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What the Mainstream Media Still Doesn't Get About Big Banks

JPMorgan Chase losing $2 billion on a risky trade has many pundits calling for more regulation. But they're still missing so much of the story.

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“The Fed conflict is so obvious that it defies any possible rationalization or explanation. For a decade, the New York Fed has failed to pick up on any of the significant Wall Street threats: excess leverage, subprime fraud, dangerous concentration in “too big to fail” entities. Maybe the reason is that the board is controlled by the very voices that have been at the root of the failure.”

Elizabeth Warren joined Spitzer in calling for Dimon's ouster, saying, "[w]e have to say as a country, no, the banks cannot regulate themselves." These posts are worth singling out not simply because they mention Occupy, but because of the capability that Occupy has to draw connections between seemingly disparate issues. Both the New York Times and Washington Post wrote fine editorials -- although, again, this is a pretty easy time to Get Tough on banks -- but a passionate call for increased regulation doesn’t tell the whole story unless you talk about the ever-increasing wealth gap, and decreasing taxes for the rich, and super PACs, and corporate control of the media.

JPMorgan Chase has only become as wealthy and powerful as it is because of 30 years of deregulation, for which both parties are responsible. Dismantling any semblance of oversight resulted in a massive feedback loop, wherein financial elites became more powerful, political elites became more indebted to them, and the revolving door between the public and private sectors has virtually eliminated any distinction between the two worlds at all. Prior to the $2bn loss, lobbyists (with the help of Congress and the White House) were effectively killing Dodd-Frank, while the corporate media stayed largely silent. The New York Times, for instance, only mentioned the Volcker Rule 22 times from December 2011 to early May.

None of the reports I read talked about Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's economic task force either. That's not to say the JPMC bet was illegal, but one of the reasons no bankers have gone to jail after blowing up the economy is because of the massive amount of money Candidate Obama received from the financial sector during his first run, and continued to raise well into his first term. If we're to fully understand the importance of regulating Wall Street, we must also understand who is standing in the way of a full criminal investigation into the housing crash.

The point is not that any one editorial can touch on everything. The point is that there is a structural failing in our media landscape where environmental issues, and stop and frisk, and regulation and housing insecurity, are all treated as separate items. That’s what was so thrilling about the beginning of Occupy -- all these calls for social justice could be connected through the prism of 30 years of wealth centralization among the now-entrenched American plutocracy.

Corporate media is simply not capable of connecting these dots on their own, no matter how fantastic any individual story or editorial is. The fracturing of like-minded causes renders each weaker than the collective could be. As a result, the primary cause of injustice – the increasing centralization of wealth – remains mystified.

It’s good that in the wake of the largest loss since the beginning of the Lesser Depression not everyone is rushing to defend bankers. But simply calling for a stronger Volcker rule is not enough. We need to highlight the connections and common threads between the numerous threats to human survival or human dignity. To do that, media outlets must move beyond a partisan mindset, wherein all that is possible (or even discussed) are the topics the parties put forward, each subject removed from the other, like a carved up elephant only those in the streets can identify.

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