Demanding Accountability for “Greedapalooza”
October 6, 2011
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Within two months of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. auto industry began converting all of its production to the war effort and ultimately was responsible for twenty percent of all war time production. That was then. Months after American’s second Pearl Harbor on 9/11, Stanley Tools, a major government contractor founded in Connecticut in 1843 announced it was reincorporating in Bermuda to create a sham headquarters there to dodge millions in state and federal taxes, but reversed its decision after being compared to Connecticut’s most infamous citizen – Benedict Arnold. A few years later, when Uncle Sam stepped in to rescue banks from their own recklessness in order to prevent another great depression, the banks expressed their gratitude by:
- handing out huge bonuses to their top executives;
- buying back their stock;
- outsourcing jobs to India and elsewhere;
- foreclosing on American consumers based on falsified documentation;
- spending millions on lobbying and campaign contributions to avoid accountability;
- while largely holding on to the money received rather than lend it as was intended.
Then once the Federal Reserve determined that the banks were gouging merchants and cut their debit card transaction fees in half,”Bank of UnAmerican” and others responded instead by gouging the American consumer the same month that the banks received another billion dollar bailout hidden in the newly enacted patent reform law. Even worse, this week we learned that “BofUnA” and other big banks were ripping off veterans as well.
All this occurs while the Supreme Court reminds us that corporations have all the privileges of citizenship, but apparently none of the responsibilities. So companies like Koch Industries can waive the flag as it provides ample funding to its Republican foot soldiers while also disregarding environmental laws and doing business with Iran.
In September, however, Washington was hit with an earthquake both real and metaphoric. Elizabeth Warren, the brainchild of financial reform and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, entered the race to retake Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts and quickly shot to the top of a crowded primary field and into a dead heat with Senator Scott Brown. Warren’s candidacy excited many because she is a rarity in politics; a Harvard professor who connects with the people, a politician who is not afraid to take on Wall Street and a Democrat who is not vertebraeically-challenged. Warren adeptly punctuates the “I, Me, Mine” Tea Party ideology by reminding them that the success of their much worshipped “job creators” is due in no small part to a social infrastructure paid for by us all.
This occurs as the Occupy Wall Street movement began. The reality is, however, that Wall Street already is occupied by the very forces the demonstrators protest against. Over time Wall Street has evolved from the epicenter of U.S. business to a Vatican-like city-state promoting the interests of its multi-national citizens whose interests are often not aligned with that of its host country. It has funded and benefited from Grover Norquist’s brainless anti-tax no matter the circumstances theology and used its bounty to fund its own excess while relying on the U.S. Treasury as collateral.
At a time when the nation is struggling to get back on its feet due to Wall Street’s last “Greedapalooza”, Wall Street now seeks to gut its undeclared enemy to prevent it from regulating it and make its dependents instead dependent on them. Bill Clinton said many years ago, there has been a class war and the other side has won. Not satisfied with a decisive victory, Wall Street has overreached and ignited a once docile populace.
September 2011 is the moment the lobster said the water is getting too hot; it is the moment the people said this country does not belong to those with the most money or the loudest voices, but to those working Americans whose voices have been ignored for far too long.
September 2011 is the month when people began to reject the inevitability of an America in decline with hope only for the chosen few and stood on the streets to fight for the American dream – opportunity for all.
While people dismiss this movement as incoherent or having no agenda, that’s where Elizabeth Warren comes in – the Muhammad Ali of Wall Street Fighting. At the heart of the Warren campaign and the demonstrations is the notion of the American Dream that, unlike Wall Street, Easy Street need not be a one-way street nor the gated community the Republicans would like it to be.
As Wall Street struggles to comprehend the seismic change occurring, it should look not to Milton Friedman but to Pablo Neruda who wrote that “you can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”