....No taxpayer protections, such as a future plan for recouping losses from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), that new agency within the U.S. Department of the Treasury charged with taking $700 billion worth of Wall Street's toxic waste off its books and reselling it for whatever the Treasury can get. (TARP is structured much like the Resolution Trust Company of the savings and loan era.) How we will repay these losses added to the national debt is anyone's guess.
Lawmakers have agreed that the financial future of our children and our grandchildren is a bottomless pit into which our generation's mistakes can be shoveled. There were no investments that could have rebooted our economy and reversed unemployment. No investments in our neglected roads, bridges and schools. No investments in green technology. No investments in research and innovation in sectors where America can take a leadership position, like biotech or nanoscience. No retooling for industrial America. No retraining of our workforce.
And—astonishingly!—there is no new regulation or supervision of Wall Street.
Yes, you read that right. No new regulation or supervision of the robber barons of Wall Street, even after the blow-up. No new Glass-Steagall Act (absolutely central to meaningful reform). No curtailment of subprime debt (after all the serial bailouts of this past year, subprimes seem almost quaint). No limits on securitized debt, like CMOs, CDOs and SIVs (the radioactive toxic waste that inflicted such terrible damage on our economy and that will take many years to dispose of; alas, there are no salt caverns deep beneath the earth's surface to dump this stuff).
No exchange or central clearinghouse for the hundreds of trillions of dollars in swaps and derivatives (discussed at length in these pages; also, see Peter S. Goodman's excellent article on the front page of the New York Times, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008). No punishment for that new master race on Wall Street, those shadow bankers known as "prime brokers" (also discussed in here). No rejection of the sham of the free-market voodoo economics espoused by such neocon knuckleheads like Karl Rove and Phil Gramm. (Burn them at the stake!) No backward look at the fiscal and economic mismanagement that led to the current crisis.
In other words, this massive bailout of your tax dollars was just business as usual for the casinos of Wall Street. Just roll the dice. If you win, keep it. If you lose, the Feds will bail you out. Privatize profit, socialize loss.
When a few pundits objected, those in Congress—even the good people, like Mike Thompson—answered like a Greek chorus.
"What's worse than a flawed bailout?" asked Henry Paulson.
"No bailout," sang Congress.
Onto this stage stepped one of the creepiest men in the world. Meet Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg. He is licking his chops.
A few factoids about Hank Greenberg: Age 83. Said he liberated Dachau, plans on living forever. Strict vegetarian who employs a private chef and personal trainer and bears more than a vague resemblance to Charles Montgomery Burns, owner of the Springfield Power Plant on The Simpsons. Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr, which was spun off of AIG. Works 18-hour days. Lives in Coral Reef, Fla. Lately, busy with clients in China.
Last year, Greenberg ranked 135 of the Forbes 400 Richest People, net worth $3 billion (onshore monies that we knew about; offshore, probably a lot more). Used to rank in the Top 100 until New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer busted him for fraud. Settled with Spitzer for $1.64 billion. Former chairman and CEO of American International Group (AIG), the world's largest insurance and financial services company, and the world's sixth largest company by assets. (Also, one of the few U.S. companies found in China; AIG can trace its roots to a group of insurance companies started in China by Cornelius Vander Starr in 1919.) Biggest shareholder at AIG, controlling 13 percent of AIG through holding companies and trusts.
With his sons, Jeffrey Greenberg, former chairman and CEO of Marsh & McLennan before he was ousted, and Evan Greenberg, president and CEO of ACE Limited, Hank Greenberg controls a mind-boggling part of the world's insurance and financial services industry.
Over the years, the hard-driving Greenberg has been critical of corporate governance laws, including Sarbanes-Oxley. He led the Bush administration's attack on tort lawyers. He's a good friend to neocons; hell, he's a folk hero, really. Once was quoted as saying, "All I've ever wanted was an unfair advantage."
And guess what else? Last month, Greenberg was the biggest single beneficiary of the Feds' $85 billion bailout of AIG. Last week, the Feds handed AIG another $37.5 billion, just for the asking. Incidentally, none of this $85 billion plus $37.5 billion is included in the $700 billion bailout bill. This is extra. Like a bonus.
It pays to have friends in high places.
America is for sale. And Hank Greenberg is out to buy it....
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