Time Warner Cable has figured how to make customers pay more for a "service" that consists of doing absolutely nothing: it doubled its fee to not print customers' names in the phone book. Time Warner now charges $1.99 a month, or almost $24 a year, for an unlisted number.
Some will rob you with a six gun and some with a fountain pen – Woodie Guthrie
Like mushrooms popping up in a damp basement, a slew of court settlements have been registered recently involving the big banks and their role in the financial crisis. An informal review of settlements over the last two years reveals about 16 multi-million dollar payouts from the big banks amounting to some $1.6 billion in fines and restitution and $13 billion in buybacks of auction-rate securities that were represented to be as safe as cash.
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But when fines are stacked up against an elite white-collar crime spree worth trillions, it is a little less impressive.
I asked subscribers to the Bankster list to rate the bank reform bill that just passed Congress. I appreciate the fact that some folks took the time to rank the three parts of the bill, which include: 1) the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; 2) the derivatives chapter, and; 3) our favorite "too big to fail" section.
Those that took the time to rate all three sections of the bill averaged a "B" for consumer protection, "C" for derivatives, "F" for too big to fail. However, most Bankster subscribers gave the whole bill an "F." There was general agreement that the bill would not prevent the next crisis because it did not do enough about the financial institutions whose size, power and influence pose a threat to our economy. Bankster subscribers have always cared the most about the "too big to fail" issues and supported the reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, hard size caps on the big banks and other measures to break up the banks.
Democrats and Republicans agree that the federal deficit is a serious problem for the stability of American economy. But over the past few weeks, both parties have fought major battles on how to address this problem. The Democrats won the first round when last week, when President Obama signed a six-month extension of emergency unemployment benefits, surmounting Republican objections that the $34 billion measure would add too much to the deficit. The conflict this week is over the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire December 31. As expected, Republicans are fighting for extension of the entire package while many Democrats, including President Obama, vowed to keep them for families making less than $250,000 a year. It is estimated that keeping the tax cuts for households that make more than $250 thousand a year will cost about $40 billion a year. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argued that tax increases on the richest Americans are necessary "to make some progress bringing down our long-term deficits." $34 billion and $40 billion are surely not trivial sums. But if Congress and the Administration are sincere about tackling the deficit, it should confront the biggest expense of federal funds: military spending.
The June update of federal government expenditures in the Wall Street bailout by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the multi-trillion dollar legacy of the financial crisis largely remains on the government's balance sheet. Our calculations put the total bailout expenditure at $4.74 trillion and the total outstanding balance at $2 trillion.
These numbers are much higher than what is reported in the media because CMD's Wall Street Bailout Cost Table takes into account all 35 government programs, not just the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) managed by the U.S. Treasury Department. Still unpaid: $568 billion in TARP money and $1.4 trillion in Federal Reserve loans and investments.
After a classic David and Goliath showdown between Wall Street might and a small band of reformers, a 2,000 page Wall Street reform bill passed the U.S. Senate Thursday afternoon 60-39. The bill is now final and is headed to the President Obama's desk for signature.
"We were outmatched 300-1, but the bill became stronger as it worked its way through the process," said Heather Booth, director of the national coalition Americans for Financial Reform (AFR). This shows that "with organized people and committed leadership, things can move in the right direction," said Booth.