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Bernanke on ‘Occupy Wall Street’: Fed not part of the problem

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sympathized with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement’s dissatisfaction with economic inequality at a press conference Wednesday, but said protesters should not blame the Fed for bailing out the banks.

Bernanke responded to a question about “Occupy Wall Street” by saying that he was dissatisfied with the state of the economy as well, particularly with the high unemployment and income inequality.

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“It’s been going on,” he said, “increases in inequality have been going on for at least 30 years. But, obviously, as that has continued we now have a more unequal society than we’ve had in the past.”

The Fed gave out $16.1 trillion in emergency loans to U.S. and foreign financial institutions between Dec. 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010, according to figures produced by the government’s first-ever audit of the central bank.

Out of all borrowers, Citigroup received the most financial assistance from the Fed, at $2.5 trillion. Morgan Stanley came in second with $2.04 trillion, followed by Merill Lynch at $1.9 trillion and Bank of America at $1.3 trillion.

“I think that the concerns about the Fed are based on misconceptions,” Bernanke continued. “The Federal Reserve was involved, obviously, in trying to stabilize the financial system in 2008 and 2009, a very simplistic interpretation of that was that we were doing that because we wanted to preserve, you know, banker salaries. That is obviously not the case.”

“What we were doing was trying to protect the financial system in order to prevent a serious collapse of both the financial system and the American economy. And we needed to take those steps. If we hadn’t taken them the consequences would have been dire.”

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The audit also found that the Fed mostly outsourced its lending operations to the very financial institutions which sparked the crisis to begin with, and that they delegated contracts largely on a no-bid basis. The GAO report recommends new policies that would eliminate such conflicts of interest, and suggests that in the future the Fed should keep better records of their emergency decision-making process.

The audit was conducted on a one-time basis, as mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed last year.

When Bernanke was asked about the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in early October, he said that excessive risk taking on Wall Street and the failure of financial regulators “had a lot to do” with the recession.

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“Well, I would say very generally I think people are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening,” Bernanke said. “They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington.

“And at some level, I can’t blame them,” he added. “Certainly 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is not a very good situation.”

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Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

With prior reporting by Stephen C. Webster

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Supreme Court stuns experts with 7-2 ruling in Trump tax case

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In a 7-2 decision that surprised many court observers, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that President Donald Trump cannot block a subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney seeking his tax returns.

"Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm that principle," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision.

The court sent the case back to lower courts for further proceedings. Axios described the ruling as "a stinging loss for Trump, who has fought relentlessly to keep these records secret."

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GOP has all but given up on containment — instead they’re feeding Americans to the ‘coronavirus meatgrinder’: op-ed

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Writing in The Week this Thursday, Ryan Cooper says that as the coronavirus continues to spike across the country, Republicans have essentially abandoned efforts to stem the spread. "Instead they are feeding the American people into the coronavirus meatgrinder," he writes.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is focused on protecting companies from liability if they infect their employees or customers, while President Trump threatens to cut off funding from schools that don't open in the fall.

"For months now Republicans have been positing a tradeoff between pandemic containment and the economy, as if we just cancel the lockdowns then everything can go back to normal," Cooper writes. "What they stubbornly refuse to understand is that the virus is the problem. As we are seeing, even in this benighted country a critical mass of people will not go about their normal activities if they are afraid of catching a dangerous disease. Similarly, Sweden did not officially lock down, and as a result it has suffered six-12 times as many deaths as its Scandinavian neighbors — yet its economy took just as bad a hit as theirs. Now that Norway, Denmark, and Finland have contained the virus and are reopening safely but many Swedes are still staying home, the economic damage will be even worse in relative terms."

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Mask-free UFC fighter punches and hurls racial slurs at older man for ‘touching’ him at restaurant

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UFC fighter Mike Perry was seen on video punching an older man for allegedly touching him. Perry, who is white, can also be heard using the N-word multiple times.

According to ESPN, the incident occurred at Table 82 in Lubbock, Texas on Wednesday.

In a video shared on social media, Perry appears irate as he is ushered out of the restaurant.

Austin police officers who arrived on the scene declined to arrest Perry but said that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

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