But if you want to get a true sense of what the “shadow budget” is all about, all you have to do is look closely at the taxpayer money handed over to a single company that goes by a seemingly innocuous name: Waterfall TALF Opportunity. At first glance, Waterfall’s haul doesn’t seem all that huge — just nine loans totaling some $220 million, made through a Fed bailout program. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, considering that Goldman Sachs alone received roughly $800 billion in loans from the Fed. But upon closer inspection, Waterfall TALF Opportunity boasts a couple of interesting names among its chief investors: Christy Mack and Susan Karches.
Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley’s investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences. Yet the Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income.
Bottom line, these two well-connected women started a company for what appears to be no other reason than to collect government funds. $250B in loans, which – because of the rules set out – don’t really need to be repaid. If they are great. If not, you and I take it in the shorts.
But we’d be naive to think these are the only examples. If the investigations continue in earnest, we are going to see more and more of these stories uncovered. These people do it because they can, because we’ve allowed it, because we keep seeing “business friendly” politicians take office and they write rules that benefit themselves and their wealthy friends/financiers.
We allow it and let them pull the wool over our eyes again and again. They take and take, and do everything in their power to make sure they take more than their share and give up less than everyone else.
Are there some exceptions? To be sure. In fact, the folks who are doing the cheating may not even be in the majority. But the impact of what they do affects so many that they need not be large in number.
For example, look at the Enron debacle. The real fraud was perpetrated high-up, among Skilling, Lay and Fastow. Others were involved, but these guys were the orchestrators. But the real reason they got away with it is because they were trusted. What they said must obviously be true, or at least that;s how it was treated. Few questioned what was going on, and those who did were punished. You can do that when you have what seems to be unlimited wealth. When an analyst questioned the numbers on one of Enron’s schemes, their boss was called and told to get rid of the analyst, as they obviously didn’t understand it, that it was so complicated that only the Enron folks really had a grasp of it.
Fast forward to 2009 and the “derivatives” that were so complicated that only the banks really had a grasp of them. Sound familiar? The financial industry took the Enron model and adapted it to their own benefit, and like Enron, fell like a house of cards when things began to unravel.
But at least in the Enron case, people were prosecuted and went to jail. How many bankers have seen the inside of a cell over this latest fiasco? They ran a high stales Ponzi scheme with our money, and are still laughing about the fact that we then gave them more money to bail themselves out of it.
I’m not opposed to the bail out. No, I’m angry that these charlatans, cheats and thieves are still walking the streets instead of making license plates or making small rocks out of big ones. But their money keeps flowing, they keep getting richer, and they keep buying the influence they need to keep it that way.
The rich get richer, and unless we open our eyes and demand change, we’ll continue to take it in the shorts.