By Lynn Paris
I didn’t lose any money during the financial meltdown/recession. I didn’t lose any because I didn’t have any, at least not in investments, or stocks or bonds or mutual funds or 401Ks or money markets or any of the places people with money seem to put it. I didn’t lose my pension for the same reason; I didn’t have one to begin with. I didn’t lose my home because that happened twelve years earlier and I’d since moved to Texas where the real estate market was barely touched, homes were undervalued in fact, and we bought a fairly priced—ie; inexpensive—home. Didn’t lose my job; in fact, I got a good one, with excellent benefits.
So, although people I know and love suffered the effects of the recession and it was painful to watch, I guess in the overall scheme of things, you could say I came out ahead.
Still, I recognize insatiable greed and corruption when I see it, and even though I wouldn’t know a derivative if it fell on me, I understand enough to know that the villains in this saga, the criminals of Wall Street, were betting against the investments they were touting and against the people they were advising. I understand enough to know that they were gloating and making obscene profits as they robbed millions of decent hard working citizens of their life savings, their homes, and their jobs and nearly brought this country to a crashing halt. And I certainly know they not only need to be regulated, but punished, punished severely.
Sunday morning I saw a glimmer of something that I’m afraid to even articulate because it’s been so rare these days that I was most likely dreaming. But it looked like, almost, barely, bipartisanship. I saw, on two different news shows, a Republican and a Democrat sitting together, each saying that they were very close to agreeing on a financial reform bill. Of course, the very fact that even that seems like a minor miracle shows how badly off course this country really is. Not only must we have overwhelming reform; we must have criminal prosecutions and a return of the money! Where the hell is all the ripped off money and how does this country get it back? Can’t we just order all those gluttons to return their bonuses and profits and ill-gotten gains, with interest, to the people who lost it? It seems so simple to me.
But I know it isn’t simple, not even close. It’s complicated, as is everything these days, by politics. First of all, where are the tea partiers lately? I know they’re busy trying to repeal health care, but why aren’t they marching and waving protest signs down on Wall Street? What side are they on in this fight? Where are FOX news and Limbaugh and Beck and all those patriots so adamant about the rights of the citizenry? Don’t they still want their country back?
Actually, I think they must be terribly confused by all this. As a grass roots group, you’d think they’d be leading the crusade. They were ripped off too. On the other hand, since they’re against government, especially government expansion, how can they support regulation BY the government? That must be why they’re focusing on other things; this one is such a dilemma.
Many Republicans have the same problem. They love being the party of opposition; saying “no” to anything Obama or the Democrats want is their favorite strategy. But they can’t ignore the mess, and they can’t appear to be on the side of the crooks and thieves. So, for a while they tried some smokescreens, like pretending that the proposed bill was really another way to guarantee more government bailouts. But that didn’t gain much traction, in fact it was laughable, so they’ve done a quick about face. It’s a dilemma for them, too.
And we can’t let the Democrats off the hook either. Some are objecting that this bill has no teeth and doesn’t go far enough in addressing the evils of Wall Street. It doesn’t reform or regulate nearly enough to prevent a debacle like the one we’ve just been through from ever happening again. Conversely, there are Democrats so heavily lobbied, and so heavily in the pockets of the Goldman Sachs of the world that they can only attempt to pass a bill that appears to reform, but that doesn’t root out the underlying evil or punish the perpetrators, many of whom are their biggest contributors. So they, too, have a dilemma.
This ought not be a dilemma for anyone, other than the crooks. There should be no way possible for financial regulatory reform not to pass, and pass overwhelmingly. It’s up to the people, and the people should be screaming. They—all of us that is--should be protesting and yelling and stomping; we were all victimized by criminals wielding weapons of financial destruction. So we should all be outraged . . . and putting outrageous pressure on Congress and the President to act swiftly, decisively and with a vengeance.