Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Geithner's Incredible AIG Testimony

Looking back on the financial panic of fall 2008, a House Committee today grilled Treasury Secretary Timothy Giethner on his recollections and his role - as President of the NY Federal Reserve, and, later, as Treasury Secretary - in the bailout of American international Group (AIG).

AIG, which received enormous sums of taxpayer money via TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) has been a lightning rod for all manner of political posturing by some of the very same legislators who passed the bailout bill at the height of the extraordinary events of 2008. The mega-insurer, which had engaged in the risky credit default swaps business and was in danger of default, received assistance of upwards of $180 billion, much of which was funneled back to counter-parties such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and other TARP recipients to make them whole.

Geither's testimony today often included the phrase "working in the public interest" when questioned on his decisions regarding AIG. While in Tim Geithner's mind, he may believe that he works - or worked - in the public interest as NY Fed President or as Secretary of the Treasury, but, in the former, at the very least, he worked to protect the interests of the NY Federal Reserve, a private baking system.

While representatives in the house queried and posed for the cameras with what sounded like tough questions for the Secretary today, Geithner's answers continued in the same vein as all who have gone before him, making the deals by which some of the nation's largest financial firms were recipients of congress' largesse sound like there was no other choice available.

Whether Geithner, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the trokia who worked out the various aspects of the TARP and doled out the money, were correct in their assumptions concerning the bailouts - that the entire financial system would collapse - probably will never be known, but at least this much is: the collapse of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Bank of America, Citigroup and other large banks which took inordinate risks with money entrusted to them by shareholders, investors and depositors would have affected the CEOs and top executives of those firms in far greater degree than any single American taxpayer.

Geithner worked for banks, continues to work for banks and will always work in the interest of banks, bankers and friends of bankers, like the very people questioning him now on Capitol Hill. The idea that he, or any Fed president, works for the people, in the "public interest," is laughable and deserves condemnation, though not much in the way of criticism has effused from the collective mouths of the Washington babblers.

That's probably because, when the history books years from now look back on this episode, it will be recorded as one of the great and grandest swindles of all time, and will likely be regarded by future generations (if any happen to exist) as one of the key elements which took down the greatest democracy ever invented. Crooks and criminals generally, when they are caught, are tried, convicted and jailed. That is, unless they are bankers and wall Streeters wearing pin-striped suits and draped gloriously in patriotism and self-importance. Not only did the wall Street banks pull off the greatest heist ever, but they were aided and abetted every step of the way by high officials of the government, from congressmen and senators all the way up to both presidents who served during the time of this swindle, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Instead of the parade of toothless hearings which congress continues to hold, trials for treason should have already been well underway, though it stretches credulity to believe there would be enough innocent parties in our nation's capitol to even impanel a 12-member jury for such an event.

Geithner was at the heart of the swindle, which eventually had its roots at the Fed, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where lax regulation or the absence of such created toxic financial instruments from mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) to Credit Default Swaps (CDS). The truly sad and frightening chapter of this saga is that these very same instruments are still being actively promoted, traded, bought and sold, all with the implicit consent and nodding approval of the Federal Reserve and the federal government.

Apparently, $700 trillion was not enough to cripple the nation irrevocably. The captains of finance are prepared to make matters even worse with another round of theft, obfuscation and sincere lies, and, no doubt, they will, just as sure as they will make sure that they are handsomely rewarded for their work in the "public interest."

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