The debt ceiling, coporate taxes and health care.
Last week, the US government’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), an agency of the US Treasury Department, published its 2011 annual report. There are a few numbers that are pretty startling. We’ve discussed before that FinCEN is the executive agency tasked with ensuring that every US banker is an unpaid government spy through Suspicious Activity Reports. A Suspicious Activity Report, or SAR, includes details of any transaction that may be deemed ‘suspicious’. Naturally, there’s no clear guidance on what is/is not considered suspicious. Banks, brokerages, money service businesses, precious metals dealers… even casinos are required by law to fill them out. If you withdraw an unusual amount of cash from your bank account, that could be deemed suspicious. If you set up a new payee in your billpay service, that could be deemed suspicious. Anything and everything is fair game. Banks and other businesses who do not fill out SARs face hefty penalties, including imprisonment. If they disclose to a customer that s/he is the subject of a SAR, they have hefty penalties, including imprisonment. When push comes to shove and they have to choose between a nasty penalty, or submitting a SAR about your unusual cash withdrawal, which option do you think they’ll pick? Unsurprisingly, nearly 1.5 million ‘suspicious activity reports’ were filed across the US banking system in 2011, well over twice the number reported in 2004. On top of this, there were an additional -14.8 million- ‘currency transaction reports’ filed in 2011, a 6% jump over last year. It’s an unfortunate trend which highlights not only the end of financial privacy, but also the massive amount of data being collected by the government to keep tabs on its citizens.
- Europe’s $39T Pension Threat Grows as Economy Sputters (Bloomberg)
- Monti Warns of Italy Protests as He Meets Merkel (Bloomberg)
- Bernanke Doubling Down on Housing Bet Asks Government to Help: Mortgages (Bloomberg)
- Europe Banks Resist Draghi Bid to Avoid Crunch by Hoarding Cash (Bloomberg)
- Europe Fears Rising Greek Cost (WSJ)
- ECB’s Nowotny Sees Risk of Mild Recession in Euro Region (Bloomberg)
- Republican Senators Criticize Fed Recommendations on Housing (Bloomberg)
- Spanish Banks Try to Build Their Way Out of Home Glut (WSJ)
- Europe Stocks Fluctuate After German Auction (Bloomberg)
When it comes to corruption, cronyism and general muppetry in Washington D.C., the only real question is 'where does one start?' Yet one has to start somewhere to conclude with a list of the ten most corrupt and despicable marionettes in D.C. Which is precisely what JudicialWatch has done in its annual compilation of the "Top 10 Most Corrupt Politicians in Washington D.C." for 2011. And confirming what everyone knows, that both the left and right are merely irrelevant names for the same general social affliction, or should we call it by its true name - wealth pillage - the split is even between democrats and republicans. In no particular order, the winners of 2011 are...
[T]he Treasury Department said that any review of [patently misleading and false] announcements last year “must be considered in light of the unprecedented circumstances in which they were made.”