By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 5, 2017
As if someone had quietly turned on a light bulb last month illuminating the corporate takeover of America, a series of articles from multiple outlets chronicled the demise of American democracy under the jackboot of the corporate state.
David Dayen at the New Republic wrote:
“Far from selfless arbiters of right and wrong, CEOs are as responsible as anyone in America for skyrocketing inequality, climate crisis, waves of consumer fraud, and the biggest financial meltdown since the Depression. Condemning the unpopular views of an unpopular president whom they see as an inferior businessman is no sacrifice, especially when they are simultaneously plotting with administration officials to win as many perks as possible. CEOs aren’t ‘finding their voice’; they’re finding a way to control government like a marionette, while hiding the strings.”
Last week, Don Kopf, writing for Quartz, provided more clarity. Citing newly released research, Kopf wrote:
“According to economists Jan De Loecker of Princteon University and Jan Eeckhout of the University College London, this basically describes the US economy since 1980. In a recently released paper, De Loecker and Eeckhout analyzed the balance sheets of listed companies from 1950 to 2014. (In 2014, these firms accounted for around 40% of all sales.) They found that average markups, defined as the amount above cost at which a product is sold, have shot up since 1980. The average markup was 18% in 1980, but by 2014 it was nearly 70%.”
And John Light of Moyers & Company wrote about the latest efforts to further pervert representative government through more unbridled corporate financing of political campaigns. Light explained that there are “three riders deep inside the House appropriations bill” intended to “bar federal agencies from enforcing campaign finance laws.” One insidious rider is aimed at a Federal Election Commission rule, says Light, and would allow “every trade association under the sun to receive money from a given corporation during that year.” Light explains:
“These trade associations are already powerful groups, some of which are well known publicly, such as the American Petroleum Institute or the US Chamber of Commerce. Some of them are more obscure, like the Association for Christian Retail. But most exist to lobby for policies that would help their members’ bottom lines, sometimes at the expense of workers, the economy, or the environment. If these riders pass the House, these groups will have a much larger war chest with which to punch their agendas through.”
What is fascinating to us is that so few American journalists have adequately expanded on the seminal work of Senator Bernie Sanders to enlighten the public during last year’s presidential primary race to the fact that Wall Street is to concentrated and perverted corporate power what Hurricane Harvey is to a water main break. No other industry in America even comes close.
John Mann, a Member of the British Parliament, encapsulated the point during a Treasury Select Committee hearing on February 4, 2014 when he rhetorically asked his colleagues: “Is there any other industry in recorded history in this country who’s had a comparable level of quantifiable wrongdoing to your knowledge?” The same global banks, of course, that call the U.S. home, also dot the skyline of the City of London, the U.K.’s version of Wall Street.
After Wall Street collapsed the U.S. economy and financial system in 2008 for the second time in less than 100 years through its own unchecked greed and corruption, one would have expected Congress to have rolled out inviolate laws and safeguards. Nothing of the sort happened.
The Occupy Wall Street slogan from the era accurately sums up the Federal government’s actions: “Banks Got Bailed Out; We Got Sold Out.” As a result of a Federal Reserve audit amendment tacked on to the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation in 2010 by Senator Sanders, the public learned the following year from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the Federal Reserve had secretly sluiced more than $16 trillion in almost zero interest rate loans to Wall Street banks and their foreign peers, many of whom were counterparties to their insanely leveraged derivative trades. (See chart below.)
In January of this year, the GAO provided further research on the financial relief provided to real human beings in America. The GAO study showed that as of October 31, 2016, the government “had disbursed $22.6 billion (60 percent) of the $37.51 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds” that were directed at helping distressed homeowners who were impacted by the 2008 Wall Street financial crash and resulting housing bust. Compare that miserly gesture to the $7.8 trillion in near-zero interest loans that the Federal Reserve secretly funneled to just four Wall Street banks from 2007 to 2010: $2.5 trillion to Citigroup; $2 trillion to Morgan Stanley; $1.9 trillion to Merrill Lynch; and $1.3 trillion to Bank of America.
Not only did Wall Street get bailed out and the public sold out, but its power became more concentrated as the most powerful banks were allowed to gobble up other collapsing big banks with financial assistance from the Federal Reserve. Not only did Wall Street get bailed out but its titans never saw a day of jail time. No attempt at prosecution was even made. According to the PBS program Frontline, there was not even a pretense of investigating the head honchos on Wall Street by the U.S. Justice Department: “there were no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.”
Equally outrageous, Wall Street was not only unrepentant but its crimes grew ever more collusive after the bust. The big banks were repeatedly charged with coordinating the rigging of markets like the interest-rate benchmark Libor and foreign currency exchange trading.
One bank’s serial conduct was so extreme that a pair of lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer, published a breathtaking book on the subject, comparing the bank to the Gambino crime family and explaining why the bank should be prosecuted under RICO statutes for serial frauds against the investing public.
But instead of executives being prosecuted under RICO statutes on Wall Street, Congress continues to allow these mega banks with serial histories of crimes against the investing public to run their own private justice system. The court house doors, to this very day, remain closed to individual customers of the big Wall Street banks as well as their employees who must sign away their Seventh Amendment right under the U.S. constitution to access the nation’s courts.
Bob Urie, in a 2012 opinion piece at Counterpunch, sums up the U.S. model of faux democracy. He writes: “The surveillance state, built at our expense, is the servant of the bankers and corporate leaders. The bankers and corporations are the state.” Urie urges the public to “Recognize that the values that the bankers and corporations have handed us are not our values, and are not even human values.”
Evidence actually exists to prove that the surveillance state, funded by the very taxpayers it targets, has now fused with Wall Street. Wall Street On Parade reported in 2012 the details of a massive surveillance operation in lower Manhattan that is “jointly staffed and operated by the NYPD along with the largest Wall Street firms – the same firms under investigation in 50 states for mortgage and foreclosure fraud and widely credited with causing the Nation’s economic collapse. The Wall Street firms that were involuntarily bailed out by the 99% are now policing the 99%.”