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Break up the Big Banks and End the Oligarchy on Wall Street

We are living in a Wall Street oligarchy if Congress won't allow a vote on breaking up the banks.

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But how much is this freedom worth if the political power of the megabanks – based on campaign contributions, lobbying efforts, and more general ideological control - can effectively prevent an up-or-down vote in the US Senate on the most pressing issue of financial reform?

This is, of course, partly about the political power of corporations.  But corporations are, in this sense, merely a veil – this is really all about which people have what kind of power in our society.  To what extent are we really still a democracy – and how far have we already slipped down the road to oligarchy?

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management , a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and a member of the CBO’s Panel of Economic Advisers . He is a co-founder of The Baseline Scenario.