Pronk Pops Show 36, July 13, 2011: Segment 1: Gretchen Morgenson & Joshua Rosner–Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led To Economic Armageddon–Videos

Posted on July 12, 2011. Filed under: Books, Business, Economics, Federal Government, Government, Government Spending, History, Housing, Investments, Regulation, Videos, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , |

Pronk Pops Show 36:July 13, 2011 

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Segment 1: Gretchen Morgenson & Joshua Rosner–Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led To Economic Armageddon–Videos

Charlie Rose – Gretchen Morgenson 06/03/11

Gretchen Morgenson & Joshua Rosner on Democracy Now! on the Causes of the Financial Crisis. 1 of 2

Gretchen Morgenson & Joshua Rosner on Democracy Now! on the Causes of the Financial Crisis. 2 of 2

BookTV: Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, “Reckless Endangerment”

Rush on ‘Reckless Endangerment’

Background Articles and Videos

Gretchen C. Morgenson

“…Gretchen C. Morgenson (born January 2, 1956 in State College, Pennsylvania) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who writes the Market Watch column for the Sunday “Money & Business” section of the New York Times.[1][2]

Morgenson graduated in 1976 from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota with a B.A. degree in English and history. She went to work as an assistant editor with Vogue magazine, eventually becoming a writer and financial columnist. In 1981 she co-authored the book The Woman’s Guide to the Stock Market and that same year joined the Wall Street stockbrokerage, Dean Witter Reynolds where she remained until January 1984. She returned to writing on financial matters at Money magazine and in late 1986 accepted an offer from Forbes magazine to work as an editor and an investigative business writer. In mid 1993, she left Forbes magazine to become the executive editor at Worth magazine but in September 1995 took on the job of press secretary for the Presidential election campaign of Steve Forbes following which she was appointed assistant managing editor at Forbes magazine.

She is married, has a son and lives in New York City.

In May 1998 Gretchen Morgenson became the assistant business and financial editor at the New York Times. She has written about the conflicts of interests between financial analysts and their employers who generate income money from the companies that the analysts assess.

Beginning in 2005, Morgenson has been focusing on executive compensation packages being paid by American companies that she asserts has reached levels far in excess of what can be justified to shareholders.

In 2006, Morgenson broke a story about a Wall Street analyst (Matthew Murray) who was fired shortly after he reported emails to Congress concerning potential violations of SEC regulation AC by the investment bank (Rodman & Renshaw) that he worked for at the time. The emails allegedly documented that the investment bank wouldn’t let the analyst lower his rating, or have his name removed from coverage, of an investment banking client. A subsequent article by Morgenson highlighted a letter she obtained from the Senate Finance Committee in which Senator Grassley stated that the investment bank’s Chairman (General Wesley Clark) had acknowledged to his staff that the analyst had been fired from the investment bank as a result of reporting the emails to Congress.[3]

In 2009, The Nation called her “The Most Important Financial Journalist of Her Generation”.[4] She has appeared on Bill Moyers Journal,[5] and Charlie Rose.[6] …”


The New York Times’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist reveals how the financial meltdown emerged from the toxic interplay of Washington, Wall Street, and corrupt mortgage lenders

In Reckless Endangerment, Gretchen Morgenson, the star business columnist of The New York Times,exposes how the watchdogs who were supposed to protect the country from financial harm were actually complicit in the actions that finally blew up the American economy.

Drawing on previously untapped sources and building on original research from coauthor Joshua Rosner—who himself raised early warnings with the public and investors, and kept detailed records—Morgenson connects the dots that led to this fiasco.

Morgenson and Rosner draw back the curtain on Fannie Mae, the mortgage-finance giant that grew, with the support of the Clinton administration, through the 1990s, becoming a major opponent of government oversight even as it was benefiting from public subsidies. They expose the role played not only by Fannie Mae executives but also by enablers at Countrywide Financial, Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, HUD, Congress, the FDIC, and the biggest players on Wall Street, to show how greed, aggression, and fear led countless officials to ignore warning signs of an imminent disaster.

Character-rich and definitive in its analysis, this is the one account of the financial crisis you must read. …”

Fanniegate: Gamechanger For The GOP?

Walter Russell Mead
“…Democrats, watch out.The Republican Party and especially its Tea Party wing have just acquired a new weapon of mass destruction — and it has nothing to do with any of Congressman Wiener’s rogue body parts.  If they deploy this weapon effectively in the next election cycle — a big if — then they have the biggest opportunity to move the country rightward since Ronald Reagan took the oath of office back in 1981.The Tea Party WMD stockpile is currently stored in book form:  Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. By Gretchen Morgenson, one of America’s best business journalists who is currently at The New York Times, and noted financial analyst Joshua Rosner, Reckless Endangerment gives the best available account of how the growing chaos in the mortgage and personal finance markets and the rampant bundling of dubious loans into exotically toxic securities plunged the world, and millions of American families, into the gravest financial crisis since World War Two. It is gripping reading as well, and its explanations are clear enough that readers without any background in finance will have no trouble following the plot.  The villains?  An unholy alliance between Wall Street, the Democratic establishment, community organizing groups like ACORN and La Raza, and politicians like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi and Henry Cisneros.  (Frank got a cushy job for a lover, Pelosi got a job and layoff protection for a son, Cisneros apparently got a license to mint money bilking Mexican-Americans of their life savings in cheesy housing developments.)

If the GOP can make this narrative mainstream, and put this picture into the heads of voters nationwide, the Democrats are toast.  The party will have to reinvent itself (or as often happens in American politics, be rescued by equally stupid Republican missteps) before it can flourish.

If Morgenstern and Rosner are to be believed, the American dream didn’t die of old age; it was murdered and most of the fingerprints on the corpse come from Democratic insiders.  Democratic power brokers stoked the housing bubble and turned a blind eye to the increasingly rampant corruption and incompetence at Fannie Mae and the associated predatory lenders who sheltered under its umbrella; core Democratic ideas may well be at fault.

This is catnip to Republicans, arsenic to Dems.  If Morgenson and Rosner are right, there is someone the American people can blame for our current economic woes and it is exactly the cast of characters that a lot of Americans love to hate.  Big government, affirmative action and influence peddling among Democratic insiders came within inches of smashing the US economy.

The Morgenson/Rosner story is a simple and easily grasped one. It is made for campaign ads.  The Great Villain, the man who almost ruined America according to the book, is James Johnson, long one of the most important members of the Democratic establishment.  He ran Walter Mondale’s campaign.  He chaired John Kerry’s search for a vice-president — the brilliantly executed search that chose the revered anti-poverty warrior John Edwards.

Barack Obama, impressed by this track record of discernment, reportedly asked him to lead Obama’s search in 2008 — though Johnson withdrew when word got out that he benefited from the disgraced and disgusting Angelo Mozilo’s corrupt program of ‘special’ mortgages for political friends.  (Mozilo was the head of Countrywide, a massively fraudulent and predatory lender which benefited hugely from its business connections with Fannie Mae.)  He is a director of the much hated Goldman Sachs, a former director of Lehman Brothers, has chaired the board of the Brookings Institution, is a major Democratic Party fundraiser who bundled several hundred thousand dollars for President Obama, helped bring old Clinton friends into the Obama organization, and has been at the center of Democratic finance and politics for a generation.

Named CEO of Fannie Mae (a government backed mortgage corporation) Johnson decided to make untold wealth by making and securitizing junk housing loans and by massaging the financial reports to ensure that he qualified for the obscenely generous maximum bonus no matter what was actually happening to the company under his care. …”

Home Truths

To keep itself politically bullet-proof, Fannie Mae paid competing lobbyists to sit on the sidelines.


“…’The American people realize they’ve been robbed. They’re just not sure by whom,” write Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner in “Reckless Endangerment.” But Americans who read this outstanding history of the financial crisis will know, by the end, exactly who created the meltdown of 2008 and how they did it. This is a story, the authors say, “of what happens when Washington decides, in its infinite wisdom, that every living, breathing citizen should own a home.”

Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, authors of Reckless Endangerment, explain the corrupt culture behind the housing crisis.

At the center of the drama is Fannie Mae, a private company that used its special government backing to dominate the mortgage market and become the nation’s second-largest debt issuer, after the U.S. Treasury itself. Encouraged by politicians to expand home lending—not least to minorities and to households with few assets—the company ignored reasonable standards of underwriting and piled up fugitive profits almost as fast as it increased risk to taxpayers.

The disaster is now measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars. As for the borrowers who were supposedly to benefit from Fannie’s mortgage-industrial complex, Ms. Morgenson and Mr. Rosner write that home ownership “put them squarely on the road to personal and financial ruin.”

The disaster would not have been possible, the authors make clear, without the early efforts of James Johnson, Fannie Mae’s chief executive in the 1990s and one of the Beltway’s most connected figures—at one time or other the chairman of the Brookings Institution and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as well as a member of Goldman Sachs’s board of directors.

As an assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale, Mr. Johnson had little background in financial markets. When he was chosen to head up Fannie Mae, in 1991, he quickly grasped that the key to Fannie’s success, and to his own astronomical bonuses, was persuading Congress to maintain Fannie’s implicit government backing while preventing any bank-style regulation to interfere with the company’s operation.

That Fannie and its cousin, Freddie Mac, had been created by the government to provide a secondary market for mortgages allowed them to borrow more cheaply than potential competitors. Investors around the world assumed—correctly, as it turned out—that the U.S. government would bail them out in a crisis and therefore viewed investing in Fannie and Freddie’s debt as almost as safe as buying Treasurys. …”

Book Review: Reckless Endangerment by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner

“…The authors would of course have us believe that an unholy alliance of government and Wall Street was the driver of the boom, but the problem with this facile assertion is that skyrocketing home prices in the decade just passed were hardly unique to the United States. Housing boomed in Australia, Spain, and Ireland to name but three non-U.S. countries, plus it roared upward in Canada and England despite the fact that England abolished its mortgage deduction in the ‘80s (on page 3 the authors explained our deduction as a major driver of the boom), and in Canada it’s incredibly difficult to secure a loan to purchase a home.

What’s interesting is that while the authors at the book’s beginning laid out the ”cast of characters” that allegedly brought us to the brink, they oddly left out the man and his Treasury Department that played a bigger role than any of the admittedly worthless people that comprised their cast. Specifically, the authors left out President George W. Bush, and his Treasury Department that reversed the Reagan/Clinton strong-dollar policies in favor of extreme dollar weakness.

As history has regularly shown, from post-WWI Germany, to England and the U.S. in the ‘70s (despite skyrocketing rates of interest), to the decade just completed, when money loses value commodity-like assets including housing tend to rise, particularly in nominal terms. Housing is not gold-like in the sense that gold priced in all currencies tends to rise when currencies decline in value, but the historical correlation between commodity spikes and nominal housing health is very real, and was there during the Bush years for all to see.

Much as housing exploded during the devaluationist presidencies of Nixon and Carter, so did it boom during the Bush years when the dollar declined in value. And the reason the housing boom was global in nature has to do with the sad reality that when we devalue in the United States, it’s always and everywhere a worldwide event. Though the Euro, Aussie and Canadian dollars and the British Pound all rose against the greenback during Bush’s presidency, those increases masked the fact that the aforementioned currencies were in rapid decline against the most credible measure of value we have in the world: gold.

Morgenson and Rosner would have a point if the housing mania had been endemic to the United States, but with housing in nominal terms having skyrocketed around the world, we must look to currency policy for the answer. The dollar’s decline began not long after Bush reached office, and the dollar’s fall led to a fall in the value of nearly every other foreign currency, thus exporting our housing mania to the world. History merely repeated itself, though Reckless completely glossed over a global run on paper currencies that has always led to recessionary housing booms.

The strange thing is that not only was President Bush left out of the authors’ cast, but the book was mostly laudatory of a Bush administration that began casting a skeptical light on Fannie and Freddie early on. That the Bush administration did in fact look more askance at the GSEs that animate Reckless doesn’t erase the greater truth that absent a falling dollar that helped boost nominal home prices for a time (and which still props up their nominal value today), there’s no rush to housing during the Bush years, no subsequent market moderation for Washington to turn into a crisis, and there’s arguably no President Obama.

So while Reckless has some good facts, and some very damning quotes uttered by some extraordinarily objectionable people, it ultimately misses the mark and will only succeed insofar as it inflames the partisan extremes even more. In short, readers must continue to wait for the book that offers the true explanation of how we got here; an explanation that isn’t credibly found in Morgenson and Rosner’s Reckless.  …”


Gretchen Morgenson on Dialogue

Charlie Rose – Gretchen Morgenson and Allan Sloan

6/30/2007-Prt 1 Gretchen Morgenson Interviewed by Bill Moyer

6/30/2007-Prt 2 Gretchen Morgenson Interviewed by Bill Moyer

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