBI investigation made the tarmac tete-a-tete as ill-advised as it was unavoidable by Lynch .

    Lynch has a reputation for integrity and sound judgment. She knows what happened in Phoenix was and remains a disaster. But she didn't go into a defensive crouch. She has been incredibly transparent. Rather than swat away questions, Lynch forthrightly answered them at news conferences last week in Phoenix and Los Angeles . And in Aspen, she scrapped her speech in favor of a hit-the-ground-running conversation. At no point did Justice Department officials try to put conditions or limitations on what we would talk about. So, I asked Lynch the only question anyone wanted asked and answered: What on earth were you thinking?

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The myth of Paul Ryan

    You know it's a peculiar election year when Mitt Romney and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., can agree that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is a "fraud." But that label shouldn't be reserved for Donald Trump alone. It's also an apt description of the man Trump supplanted as the de facto leader of the party - Romney's running mate in 2012, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

    Indeed, years before Trump sold Republican primary voters on the myth of his own great success, Ryan sold a credulous Washington establishment on the notion that he was a serious thinker overflowing with political courage - a policy wonk uniquely willing to tackle tough issues such as entitlement reform. In the past month, however, it has become more obvious than ever that Ryan's reputation is worth about as much as a degree from Trump University. Let's review.

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The conservative case for letting Clinton skate by

    Conservatives are -- to put it mildly -- disappointed by FBI Director James Comey's decision not to recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal server for classified State Department e-mails. The National Review's Jonah Goldberg blogged, "I don't get it." Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, the nonprofit that helped bring Clinton's e-mails to light, said there was a "disconnect between Comey's devastating findings and his weak recommendation." Right-wing Twitter is a flutter with indignation.

    And the disappointment is understandable. Comey said it was quite possible that hostile powers had breached her e-mail server. What's more, he put the lie to Clinton's claim that she never knowingly sent classified information through her private server.

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