October 09, 2008

Now, let me just close by saying this. I do not think this is going to be easy. It’s not going to come without costs. We are all going to need to sacrifice. We’re all going to need to pull our weight, because now, more than ever, we are all in this together. Now, that’s part of what this crisis has taught us, that, in the end of the day, there’s no real separation between Wall Street and Main Street. There’s only the road we’re traveling on as Americans. And we will rise or fall on that journey as one nation and as one people.
~Barack Obama

Thus the junior senator from Illinois rationalizes his support of the bailout. And if you read the whole speech, you”€™ll find that it is highly unusual, especially for a Democratic politician. There is none of the class warfare rhetoric, none of the Palinesque denunciations of “€œgreed”€ and “€œpredatory”€ lenders, which made the perky GOP vice presidential nominee sound, at times during the VP debate, like a combination of William Jennings Bryan and Father Coughlin. Oh no, that’s not Obama’s style at all, and especially when it comes to the bailout issue, because, you see, his entire mission is to convince the American people that there truly is “€œno separation between Main Street and Wall Street”€”€”because, after all, he is Lehman Brothers”€™ bridge between the two. As the OpenSecrets.org web site points out, Lehman Bros. was generous with its contributions to members of Congress, especially Democrats:

In the current Congress, 271 lawmakers have collected nearly $3 million since 1989, with 72 percent going to Democrats. Democratic presidential candidates and senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama top the list of all-time recipients for the company, collecting $410,000 and $395,600 respectively. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of both the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, hauled in $181,450, while Sen. Chris Dodd, chair of the Senate banking committee, has collected $165,800.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If we look at the list of contributors to Obama’s presidential campaign, we can see that he is, for all intents and purposes, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lehman Bros., not to mention J.P. Morgan, Citibank, real-estate holding companies, and a veritable Who’s Who of the sub-prime mortgage lenders who are now being bailed out at a cost to the taxpayers”€”so far”€”of $700 billion.

Obama’s campaign would have us believe that he’s the anti-corporate candidate, a populist “€œman of the people” whose race for the White House is being funded by tens and twenties sent in by ordinary folks who can”€™t wait to see him crack down on Wall Street abuses. What they don”€™t want you to know is that, out of the two and a half million donors to the Obama campaign, around 180,000 top dogs account for almost 60% of his campaign treasury. Who are these people? Let’s take a closer look….

First off, you have to understand some basics, beginning with the basic irrelevance of those old-time bugaboos known as “€œpolitical action committees.”€ These organizations, which represent groups openly seeking favors from the government, are far too transparent and old-fashioned for the Obama campaign, which brags that it doesn”€™t take PAC money. It more than makes up for this, however, by employing hundreds of “€œbundlers,”€ fundraisers who get around limitations on campaign contributions given by individuals by “€œbundling”€ donations from a given interest group, including corporate entities.

Of Obama’s 180,000 top dogs, nearly 600 are bundlers representing mostly Wall Street firms, and the sub-prime crowd features prominently. Obama’s bundlers raised over $18 million. You get a better picture of Obama’s supposedly “€œgrassroots”€ campaign financing when you realize that a mere 552 donors account for almost a full third of his campaign cash. This is masked, albeit not all that effectively, by either failing to list the occupations of these bundlers, or else giving them some innocuous description like “€œretired”€ or “€œhomemaker.”€

So while it’s true that, among Obama’s campaign contributors there are many Lehman Brothers Executives, such as CEO Richard Fuld ($2,300), President Joseph Gregory ($4,600) and dozens of other top execs,  amounting to over $395,000, this is just chickenfeed. The candidate’s bundlers among the firm’s top echelon have raised the big bucks for their messiah. Get a gander at this list of Lehman luminaries:

“€¢ Christine Forester – ($500,000-plus) senior executive.
“€¢ Mark Gilbert – ($500,000-plus) senior executive.
“€¢ John Rhea – ($500,000-plus) managing co-director of Lehman Bros. Global Investment Banking.
“€¢ Theodore Janulis “€“ Bundler (over $100,000) & Lehman Brothers, managing director of Global Mortgages.
“€¢ Nadja Fidelia “€“ Bundler (over $50,000) managing director.

Obama is going around the country, trying to maintain his populist image, and descrying the greed and corruption of Wall Street whilst crying crocodile tears for the little old ladies being thrown out on the street by sinister banksters. He’s particularly hot under the collar about some of those golden parachutes, whereby the financial wizards behind the sub-prime disaster managed to get away with multi-million-dollar pay-outs. Yet some of the biggest figures in the sub-prime mortgage market have been some of his biggest fans, if monetary contributions are any measure.

Take one Stanley O”€™Neal, who received more than $161 million when he was fired as Chairman of Merrill Lynch, one of the biggest of the sub-prime lenders. He donated to Obama’s 2003 Senate campaign, and subsequently gave the maximum to his presidential bid. Indeed, the O”€™Neal family (husband and wife Nancy) are such big Obama fans that they initially tried to give over the maximum”€”$6.900″€”and had $2,300 refunded to them.

Another high-roller in the sub-prime sweepstakes is Steve Boland, a managing director of Countrywide, which made a specialty out of selling loans to people who clearly couldn”€™t afford them: he maxed out to the Obama campaign last June. Andrew Beer, president of Wachovia’s Evergreen Investment Partners, also gave the maximum. The other big players in the sub-prime sandbox all turn out to be Obama-maniacs, including a good number of Citigroup execs.

The Center For Responsive Politics informs us that of the top 20 sources of campaign cash for Obama,  11 were from either investment banks or law firms closely tied to these financial institutions, and the list of big corporate donors “€“ especially the bundlers “€“ is truly awe-inspiring. They include: John W. Roberts, of Ariel Capital Management (over $500,000), Jim Torrey, Founder of the Torrey Hedge Funds over $500,000), Charles Lewis,Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch, Richard Leweke, Vice Chairman of Washington Mutual Card Services, Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank. Over $200,000: Louis Susman, of Citi Investment Banking, J. Michael Schell, managing director at Citigroup, David Heller and Bruce Heyman, both managing directors at Goldman Sachs, Michael Froman, managing director at Citigroup. Francisco Borges, chairman of Landmark Partners a private equity real estate firm, bundled $50,000 for Obama, as did Todd Williams, a managing director at Goldman Sachs and the Real Estate Council.

Obama’s backers in the world of high finance”€”platoons of top execs from Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Chase, Morgan Stanley, Countrywide”€”were all intimately involved in the mortgage fiasco. They profited, bigtime, from the Greenspan Bubble, and now they expect their bought-and-paid-for presidential candidate to bail them out “€“ and he hasn”€™t disappointed them.

He hemmed and hawed in his Senate speech advocating a “€œyes”€™ vote for the bailout, listing all the reasons why the banksters shouldn”€™t get their 700 billion bucks, and acknowledging the widespread skepticism among the public (as opposed to the elites, who are, quite naturally, for it). But still, he averred, there is no real separation between Main Street and Wall Street.”€ We”€™re all in this together, blah, blah, blah…

That is nonsense, to be sure: Banks, particularly investment banks, are no more like ordinary businesses than, say, the US Post Office is like Fed Ex, or the CIA is like a private eye. Main Street sells real goods and services: in an economy that is increasingly socialized at its commanding heights, however, Wall Street peddles Ponzi schemes and political candidates. And their favorite this year is Barack Obama, the designated messiah of the Overclass.

The idea is that by supporting Obama they can avoid social revolution”€”appeasing both the gods of political correctness and the Fortune 500. Riding into the fray on a white charger, his banner emblazoned with the “€œDeflation”€”Never!”€ slogan that is the battle-cry of finance capital in a state capitalist society, Obama is the Establishment’s trump card, the elite’s last hope of salvaging its power, prestige, and wealth from the coming implosion. It is a remarkable marketing operation”€”to create a populist and even a revolutionary persona out of someone who is, essentially, a creation of his corporate overlords”€”but it looks like they”€™re going to pull it off.

I wouldn”€™t count on the presence of Obama in the White House to defuse or even delay the powerful upsurge of anti-government, anti-Establishment populism that will be an inevitable reaction to economic turmoil on the scale many economists are now projecting. If they expect Obama to keep the inner cities, and the white suburbs, in line during the coming time of trouble, then that won”€™t be nearly enough.

This system is finished: the Hamiltonian, state-capitalist corporate state that emerged out of the postwar era, and was based on the Federal Reserve’s “€œsoft”€ dictatorship over the economy, is over. It is, in short, a dictatorship of the bankers. Empowered to create assets out of thin air by government fiat, the lords of high finance colluded with the lords of Washington to create a system based on fraud, pure and simple. Now that fraud is coming unraveled”€”but, have no fear! A messiah has come to save them, a multi-culti FDR to sell the bailout to the masses and ensure the banksters’ place as pillars of society. Will he succeed? Can he succeed?

Let’s hope not.


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