Each year, Project Censored selects 25 "important national news stories that are underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the U.S. corporate media."
For the full summary for each of this year's selections, including the original sources and Web resources, visit ProjectCensored.org/top-stories/category/two-thousand-and-ten-book/.
1. U.S. Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
Federal lawmakers responsible for overseeing the U.S. economy have received millions of dollars from Wall Street firms. Since 2001, eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates, and the Republican and Democratic parties. As senators, Barack Obama and John McCain received a combined $3.1 million. The donors include investment bankers Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, insurer American International Group, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) money are the same members of Congress who chair committees charged with regulating the financial sector and overseeing the effectiveness of this unprecedented government program. In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee, and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-8 election cycle. President Obama collected at least $4.3 million from employees at these companies for his presidential campaign.
Nearly every member of the House Financial Services Committee, which in February 2009 oversaw hearings on how the $700 billion of TARP bailout was being spent, received contributions associated with these financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle. "You could say that the finance industry got their money's worth by supporting members of Congress who were inclined to look the other way," said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for the Study of Politics & Governance.
For instance, in 2004 when the Securities & Exchange Commission adopted a major rule change that freed investment banks to plunge tens of billions of dollars in borrowed money into subprime mortgages and other risky plays, congressional banking committees held no oversight hearings. Congressional inaction also allowed mortgage agents to earn high fees for peddling loans to unqualified homebuyers and prevented states from toughening regulations on predatory lending practices.
Author Matt Taibbi writes that some of the most egregious selling of the U.S. government to Wall Street happened in the late 1990s, when "Democrats, tired of getting slaughtered in the fundraising arena by Republicans, decided to throw off their old reliance on unions and interest groups and become more 'business-friendly.' Wall Street responded by flooding Washington with money, buying allies in both parties." In the 10-year period beginning in 1998, financial companies spent $1.7 billion on federal campaign contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists. Wise political investments enabled the nation's top bankers to effectively scrap any meaningful oversight of the financial industry.