American Morning

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January 21st, 2010
04:00 PM ET

We Listen – Your Comments 1/21/10

Editor's Note: With President Obama’s first anniversary in office following Tuesday’s Senate election upset for the Democrats, Thursday’s American Morning audience revived many negative perceptions about the president’s effectiveness as a leader of the Democratic Party and the country.

  • Claire: I am so sick of Barack Obama blaming Bush for everything that goes wrong in his administration, including the Mass Senate race. Makes one wonder if Michelle Obama gets pregnant will he blame that on Bush too? This guy needs to put on his "big boy" pants and start taking responsibility for what his administration has fouled up.
  • Jerry: Now that Congress and the President are losing constituent confidence for not taking the advice of actual forecast professionals, the Obama Administration is now waking up to the fact. […] It's just time for Congress and the President to get on board in a game on strategy instead of an end game theory that translates where this Nation will monopolize the fact that you get the best results when you give better resolve. And it's as simple as that!

How would you grade President Obama as he celebrates his first anniversary in office? What would you like to have seen him achieve that he did not?


Filed under: We Listen
January 21st, 2010
11:01 AM ET

Coast Guard's role in relief efforts

The U.S. Coast Guard was among the first American responders to bring help to the Haitian people. The coast guard now has a number of ships and aircraft there to help with the response. Pilot Lieutenant commander Bill Strickland and Captain James Mcpherson, a spokesman for the coast guard spoke with CNN's Kiran Chetry Thursday.

Filed under: Haiti
January 21st, 2010
10:13 AM ET

Rebuilding Haiti

Life in Haiti is largely taking place on the streets and in make-shift communities. In part because survivors are terrified remaining structures could still collapse. So what will it take to rebuild haiti? CNN's Jason Carroll reports.

Filed under: Haiti
January 21st, 2010
08:23 AM ET

U.S. official: We're improving aid to Haiti

Washington (CNN) - Stung by criticism that aid hasn't been getting into earthquake-ravaged Haiti quickly enough, U.S. officials say they are taking steps to rectify the problem and the perception.

A senior administration official involved in the aid operation acknowledged Wednesday that not all aid, particularly medical supplies, was getting through fast enough and attributed it to two factors.

Dozens of planes were flying into the Port-Au-Prince airport in Haiti, carrying a variety of food, water, medicine and search-and-rescue gear.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said military personnel on the ground were sometimes confused about what each plane was carrying.

The military will now station aid officials in the airport control tower to assess the contents of each flight and to ease the flow of aid, the source said.

Also, a Web-based system has been created so that aid groups, donor countries and others can track when each flight is scheduled to land and the supplies it has aboard.

The official also said the operating procedure of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) says it can work without security only during daylight. The arrival of U.S. troops means they can take over a large share of security and speed the processing of aid.

Read the full story here

Filed under: Haiti
January 21st, 2010
06:35 AM ET

Goldman Sachs demystified

By Ronni Berke and Christine Romans

Goldman Sachs: some say it's the most revered – and feared – bank on Wall Street. But after more than a century of avoiding the media spotlight, the investment bank finds itself front and center – the focus of growing public scrutiny and scorn for its role in a mortgage meltdown.

Demonstrations are held outside its headquarters; newspapers and magazines criticize what they call a change in the "Goldman Ethos," or culture, of serving the client above all else. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has ridiculed it as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity."

Critics blame Goldman for selling toxic assets, like mortgage-backed securities, that contributed to the financial collapse. Like other banks, it got government bailout money, although it paid back the $10 billion with 23% interest. While the country is still reeling with skyrocketing foreclosures and 10-percent unemployment, Goldman ended 2009 with soaring stock prices and profits.

That leaves many competitors and critics wondering – are they gaming the system, or are they just the best at what they do?

"Goldman always brings to the table the attitude we're smarter than everybody else and we're better than everybody else, and that's why we make money," said former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who investigated Goldman's business practices while attorney general.


Filed under: Business
January 21st, 2010
06:30 AM ET

Goldman under fire

By Ronni Berke and Christine Romans

The Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs has come under a firestorm of criticism lately for expected record bonuses this year, after the government bailout. Goldman, like other banks sold those toxic assets that, in part, pulled the country into recession.

Some are asking: just how much of Goldman's profits come on the backs of U.S. taxpayers?

Goldman's worldwide influence is legendary. Due to a long tradition of public service, the firm's alumni often become top players in government and the world's leading financial institutions. So it was no surprise that when the financial industry almost collapsed sixteen months ago, Henry Paulson, a former Goldman Sachs CEO, as Treasury Secretary, helped push through the $700 billion bank bailout, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, TARP.

$10 billion of that went to Goldman. And although the firm paid the money back, the money has become a thorn in Goldman's side. CEO Lloyd Blankfein said, "Had I known it was as pregnant with this kind of potential for backlash, then of course I really would not have liked it."

When the government rescued insurance giant AIG from the brink of failing last year - Goldman Sachs received a full payout of what it was owed - $12.9 billion. Some say Goldman and other banks should have taken a haircut.

"Goldman Sachs has figured out how to take advantage of the guarantee that we have given them to internalize the profit and hold onto it," says former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer faults Goldman Sachs and other banks for not passing along the benefits of billions in government-backed loans they got at nearly zero interest. For Goldman it amounted to a $21 billion dollar security blanket. Critics claim all of these taxpayer-financed programs allowed the firm to reap bigger profits.

After mounting public backlash, Blankfein apologized. "We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret," he told a conference in November. But his mea culpa is not enough for Janet Tavakoli, a structured finance expert who wrote a book in 2003 about collateralized debt obligations – CDO's – complicated investments whose value fell with the housing market.

"Goldman was creating securities along with a lot of other people on Wall Street; these were value destroying securitizations spewing out of their financial meth labs. And today they are trying to pretend they weren't responsible for massive systemic risk."

Goldman Sachs disputes that, priding itself in being a top manager of risk. As far back as 2006, it saw trouble ahead and began selling off mortgage-backed securities. But critics say Goldman continued selling those toxic assets to others, at the same time investing in bets that they were going to tank.

"We never knew at any moment if asset prices would deteriorate further or had declined too much and would snap back," Blankfein said in the firm's defense Wednesday.

Filed under: Business
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