Resulting in … what exactly?12:00 AM, Aug 23, 2014 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Congratulations to you, Tom Montag, named sole chief operating officer of Bank of America this past Wednesday. And first thing Thursday morning asked to sign a check to the government for $16,650,000,000 to settle complaints that the bank sold flawed mortgage securities in the days preceding the financial crisis. But don’t feel too badly. Only $9.65bn will go to various regulatory agencies. Some, $7bn will go toward writing down the balances of homeowners struggling to meet mortgage payments, and to demolish foreclosed homes in blighted neighborhoods. Nice of you to arrange this gigantic transfer of wealth from your shareholders to the government’s coffers and to stressed homeowners and communities, with that relief arriving in time for them to decide which party to vote for in the mid-term congressional elections 73 days hence. Do all of this and the Justice Department might not file criminal charges against you and the bank, which it has reserved the right to do.
Brian Moynihan, Bank of America’s CEO, has reason to feel aggrieved. The mortgage mis-selling was done largely by Merrill Lynch and Countrywide before BofA acquired them -- at the urging of the government, which feared that failure of those institutions would exacerbate the financial crisis. Timothy Geithner, former secretary of the New York Fed and the U.S. Treasury writes in his recently published memoirs that BofA’s acquisitions “eased fears of a collapse.” This settlement, which brings total fines paid by the bank to an estimated $70bn, “allows us to continue to focus on the future,” Mr. Moynihan told the press. Not a bad thing.
All of which makes the $300 million Standard Chartered forked over to regulators in New York State earlier this week for poor monitoring of money laundering by Asian and Arab clients seem a mere slap on the wrist, even though it follows an earlier $667 million fine for violating sanctions rules. Worse still, CEO Peter Sands cannot follow Mr. Moynihan in announcing that StanChart can now look to the future. The settlement bars the bank from accepting any new customers with dollar-clearing needs without the specific approval of the regulators. Analysts are saying that unless Sands reverses the bank’s 20 percent drop in first-half profits, paying the fine might just prove to be his last act before he clears his desk for a successor.
Politicians and regulators who are cutting a swath through bank earnings know two things. One is that the public doesn’t like bankers any more than it did twenty years ago, when polls showed that only 36 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of banks. That figure today is a not-strictly comparable 27 percent, putting bankers a bit behind auto mechanics (29 percent) who aren’t exactly trusted when they shake their heads sadly and say that you need a completely new something-or-other, but ahead of lawyers (20 percent), car salespeople (9 percent), members of Congress (8 percent), and lobbyists (6 percent) in public esteem, according to a recent Gallup poll of Americans’ opinion of bankers and other tradesmen. So if you are a vote-seeking politician, fining banks is a good way to increase your popularity, especially if some of that money trickles down to your constituents, preferably close to Election Day.
The second thing regulators and politicians know is that bankers rarely miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity to soften the public’s negative view of them and their profession. Yes, bankers do have to turn down excessively risky loans sought by potential home-buyers and small businessmen -- not a popularity winner. But no, they don’t have to do all they can to make certain that the public sees them in an unfavorable light. Which is what they have been doing ever since the head of Goldman Sachs told a congressional committee that he is “doing God’s work,” implying that he and bankers had arranged a long-sought merger between God and Mammon.
The pity of it is that the banking industry now has an opportunity to tamp down public antipathy by ending opposition to the more sensible proposed regulations and concentrating on looking to the future, which needs a good deal of looking to if the industry is to survive the winds of change that are buffeting it.
There is little doubt that the volumes of regulations include many that are just plain silly, and many that are counter-productive. But neither is there any doubt that some are needed if the threat to the financial system posed by banks that remain too-big-to-fail is to be reduced -- it never can be eliminated entirely, since the woes that befall one big bank contain the seeds of the downfall of other big banks with which they are inevitably interconnected. Yet the bankers persist in fighting the wrong battles at the wrong time.
8:07 AM, Aug 7, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Vice President Biden's trip to Brazil in mid-June for the USA versus Ghana World Cup game and meetings the following day with the president and vice president of Brazil required rental of vehicles for Biden and his entourage costing over $900,000.
8:06 AM, Jul 29, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Publicly, President Obama loves to demonize insurance companies. But behind the scenes, Big Government and Big Insurance maintain a cozy alliance that the Obama administration actively nourishes, often at taxpayer expense. Indeed, as emails recently obtained by the House Oversight Committee show, Big Government and Big Insurance have worked together to promote Obamacare. They’ve also worked together to make sure taxpayers will help bail out insurance companies who lose money selling insurance under Obamacare — that is, unless Republicans stop this from happening. Moreover, Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett is among the prominent White House officials who’ve been in the middle of this collaboration between insurers and the administration — between those driven by the profit motive and those driven by the power motive.
1:18 PM, Oct 7, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Northern New England is in its glory; now and for the next week or so. The leaves are nearing peak color and until yesterday, there has been a big high pressure zone parked over the area so the weather has been what would once have been described as "heavenly." It has been raining now but in a few days, the sun will shine again and the leaves will still be there, in full. And for that, Washington can take no credit.
8:11 AM, Oct 7, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Only "essential" employees of the federal government are still working during the shutdown. And at the Federal Election Commission that means practically no one is coming one.
According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, only 4 of the employees on the FEC's staff of 339 are working through the shutdown. That's because only those 4 are considered "essential."
9:03 AM, Sep 12, 2013 • By KEVIN R. KOSAR
Are you feeling impulsive? Well, if you are in the District of Columbia there is nothing to fear—the government is doing all it can to protect you from yourself. D.C.’s health department has issued draft regulations that would require anyone seeking a tattoo to wait 24 hours to be inked. A spokesperson for the agency, explained: “We’re making sure when that decision is made that you’re in the right frame of mind, and you don’t wake up in the morning... saying, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’”
8:24 PM, Jul 2, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
In a blatant exercise of arbitrary rule, the Obama administration announced this evening that it has unilaterally decided not to implement a key provision of Obamacare on schedule. By law, Obamacare’s employer mandate — its requirement that businesses with 50 or more workers provide federally sanctioned health insurance — should go into effect next year. By executive fiat, it won’t go into effect until 2015.
7:46 AM, Apr 2, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
As the sequester bore down on Washington, the dire warnings from the Obama administration gave the impression that wild horses couldn't drag another dime out of the treasury for a whole host of vital government services. Aircraft carrier refueling, the Head Start program, and White House tours were among the high profile victims.
Could it change public opinion on big government?4:04 PM, Apr 1, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with senior writer Stephen F. Hayes on President Obama's bad sequester calculus. Hosted by Michael Graham.
8:36 AM, Mar 7, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
When it comes to deficit reduction, President Obama and the mainstream press seem to have a fascination with the figure of $4 trillion. During last year’s first presidential debate, Obama falsely claimed, “I've put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan,” even though he’d done nothing of the sort.
"It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth."6:04 PM, Feb 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The White House has released limited excerpts of President Obama's State of the Union Address:
“It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.
Nearly double the cost of the first three years of Bush and Clinton combined.2:29 PM, Jan 30, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
As Adam White discusses in detail, there’s nothing moderate or incremental about the increase in federal regulations — and hence in centralized executive power — under President Obama. To the contrary (as White notes), according to figures published by the Obama White House (see table 2-1), the costs of regulations issued by this administration have dwarfed the costs of regulations issued by prior administrations.
1:40 PM, Jan 4, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
It has been a long climb for NASCAR. The sport's beginnings were in bootlegging. One of its finest drivers, fiercest competitors, and most successful owners learned his craft hauling moonshine on the back roads of North Carolina.
2:25 PM, Dec 24, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Spending will increase 55 percent over the next decade, if President Barack Obama's budget plan goes into effect. The finding comes from the Republican-side of the Senate Budget Committee, which notes that Obama's "Proposal Would Spend $880 Billion Over Already Projected Increases."
4:15 PM, Dec 17, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Since Washington and the mainstream press corps are pretending that our deficit woes are the result of a roughly equal blend of excessive federal spending and insufficient federal taxation, let’s review the evidence. According to official government figures published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in fiscal year 2008, the federal government took in $2.524 trillion and spent $2.983 trillion. So the