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Top economist: Obama ‘missed opportunity’ to reform financial system

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The Obama administration “refused” to take meaningful steps to reform the banking system in the wake of last year’s financial crisis, and the opportunity to do so has now been missed, says a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund.

Simon Johnson told PBS’s Bill Moyers that he expects an even larger financial crisis to hit the United States in the coming years because the system was not fixed through reform, but rather through a massive injection of taxpayers’ money into the failing banks.

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“The short term opportunity was missed,” Johnson said on Bill Moyers Journal Friday night. “There was an opportunity the Obama administration had. President Obama campaigned on a message of change. … The time for change for the financial sector was absolutely upon us, this was abundantly apparent in January of this year.”

Johnson continued: “Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, is known for saying ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ The crisis for the big banks is substantially over. And it was completely wasted. The administration refused to break the power of the big banks when they had the opportunity earlier this year. And the regulatory reforms they are now pursuing … will turn out to be essentially meaningless.”

Johnson said that the bank bailout would not fix the long-term instability of the financial sector, and “when [the crisis] comes back, it will come back with a vengeance, and it will be I think even more devastating.”

The government’s policy towards the financial crisis amounts to “socialism for the big banks,” US House Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) told Moyers and Johnson. “They’ve basically taken their mistakes and they’ve put it on the taxpayer … that’s socialism, that’s not capitalism.”

Kaptur has become something of a crusader for homeowners’ rights in the wake of the housing crisis, as well as a major critic of US banks. Moyers played a clip of her giving a speech this past January in which she urged homeowners to ignore eviction notices and become “squatters in [their] own homes” if they need to.

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So why should any American citizen be kicked out of their homes in this cold weather? … Don’t leave your home. Because you know what? When those companies say they have your mortgage, unless you have a lawyer that can put his or her finger on that mortgage, you don’t have that mortgage, and you are going to find they can’t find the paper up there on Wall Street. So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don’t you leave. In Ohio and Michigan and Indiana and Illinois and all these other places our people are being treated like chattel, and this Congress is stymied.

Kaptur recounted an anecdote about inviting representatives of investment bank JPMorganChase, the largest forecloser of homes in Kaptur’s Ohio district, to a meeting, and then waiting around all day as no one from JPMorganChase showed up — until nearly the end of the day.

“That’s how they treat our people,” Kaptur said.

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Asked what she thought of the Obama administration’s decisions to have in place many of the figures associated with the financial collapse — such as former Federal Reserve Bank of New York head Timothy Geithner, who is now treasury secretary, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, a Bush administration appointee — Kaptur said: “I don’t think any individuals who had their hands in creating this mess should be in charge of cleaning it up. I honestly don’t think they’re capable of it.”

In May, Johnson penned an article for The Atlantic in which he compared the US’s financial system to that of a corrupt third-world country, and said that, if the IMF had given the US the same advice it gives developing countries, it would have told Washington to break up the banks.

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Johnson described a “deep and disturbing” similarity between the US financial crisis and similar crises to have hit developing countries in earlier times:

Elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.

Rep. Kaptur said the only way to reform the political system is to “take the money out” of it. “We have to get rid of the constant fundraising that happens inside the Congress,” she said.

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Watch the complete video of Bill Moyers’ discussion with Simon Johnson and Rep. Kaptur here.

The following videos were broadcast on PBS’s Bill Moyers Journal, October 9, 2009.

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Trump appointee flails in Senate hearing as he tries to explain contradictory Pentagon statements

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In the wake of news reports that the Trump administration is considering sending an additional 14,000 troops to the Middle East, potentially doubling the current amount of US troops sent to the region since May, the Pentagon's attempts to deny the revelations aren't going to well, according to Task & Purpose.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesperson Alyssa Farah said that there are no plans for a troop increase "at this time."

"As discussed in the hearing today, we are constantly evaluating the threat situation around the world and considering our options," Farah said. "We adjust our force posture and troop levels based on adversary action and the dynamic security situation. Secretary Esper spoke to Chairman Inhofe this morning and reaffirmed that we are not considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East at this time."

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‘Make America 36th Out of 41 Developed Nations Again’: Social justice index of developed nations puts US near bottom

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Meanwhile, the democratic-socialist Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden enjoy the top spots in detailed survey of OECD nations.

Not dead last, but close to it.

That's where the United States came out in a new survey of the world's 41 highly-developed nations measuring access to social justice and the opportunities they afford their respective citizens and residents.

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Where’s the ‘secret’ White House Russia room? diplomat jokes

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One of Moscow's top diplomats joked to President Donald Trump on Thursday after touring the White House that he was disappointed not to have seen the "secret" Russia room.

"Thank you for the tour of the White House," Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, told Trump at a lunch for the members of the UN Security Council.

"We saw the China room, but we didn't see the Russia room," Nebenzya said to laughter from around the table, adding that he wondered if such a room existed but was "top secret."

Nebenzya's quip followed remarks by China's UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, who thanked Trump for his hospitality, saying, "We have made a tour around this number of rooms: the green one, the red one and also the China room."

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