There has been a fierce national debate over whether American car companies in Detroit deserve $25 billion of taxpayer money and whether American jobs should be saved. GM, Ford and Chrysler are American companies in competition with foreigners, who have their own auto production plants on U.S. soil. The U.S. automakers and a union representative were ridiculed, didn’t get the money, and were told to come up with a “plan” to save the companies so they would be more competitive with the foreigners.
But Citigroup got $20 billion from the Treasury Department over the weekend of November 22/23—just before Thanksgiving—without any national debate or discussion at all. The Federal Reserve simply issued a press release announcing that the taxpayers were on the hook not only for the $20 billion but $306 billion in loans to the company. That’s on top of a previous $25 billion invested in the company by the Treasury Department.
Auto company executives may have flown to Washington, D.C. on private jets, as Bill O’Reilly and others noted, but Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who has a major stake in Citigroup and also invests in the Fox News parent company, News Corporation, reportedly lives in a $100-million 317-room Riyadh palace. A nephew of Saudi King Abdullah, Alwaleed has been called the “Warren Buffett of the Gulf” and runs the Kingdom Holding Company.
Is this somebody who should be bailed out by American taxpayers?
Maria Bartiromo, CNBC’s “Money Honey” anchor and correspondent, concluded a November 24 interview with Alwaleed by thanking him for his “precious time.” He should be thanking the American people for their precious money, which they don’t have.
Bloomberg News now puts the cost of the various bailouts and other federal schemes to “save” the financial system at an incredible $7.7 trillion. That was before it was announced that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department were pumping another $800 billion into the economy.
On CNBC, legendary investor Jim Rogers said the bailouts are “setting the stage for when we come out of this of a massive inflation holocaust.”
Announcing the Citigroup bailout, the Federal Reserve said that “With these transactions, the U.S. government is taking the actions necessary to strengthen the financial system and protect U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. economy.”
That sounds reassuring. But another and more accurate way to put it is to say that U.S. tax dollars were being pumped into a failed bank to help a Saudi prince.
Will the American people be given the true story of the Citigroup bailout? Consider the fact that Alwaleed, one of the richest men in the world, not only owns a stake in Citigroup but News Corporation (parent of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal), Time Warner (parent of Time and CNN) and The Walt Disney Company (parent of ABC News). This helps explain the lack of scrutiny about his stake in Citigroup in the coverage of the federal “rescue” of the Wall Street firm.
The term “rescue” is laughable, of course, but is used for the obvious purpose of confusing people about the calamity that has befallen our nation. This is the ultimate in what William Lutz, in his 1997 book of the same name, called “doublespeak.”
Ronald Reagan always warned of government officials who said they were there to help you.
Powerful Global Player
Some of the details about Alwaleed’s role in Citigroup are available on Alwaleed’s website. “Perhaps no single transaction has catapulted Prince Alwaleed to the world’s financial stage in as spectacular a fashion as did his acquisition in 1991 of Citibank (subsequently, Citigroup) stocks,” notes his website. “Few people could then imagine that a Saudi Arabian, and a royal at that, would burst onto the international scene, seemingly out of nowhere, to invest so heavily in one of the major banks of the world and to help restore it to such health that it would become the leading financial institution in the world.”
And now that the firm is in trouble, the Federal Reserve—and by extension, the U.S. taxpayer—comes to his “rescue.”
Alwaleed Makes A Deal
Not surprisingly, Alwaleed was included in the “Time 100” 2008 list of most powerful people. “In the mid-’90s, he bailed out Citibank when no one else would step in—including Americans,” stated Alwaleed biographer Riz Khan, formerly of CNN and now with Al-Jazeera.
“Saudi prince comes to rescue of Citigroup” was a headline over an article in the UK Guardian on November 20, 2008, when Alwaleed announced that he would increase his stake from about four to five percent in Citigroup. Was that done with the expectation that the federal government would bail him out and that the stock would rise?
It is important to note that Alwaleed isn’t alone. Earlier this year, the Guardian noted, Citigroup “raised more than $50 billion in new capital from sovereign wealth funds and other investors.” This included the Kuwait Investment Authority investing $3 billion in Citigroup in January and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority buying $7.5 billion of securities from Citigroup in November 2007.
“Over the weekend,” of November 22-23, the British Telegraph reported, in discussing the bailout, “Citigroup was understood to have approached its existing sovereign wealth fund shareholders from the Middle East and Asia to gauge their appetite for buying additional stakes in the bank, as well as holding talks with the US government.”
It looks like the foreigners with a stake in Citigroup preferred a U.S. taxpayer bailout. They got what they wanted. Why? The answer may lie in a little-noticed November 20 Agence France-Presse story, datelined Kuwait City, which declared that Kuwait’s daily Al-Seyassah had reported that Washington has asked Saudi Arabia for $120 billion, the United Arab Emirates for $70 billion, Qatar for $60 billion, and Kuwait for $40 billion. Al-Seyassah said Washington sought the amount as “financial aid” to face the fallout of the financial crisis and help prevent its economy from sliding into a painful recession, AFP reported.
The rationale for letting the “Big Three” in Detroit fail is that we don’t need American car companies any-more. On the other hand, it is apparent that we need foreign money and foreigners such as Alwaleed to invest in our country and our firms.
This is America today—a country that is losing its ability to manufacture things but has to continue to pander to rich Arabs, as well as the Chinese Communists, for money just to survive. In addition to our jobs, savings and investments, it looks like our sovereignty and national pride are being sacrificed as part of this process.
It’s not fashionable these days to tell the truth about our financial and economic problems. The reason is simple—the media want to keep the American people in the dark about what is happening to their country. It is a catastrophe of historical proportions. And the obvious danger is that the loss of political liberty will follow the loss of economic liberty.
For many years to come we will be talking about the market meltdown of 2008 and what was done or said about it. Those at the Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fox News, who defended the Wall Street bailout, should be given special scrutiny.
One apparent reason for covering up the nature of what is happening is the fear of further reducing consumer confidence. Still another reason is that many in the media favor the new Big Government policies. Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post, who is a member of Democratic Socialists of America, wrote a column, “Gods That Failed,” about this being a great opportunity to transform the U.S. into a full-blown socialist state. Meyerson, who thinks Obama will take us there, should be commended for his brutal honesty.
The God That Failed was a book by ex-communists who gave up on socialism. Meyerson thinks capitalism has failed and that the financial crisis has proven it. It’s too bad that so many conservatives, ranging from Fred Barnes to Hugh Hewitt, gave up on capitalism, too.
The Geithner Appointment
Commentators on the right and left are continuing the masquerade by saying that Obama has been moving to the center-right with selections of people like Timothy Geithner of the New York Federal Reserve as Treasury Secretary. But the New York Times ran a November 24 page-one story in its business section about Geithner’s key role in Paulson’s reckless and haphazard bailout strategy. The Times story was generally supportive of this “wonder boy” but does quote one critic on the record as saying, “All of these ‘rescues’ are a disaster for the taxpayer, for the financial markets and also for the Federal Reserve System as an organization. Geithner, in our view, deserves retirement, not promotion.”
To its credit, a Times editorial noted evidence that Geithner and Lawrence Summers, Obama’s pick to run his National Economic Council, “have played central roles in policies that helped provoke today’s financial crisis.” This is change?
OBAMA’S STEALTH STRATEGY AGAINST TALK RADIO
*By Wes Vernon
Despite President-elect Obama’s claim that he will not seek a new “Fairness Doctrine” to silence conservative voices in the media, commentators are bracing for a battle over their free speech rights under the First Amendment. Indeed, the battle is already underway and the enemies of free speech have made it clear that their censorship campaign will initially be based on claims that conservatives do not reflect “local” and “diverse” viewpoints. The so-called Fairness Doctrine may come later.
Ominously, Obama has chosen as his transition chief John Podesta, who is president of the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank that produced a report attacking conservative talk radio. But there is reason to believe the attack that is expected to come from an Obama-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will not come, at least immediately, in the form of a new push for the Fairness Doctrine. The attack, which is actually now underway and building, comes in the form of demanding “localism.” This is an effort by “progressives” in various cities to object to conservative talk radio being aired by local radio stations.
The situation is that some broadcast companies own several stations in different cities or provide programs on a national basis. They can bypass the need for having to hire local staff or broadcasting talent in the cities they serve. This approach enables national conservative talk-show hosts to have a national audience by appearing on stations across the country. The power of talk radio, as demonstrated over the years, has included challenging a congressional pay raise, stopping illegal-alien amnesty, and objecting to the Wall Street bailout. This can occur because of the national reach of conservative talk radio.
The problem is that this broadcasting approach cuts down on overhead but also costs some local jobs. That has understandably raised the ire of some broadcast professionals and in some cases has made it more difficult for young talent to break into the business. You may call that inevitable “progress,” but the concern on the part of aspiring talent is only natural. I started my own broadcast career at age 18 at a small radio station in a town then of about 5,000.
While there is a legitimate concern about local talent being shunted aside, in a preference for national programs, this cry of “localism” is now being used by the “progressive” activists as a wedge to get popular nationally-known conservative talk-show hosts off the air.
One has only to look at a report put out last year by Podesta’s Center for American Progress to see how they intend to exploit this. “The disparities between conservative and progressive programming reflect the absence of localism in American radio markets,” the CAP report declared. Hence, “localism” has become the bizarre claim that conservative voices should be replaced by liberal ones, and that the liberals are more in tune with local communities. These “new” voices will, of course, toe the Obama line.
What this campaign ignores is the fact that the conservative voices, even if they are national in scope or based in other cities, better reflect the views of local citizens and residents of the communities they serve. That is why conservative talk radio is so popular. Even the CAP report admits that the combined news/talk format “is estimated to reach more than 50 million listeners each week.” In other words, conservative talk radio serves the public interest and the numbers prove it.
Fines For Conservative Radio
Ignoring the fact that conservatism is far more popular than the far-left “progressive” viewpoint, the Podesta report recommends greater local accountability over radio licensing and the fining of those broadcasters who continue to air conservative media voices that are perceived to be out-of-step with “local” needs. The money generated by the fines would be turned over to support liberal-dominated and taxpayer-supported public broadcasting.
But the existence of public radio and TV is itself one of the reasons why this “progressive” push is so insidious. The liberals already have plenty of outlets for their views. Conservatives only have talk radio and a few isolated voices occasionally on the Fox News Channel.
The forces on the “progressive” Left have pursued this strategy for months because their own liberal radio networks, as well as other attempts to provide “Limbaughs of the Left,” have failed to attract significant audiences. Rather than leave conservatives alone, the liberals want to dominate this medium as well, even if they have to use the FCC to force their way into local markets and force conservatives off the air.
In addition to “localism” being a cover for silencing conservative media voices, the report of transition chief Podesta’s liberal think tank called for “ownership diversity.” This is actually a demand for handing over media properties to selected liberal minorities.
Incredibly, even before Obama takes office, the Bush FCC has proposed regulations based on the dubious premise that radio station “programming—particularly network programming—often is not sufficiently culturally diverse.” This is directly playing into the hands of Podesta and his ilk.
Conservative icon Paul Weyrich, himself a former broadcaster, wrote a column quoting FCC sources as saying that the “diversity” push was not meant to silence conservatives. They told him, “This is in no way a back door to the Fairness Doctrine. It is simply an attempt to get at big companies that are not fulfilling their requirements to use the public airwaves just like there are indecency rules. You have to have some relationship with the area in which you are licensed to serve.” These sources added, “We are still a long way from making permanent decisions, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the Fairness Doctrine.”
Weyrich was not convinced. He challenged the FCC to make it clear that it had no intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine in any way, shape or form. No such public assurance has been given.
Weyrich is not alone in his concern that a push for “diversity” or “localism” could be laying the groundwork for the eventual return of the Fairness Doctrine. In a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, House Republican Leader John Boehner expressed the view that “broadcast localism” was the cover for “a sweeping takeover by Washington bureaucrats of the broadcast media.” Boehner added that the proposed rule amounts “to the stealth enactment of the Fairness Doctrine…”
All eyes are now on the time when Obama will be in a position to appoint the chairman of the FCC, giving the Democrats a 3-2 majority and enabling federal bureaucrats to enforce “diversity,” “localism” and even “fairness.”
Clearly, the “progressives” are bracing for the time when they can file complaints with a liberal-dominated FCC over conservative programs. Chris Plante of WMAL in Washington, D.C. had a caller who told him, “I hope they bring on the Fairness Doctrine and get you off the air.” The caller was probably a member of a local Democratic Party activist group that is monitoring the program in order to eventually file a complaint with the FCC.
In another development that also raises concern, Democratic Senator Charles Schumer declared, “The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC to limit pornography on the air” and added, “That’s not consistent.” Of course, pornography is not banned, only restricted, and, in fact, saturates our society. What’s more, the failure to distinguish pornography from political speech was too much for conservative talk show host Mark Levin, who denounced “Schmuckey” as “a menace that undermines my country.”
The attack on talk radio was anticipated and outlined in AIM’s 2007 book, The Death of Talk Radio?, by AIM editor Cliff Kincaid and talk-show host Lynn Woolley. Kincaid attended and covered leftist “media reform” conferences where “progressive” groups, such as the Soros-funded Free Press, openly articulated their pro-censorship plans.
*Wes Vernon is a Washington-based writer and broadcast journalist.