Corporate Anarchy: Wall Street and BP Criminals At Large
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
It seems clear that BP can’t seem to fix the catastrophic gusher the press calls a “leak," and that President Obama can’t fix the economy because its problems are structural and won’t respond to soaring rhetoric emanating from his bully pulpit.
Meanwhile, most of the world’s people really don’t get the fix we are all in. I take that back; the million Americans who have just lost their benefits probably do. The deficit hawks voted that down without doing anything about the growing deficit of jobs.
Forty-three members of the Congress and the Senate are tinkering with an increasingly diluted "financial reform bill." Lobbies like the powerful Business Roundtable have pushed the White House to weaken proposed curbs on executive compensation while former Fed head Tim Geithner is maneuvering behind the scenes to save dangerous derivative trading from too much regulation.
It is for this reason that financial writer Ilan Moscovitz worries about a coming financial meltdown, writing, “One of the biggest contentions remains what to do about the mind-boggling, vast, and opaque derivatives market owned by the nation's too-big-to-fail megabanks. The problem is getting worse. Notional amounts of derivatives held by federally insured banks have risen to more than $200 trillion .”
And on the corporate crime front, the FBI has busted no fewer than 1,000-plus mortgage fraudsters last week, but has yet to go after the firms that securitized these mortgages and pedaled them with inflated values, or then overleveraged their deals and insured themselves against expected defaults. Most of Wall Street’s financial criminals are still at large.
Gonzalo Lira, writing from Chile, sees a link between BP’s crime against the environment and Wall Street’s crimes against investors, homeowners and workers:
The BP oil spill is part of the same problem as the financial crisis: The BP oil spill and the banking crisis are two examples of the era we are living in, the era of corporate anarchy. In a nutshell, in this era of corporate anarchy, corporations do not have to abide by any rules—none at all. Legal, moral, ethical, even financial rules are irrelevant. They have all been rescinded in the pursuit of profit—literally nothing else matters. As a result, corporations currently exist in a state of almost pure anarchy—but an anarchy directly related to their size: The larger the corporation, the greater its absolute freedom to do and act as it pleases.
In many ways, we have been here before in our one nation under the dollar sign. Economist Gary Gorton of Yale and the National Bureau of Economic Research explains the dark side of a capitalist system that has failed repeatedly:
Yes, we have been through this before, tragically many times. U.S. financial history is replete with banking crises and the predictable political responses. Most people are unaware of this history, which we are repeating….So, the panic in 2007 was not like the previous panics in American history (like the Panic of 1907 … or that of 1837, 1857, 1873 and so on) in that it was not a mass run on banks by individual depositors, but instead was a run by firms and institutional investors on financial firms. The fact that the run was not observed by regulators, politicians, the media, or ordinary Americans has made the events particularly hard to understand. It has opened the door to spurious, superficial, and politically expedient “explanations” and demagoguery.
Today’s well-endowed financial institutions use advertising, PR and media influence to downplay their own responsibility. They spin the news to tell us recovery is just around the corner. Former bank regulator Bill Black debunks this view in an interview with Yahoo’s Finance program: “It’s in the interest of the financial community to send this propaganda out,” Black says. “It’s remarkable not that they do it but that it still works.”