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Peddling Poison for Fun and Profit: How Executives' Greed Destroyed the Economy

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has had virtually no backers. Neither the White House nor Democratic lawmakers have done much to give its report legs.

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Why all the haste to bury this report? Politicos on both sides of the aisle have essentially become too dependent on Wall Street. The report itself supplies the basic numbers: From 1999 to 2008, the financial industry dumped over $1 billion into political campaigns -- and spent another $2.7 billion on lobbying.

That money has kept the Wall Street money machine percolating nicely. Total pay in the financial sector, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, topped $135 billion last year, a new record. Overall, concludes the Council of Institutional Investors, pay practices on Wall Street “have worsened” since the 2008 crisis.

The American people, meanwhile, remain absolutely outraged. Over 70 percent of Americans, a Bloomberg poll found this past December, want big bonuses banned this year at Wall Street firms that took taxpayer money.

People power, of course, can check money power, but only if organized. In the Great Depression, people did organize. The hugely influential Senate Banking Pecora Commission operated against the backdrop of a mobilized popular uproar.

The lesson for today? Even the most compelling blue-ribbon reports can’t, on their own, drive real reform. The pressure to end the pay excess behind the horrors the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has so exhaustively chronicled is going to have to come from average Americans.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission has its final report available online, for free download. Interested in organizing, in your community or congregation, for economic security and justice? Check the Common Security Club network.

Sam Pizzigati is the editor of the online weekly Too Much, and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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