WASHINGTON - "Young Turks" talk show host Cenk Uygur led protesters in front of the U.S. Treasury Department June 9 chanting: "Hey-hey, ho-ho, $13 billion's a lot of dough!" and "Goldman Sachs, we want it back!"
The action came at the conclusion of the three-day America's Future NOW! conference that resounded with denunciations of Wall Street banks for taking a trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout and using it to fatten their profits and pay themselves lavish bonuses while stiff-arming appeals that they use the money to generate jobs and help homeowners avert mortgage foreclosures.
"This is about getting our money back from Goldman Sachs," Uygur told the crowd. He explained that in the TARP bailout of AIG, the insurance giant passed $13 billion in taxpayer bailout money on to Goldman Sachs, the equivalent of $43 for every man, woman and child in America.
"Why do taxpayers pay for somebody else's bet?" he demanded. "Why does Goldman Sachs have your $43? Give it back!"
He added that $13 billion may seem like pocket change to Goldman Sachs, an investment bank with hundreds of billions in assets. "It's not just the $13 billion," he said. "There is the trillion dollar bailout ... They took eight million jobs. We want them back."
Uygur reminded the crowd that it was then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, who arranged the huge AIG bailout so that Goldman Sachs raked in a $13 billion "backdoor bailout. "Paulson made those deals and went home with $700 million," Uygur said. Now Goldman Sachs is reporting $100 million in profits each day.
Richard Eskow, a senior fellow with the Campaign for America's Future, told the crowd he was a former senior executive at AIG in their risk management department. "Now we own AIG," he said, pointing out that the federal government holds 80 percent of the firm's assets. "Their profit was our money."
Goldman Sachs, he added, "gave out $16.7 billion in bonuses," most of it paid from the $13 billion in TARP taxpayer funds. "This is not a banking system. It's a gambling system," he said. He recited a mea culpa for his past sins as an AIG executive: "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see."
Janna Derjavina told the World she is employed as a swimming instructor at a Manhattan, N.Y., YMCA. She said she watches Uygur's "Young Turks" program every day. "These Wall Street banks seem to take any risk they want and make the taxpayer pay for it when it goes wrong," she said. "We can use that $13 billion to extend unemployment benefits, health care benefits. The Republicans are always trying to protect the banks but when it comes to protecting the people, suddenly the deficits are too high. City workers are facing layoff. We need to bail out our cities."
Photo: Cenk Uygur, host of "The Young Turks" talk show, addresses the rally at the Treasury Building, June 9. (PW/Tim Wheeler)