On the News With Thom Hartmann: Banksters Are Cashing in Off Their Own Disaster, and More

In today’s On the News segment: The big banks are buying up distressed real estate by the boat load, and renting or selling it back to the public for huge profits; today, the chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will present his semi-annual report to the Senate Banking Committee; yesterday was the last day for public comment on the Keystone XL Pipeline; and more.


Jim Javinsky here – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news…

You need to know this. The banksters are cashing in off their own disaster. The big banks are buying up distressed real estate by the boat load, and renting or selling it back to the public for huge profits. And, in addition to making it even more difficult for economically-strapped Americans to become home owners, the banksters are increasing the likelihood of another Wall Street-fueled bubble that could crash our economy. According to the Washington Post, institutional investors account for as much as 70 percent of sales in some markets, and their purchases are increasing home prices in those areas. Some investors are bidding on as many as 200 homes in a single day, crowding out individual buyers, re-inflating prices, and taking on a huge volume of inventory that can’t be liquidized quickly if and when big banks get into financial trouble. Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, expressed his concern about the risk the banksters are taking on. He said, “This is frightening to me. At some point the music stops. The investors, if they get hurt, that is their problem…but invariably a lot of other people will get caught up in that.” Because of the risky trading practices and sub-prime mortgage scandals of the big banks, the taxpayers were forced to spend 700 billion dollars bailing out the banksters. Now, they are putting our economy at risk again, and they’re making huge profits off of the homes they foreclosed on. And, taxpayers could be left holding the bag, when the big banks get into trouble again. This practice must be stopped. Let’s break up the big banks, and stop the banksters from cashing in on the very disaster they created.

In screwed news… This is why we needed filibuster reform. Today, the chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will present his semi-annual report to the Senate Banking Committee, but Republicans say he is not welcome to present that report in the House. According to Representative Jeb Hensarling, the appointment of CFPB Director Richard Cordray was not legal, and the House Panel on Banking will not accept his testimony. President Obama selected Cordray to head the agency with a 2012 recess appointment, but a federal court has since redefined how and when such appointments can be made, and invalidated three of the President’s appointments. As Republicans have continued to block the confirmation of virtually all of the President Obama’s nominations, agencies like the CFPB are in legal-limbo waiting for that court’s decision to be appealed to the Supreme Court. Had the filibuster process been reformed, many of Obama’s nominees – like Richard Cordray – could be confirmed, and agencies meant to protect the public could finally get to work.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Yesterday, Americans had a reason to be proud of our Justice System. As some on the Right were calling for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be denied his civil rights, and treated as an enemy combatant, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a federal public defender, and Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler brought the Justice System straight to the suspect’s bedside. Judge Bowler advised Tsarnaev of his legal rights under the law, and he was officially charged with the Boston Marathon bombing. Tsarnaev was remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, although he will physically remain in the hospital receiving medical care. This is what justice is supposed to look like. In our nation, every citizen is guaranteed their civil rights – even when their alleged crime is especially heinous. We should be proud of what happened in that hospital room yesterday, and proud that we have the fortitude to defend Constitutional rights even for someone like Tsarnaev. This is the real “American Exceptionalism.”

Yesterday was the last day for public comment on the Keystone XL Pipeline. In addition to the thousands of comments from individuals, the EPA also raised a serious objection about the State Department’s assessment of the pipeline’s environmental impact. Cynthia Giles, of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, called on the State Department to reassess the amount of carbon that would be emitted by the tar sands pipeline. She also suggested that the State’s report underestimates the amount of oil that could be released in the event of a spill. The EPA’s criticism of Keystone will certainly be used as political ammunition by opponents of the pipeline, and it could force the President to weigh in on it’s approval. There is no word yet on whether the State Department will reassess these risks, and they are no longer accepting public comments about the pipeline. It is now up to President Obama to stand up for the environment, and for the American people. Call the White House today and tell the President he must take this last stand in the fight to stop Keystone XL.

And finally… If you’ve ever had the fear that you’d accidentally end up dating your cousin… well, there’s an app for that. Three university students in Iceland have developed an app that will alert you if you share a grandparent with your would-be sweetie. So far, more than 3,000 people have downloaded the app, which has been dubbed “Incest Spoiler.” Perhaps this is a big problem in Iceland, but we doubt anyone will complain about this spoiler alert.

And that’s the way it is today – Tuesday, April , 2013. I’m Jim Havinsky – in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.