Column - Will black hole devour us?If you want to cheat people and get away with it, all you have to do is make your game complicated – so complicated nobody gets it.
By: Dennis Dalman, Alexandria Echo Press
If you want to cheat people and get away with it, all you have to do is make your game complicated – so complicated nobody gets it.
That’s how Wall Street has operated for years. That’s why there was a virtual financial melt-down, and that’s why the “too-big-to-fail” good-ol’ boys were bailed out interest-free by the federal government, with our tax money.
Those financial giants (monsters is more like it) were operating like vast floating crap games. They indulged in purposely unwise investments and such labyrinthine shell games that even most financial experts could not understand them. Instead of transparency, there was opacity – an intentional muddy murk so no one could determine just how crooked they were.
Bernie Madoff, now in prison, served as a kind of sacrificial lamb – a focus for our rage so we would take our minds off of the other, even bigger banking-investing crooks. If Madoff is behind bars, why aren’t the other hot-shots who robbed us royally? Why are they getting bonuses instead, rewards for their greed and/or incompetence.
The most momentous task now before the U.S. Congress is to rein in Wall Street to make sure this runaway greed cannot happen again. In other words, these banks and other financial Goliaths have to be regulated, restricted and cut down to size in no uncertain terms. It is frightening that basically six banks control directly and indirectly half of all the money in this country. And those banks grew even bigger after the near melt-down, absorbing smaller failed institutions the way black holes in outer space suck in and devour everything around them.
The Democrats in Congress have crafted a bill with oversights on Wall Street operations. Who knows if it will work, however? Wall Street, in its tortuous complications, will probably be able to evade any strictures by finding or creating loopholes as wide as the Grand Canyon.
One thing is for sure. If Congress doesn’t pass a bill with real teeth in it, this country will be on yet another collision course with financial doom. Once again, the foxes will be in charge of the chicken coops.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vermont) said it best. He said the federal government, through tough laws, must prevent big banks from operating as casinos, making rich people richer and wreaking havoc on the rest of us. The big financial institutions, Sanders added, should be forced, through strict laws and regulations, to become an integral part of the American economy with their reason for being to invest in small and medium-sized businesses so those companies can expand, be productive and create jobs.
Ever since the 1990s, Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) has de-regulated the big boys, allowing them to become reckless gamblers. It was like allowing greedy sandbox brats atomic bombs as toys to play with. Make no mistake, nothing has changed, despite the bail-outs. Continuing executive bonuses prove that.
Without citizen rage prodding them, politicians are unlikely to pass strict-enough laws. For one thing, Wall Street money fuels the campaigns of so many politicians. For another, the Republicans are trying once again to stall legislation through filibustering nonsense. Their battle cry this time is “this bill will all but guarantee more future bail outs.” Remember their battle cry last time, during health-care reform? “Death panels!”
Their latest “just-say-no” tactic is to cut off all debate in the Senate about financial reform.
We Americans ought to put their feet to the fire. We should demand the Republicans fight alongside Democrats for ironclad reforms. And we should insist any Democratic-led initiatives contain teeth strong enough to bite right down to the bone.
Otherwise it will be deja vu all over again with the banks too big to fail and we too little to count.
Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.