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December 14, 2014


Congratulations! I have just now learned that you and I and every other American have just co-signed and renewed the right of Wall Street banks to shoot craps with our insured money and that we have agreed to subsidize their losses  as well since we will soon be back in bailout territory with the president’s signature on this bill. Let’s hope that the toxic rider on this bill which removes the teeth of our regulators in trying to implement Dodd-Frank doesn’t (literally) ruin the world’s economies and ours along with them and end whatever is left of our democracy (already under assault by the Kochs, Rove, casino owners, sundry other oligarchs and, of course, the continuing anti-democratic fallout from Citizens United).

The Dodd-Frank Act was designed (among other things) to prevent  exposure to economic ruin, bailouts and the fear we experienced in 2007-2008 that necessarily accompanies such exposure when  banks take giant risks in the international marketplace of esoteric paper trades. This bill (soon to become law) removes that protective mantle, and I for one am back in a fear mode once again, as in “Please, Mr. Banker. Please do not take any undue risks with my money. Please.”

Why in the world have we (officially) resumed our relatively subservient position and effectively placed the continuation of our democracy (and perhaps even our country) into the hands of Wall Street bankers? Why? Campaign contributions? Is there no end to this public bribery? Are we in truth and fact governed by a supposed legislative body and an executive under the Constitution or are we governed by armies of lobbyists pretending to represent the public interest, checks in hand?

Whatever happened to the idea of “We the people?” Has that gone the way of the dodo bird under an avalanche of money? Has democracy already become extinct and you and I have been too propagandized to recognize its passing? In our attempts to maintain or resurrect democracy (as the case may be) and in words of the street, are we beating a dead horse? Is Lincoln’s description of “of the people, by the people and for the people” just an artifact in history lost to corporate control of the political levers of power at both state and federal levels? Has our Athenian democratic model of self-government slipped away while we (politically speaking) slept? Is “self-government” over? Is corporate control of America a fait accompli and my commentary tardy in framing a war that is already over? These among others I could cite are troubling questions for which I have no answers. Yet.

Am I painting an unduly dismal picture of what could happen after this bill is signed and becomes effective as the law of the land as just another old pessimist who is miffed that he didn’t get his way on how this toxic rider fared in the Congress? I hope so. I would love to be wrong and would take no pleasure in being right if my country’s economy is destroyed and what is left of our democracy is destroyed as well, leaving us in a position for a strongman-type rule or for some sort of 1984 adventure or some other form of undemocratically structured governance. In short, I don’t want to be right.

Meanwhile, this now unhappy blogger can only hope that all of Wall Street’s derivative and other investment deals are sufficiently profitable, hedged or otherwise insulated against loss so that we ordinary Americans are not called upon to bail them out and buy their insufficiently collateralized paper again as we did not all that long ago. With trillions in derivatives floating around the globe these days, there may even be some question whether we have the resources to back our banks up in case of a major global downturn what with currency markets in chaos and the “full faith and credit of the United States of America” in tatters. We have been down this road before but plainly have not learned our lesson, and with this victory, what’s next on the banks’ corporate welfare list, taxpayer subsidies for corporate executive bonuses and guaranteed levels of profitability? Where does all this end, or does it?

I can only hope that we can muddle through until this part of the bill soon to become law is repealed or otherwise neutered by new legislation and that none or at least few of my dire predictions come true during the interim.

Both the president and the Congress are wrong in backing this bill with such a dangerous rider attached to an otherwise study in compromise. This is not the first time a Congress and a president have gone off half-cocked on a bill contrary to the best interests of the American people, but it may be the first one where the stakes are both enormous and have such an impact in its world-wide application.

Let’s hope we are not called upon to pay for their mistakes while backstopping our banking crapshooters’ investments and simultaneously losing our democracy, or what’s left of it. We can’t afford to lose either the money or our democratic right of self-government, both of which are now clearly imperiled by approval of this legislative atrocity. Again, I hope my negative commentary on this rider’s payoff to the big banks is overstated, but I don’t think it is. Time will tell, and meanwhile, let’s pay more attention to this unraveling of our democracy and drains on our wallets sponsored by those who, under cover of legality, would achieve their greedy goals at our and our progeny’s eternal expense.   GERALD    E


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