Despite rosy earnings reports from some closely watched corporations, the Great Recession is far from over, according to the latest economic data from the Commerce Department. America’s GDP, which shrank at an annualized rate of 6.3 percent in the last quarter of 2008, was expected to decline at a rate of about 5 percent for the first quarter of this year. Instead, it fell 6.1 percent, suggesting that last year’s meltdown continues more or less apace.
New revelations from the New York State Attorney General’s office have all but proven that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson committed bank fraud crimes in the case of the Merrill Lynch/Bank of America merger that took place last year. New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo revealed that Paulson and Bernanke illegally suppressed adverse financial data on the merger and threatened to replace the Bank of America CEO and board of directors if the company backed out of the Merrill Lynch merger. “Secretary Paulson has informed us that he made the threat at the request of Chairman Bernanke,” Cuomo wrote in an April 23 letter to Congress.
Item: The Washington Post for March 31 reported: “The billions of dollars spent in U.S. aid to Afghanistan over the past seven years have been largely wasted, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday. ‘For those of you who have been on the ground in Afghanistan, you have seen with your own eyes that a lot of these aid programs don’t work,’ she said. ‘There are so many problems with them. There are problems of design, there are problems of staffing, there are problems of implementation, there are problems of accountability. You just go down the line.’ Clinton called the amount of money spent without results ‘heartbreaking.’”
Dave Ramsey on Thursday evening, April 23, held a town hall-style meeting in Oklahoma City that was webcast to about 6,000 sites, mostly churches, across the country. Ramsey, who has carved out a professional niche as a Christian financial adviser, hosts his own syndicated radio show and also regularly appears on the Fox Business Network. Creator of the Financial Peace University, Ramsey encourages a life free of debt and living within one's means. This involves not using a credit card, having an emergency fund in the bank to pay for three-to-six months of expenses, and buying only things you can afford.
President Obama on April 10 emerged from a high-level meeting with his economic team and proclaimed there were “glimmers of hope across the economy.” He believed some of those “glimmers” included his stimulus program and infrastructure work that he labeled “progress toward getting the economy back on track.” Nevertheless, he was forced to admit that unemployment had hit a 25-year high of 8.5 percent in March, and many Americans are still losing their homes and jobs.
Next up for the federal government: the credit card industry. Having already thrown trillions in taxpayer dollars at the banking sector, and having moved to nationalize several of the nation’s largest banks by buying up preferred shares of stock, the Obama Administration now has the credit card sector in its sights.
Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the TARP, informed Congress April 21 that he has opened 20 criminal investigations and six audits in connection with improper dispensation of bailout funds under TARP. The $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) has a “great inherent danger” for fraud, and he says in his 250-page report to Congress that losses from fraud could end up exceeding $300 billion.
The BBC reported on April 14 that one city in Egypt, Damietta, still has zero unemployment in these difficult economic times. That’s surprising, but what makes this even more surprising is that the city specializes in manufacturing furniture, often high-end furniture, for export. This isn’t just micro-manufacturing in a small town either. It is estimated that there are over 60,000 furniture shops in the city.