PROVING THAT NOT PROSECUTING WALL STREET CRIMINALS PAYS
And that The People still don’t have a party.
Let’s try this little thought experiment for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine that it’s 2009 again.
No…close your eyes. It’ll be okay. I promise.
It’s 2009. We are at the height of the Great Recession. The investment class operating out of Wall Street, with greed fueled guile, corruption, and incompetence, has collapsed the global economy. Taxpayers have already foot the bills to prop this system up despite its destructive avarice.
Now, however, we have a new president. A president dedicated to economic justice and promoting the interests of the people. Sure, he bails out the big banks, but in return, he invokes anti-trust law and breaks up those institutions that were “too big to fail” and thus, too big to play. The people own a percentage of every bailed out institution and have representatives on their board of directors with veto power, and their books subject to constant oversight.
The president and his party in control of congress pass meaningful legislation, such as a law prohibiting foreclosures unless the holder of the title can be determined, and that holder first renegotiates the mortgage, refinancing the home at market value. Banks that do foreclose, when such negotiations fail, must return any equity that has been paid into the loan to the payer. This and other laws are passed to protect the people from the ravages of big money.
Furthermore, this president actively and aggressively pursues, investigates and prosecutes Wall Street criminals who game the system for their own profit. For a while, going into 2010, not a week goes by without some Wall Street big-wig in his $1500 Armani suit performing a perp-walk from a squad car into a Federal Court.
That’s a nice dream, isn’t it? If only…
Now, open your eyes and let me ask you a question. Is that president going to get a $400,000 speaking gig from Wall Street when he leaves office?
Of course not. The above actions are those of a president who represents the people. And there’s no reward for that among the corporate class.
When President Obama endorses that Wall Street check, he’ll be signing his name to yet one more piece of evidence that the American People do not have a party. It confirms that, despite our election process, the United States is mostly a one-party state, the Party of Wall Street and the Economic Elite. True, one-half of the party believes that some minimal social safety nets are necessary to keep working people from erecting the barricades, while the other half is invested in higher levels of state coercion, policing and prisons to keep the rabble in order. Both parties serve the Monied Masters.
Now this isn’t a particular problem for the Republican Party. After all, the Republican Party, even when it was the center of progressive politics, always showed support for the industrial and financial elite. Their base is convinced that what’s good for Wall Street is good for the country. They are effectively brainwashed.
This is, however, a huge problem for a Democratic Party that tries to bill itself as…well…a democratic party. After all, this is the party of William Jennings Bryan and FDR. It’s the party of the New Deal and the Great Society and, since the bigots left in the sixties and seventies, the party of Civil Rights.
But no more.
The Democratic Party is just another line item on Wall Street’s payroll.
Obama, it turns out, was no exception. At a time when the public was seething with rage directed at our economic elite, Obama largely mollified the public with just enough attention to keep them from lighting the Molotov Cocktails, while imposing some milquetoast regulations and handslaps to an otherwise resurgent Wall Street, most notably, the Dodd-Frank Act. Dodd/Frank was billed as the most significant regulation of Wall Street since the New Deal, and it was that. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty low bar.
Dodd/Frank does contain some meaningful regulation which are subject to unrelenting and unrestrained attack by the pit bulls of finance capital and will, under the Trump Administration, almost certainly be repealed. Regardless, according to Paul Starr, writing in the New Republic, “During the debate over Dodd-Frank, neither Obama nor congressional leaders even tried to arouse public concern about Wall Street and build support for a stronger bill.” In fact, avoiding the bully pulpit to support the people is a recurring them in the history of the Obama Administration.
The people were expecting more action. Real action on the part of the President of the United States and a strong Democratic majority in Congress, to make real efforts to reign in the greed of the economic elite. We weren’t expecting FDR’s Fabled Hundred Days, but we were expecting.. something more! We were suffering while listening to economic fat cats tell us that we had to pick up the tab for financial largesse, otherwise things will get much worse. In essence, we were blackmailed. Instead of real action, a real “People’s President,” however, we got just another executive office packed with Wall Street cronies.
The Wall Street wing of the Obama Administration served their masters well. First and foremost, there was never a real attempt to hold the investment class accountable for their clear transgressions. Yes, there were some low level prosecutions, but top banksters were protected from experiencing their deserved legal due. Thus far, only one upper level corporate criminal has ever been charged for his role in this global catastrophe that devasted billions of lives. In short order, the largesse of finance capital was restored .
While Wall Street experienced record profits, the same could not be said for working Americans. The people paid the costs for corporate greed, yet got nothing from this investment. Job growth was painfully slow. Wages remained stagnant. Benefits were cut. Job security became something that older American workers reminisce about. Health care costs continued to rise. The very infrastructure that binds the nation together was crumbling because the corporate class refused to invest in something as unprofitable as their own nation.¹
In the meantime, the Democratic Party, using a primary system clearly and openly rigged by the establishment, ignored the momentum and energy of the Sanders movement and nominated the very representative of Third Way centrism that colluded with the corporate class in the nineties to help create the mess we are in right now.
It’s in this context, that Obama is cashing his check.
In doing so he is further confirming that the system that is supposed to serve the people is, in fact, a scam. Why do the Democrats keep losing ground? It’s simple. The people do not trust Democrats to represent them. The people know that they don’t have a party to represent them, so many of them stay home, or they vote for the handgrenade who is going to blow up the very system that they hate…even if doing so is self-destructive.
This perception of the Democratic Party as just another corporate lapdog is reinforced by Hillary Clinton and now President Obama cashing Wall Street checks. The people need to be convinced that their president isn’t just padding his future speaking gigs while in the Oval Office. After all, we the people can’t afford to pay such speeking fees.
The American people need a party. As it stands, it does not look like it is going to be the Demcrats. Until the Democratic Party can demonstrate that they really are a democratic party, they can expect to continue losing. Running against Trump is not a winning strategy. Yes, Trump is not popular, but he doesn’t have to be. He just has to be more popular than the Democrat running against him. With Obama cashing Wall Street checks, with the DNC opening their palms to corporate cash, that’s the most likely outcome.
- It’s impossible to say what “could have been” had the Obama Administration not been “shellacked” in the 2010 election. Had he been able to keep a Democratic Congress, had Republicans moderated their partisan scorched earth politics, had there been more moderate Republicans willing to work with the Administration, maybe things would have been different. Obama’s actions when he had a veto-proof majority in the Senate and control of the House does not lend support to this thesis.