Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there.
February 16, 2011 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail," he said. "That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that." I put down my notebook. "Just that?" "That's right," he said, signaling to the waitress for the check. "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. You can end the piece right there."
posted by vidur (126 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rich folk get out of legal trouble? Fascinating.
posted by dagosto at 11:34 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sic 4chan on them.
posted by smcameron at 11:35 PM on February 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


Over drinks at a bar on a dreary, snowy night in Washington this past month, a former Senate investigator laughed as he polished off his beer.

The rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in Washington that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:35 PM on February 16, 2011 [33 favorites]


From Prison, Madoff Says Banks ‘Had to Know’ of Fraud
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:45 PM on February 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a feeling I've asked this before: Where are the torches and pitchforks? Is the whole mess too abstract to rile up emotions in the American populace? Are there other issues competing for attention and action?
posted by Harald74 at 11:48 PM on February 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Harald, cable tv in general comes to mind.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:54 PM on February 16, 2011


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

What good would they do besides get the bearers arrested? Seriously, what can any resident of Main St. do to affect the situation that won't hurt him more?
posted by fatbird at 12:02 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

All traded for gold coins.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:02 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


What good would they do besides get the bearers arrested? Seriously, what can any resident of Main St. do to affect the situation that won't hurt him more?

The ex-governments of Tunisia and Egypt just recently held all the cards and seemed pretty secure in their walled compounds...
posted by Harald74 at 12:04 AM on February 17, 2011 [20 favorites]


Are there other issues competing for attention and action?

Yes the country is bankrupt and incapable of the self-reflection needed to fix any of its long term problems, so instead citizens watch reality TV news shows in which celebrities play the part of politicians and use their place on the world stage to insincerely pander to their constituents, have staged conflicts with the other team, and enact disastrous domestic and foreign policy decisions. Best of all since everyone's paying attention to this very public kabuki dance, actual policy direction can remain kleptocraticly aligned with the corporate interests that fund the entire scam
posted by crayz at 12:08 AM on February 17, 2011 [37 favorites]


I have a feeling I've asked this before: Where are the torches and pitchforks?

Well, we kind of forgot how to make them. We did order hundreds of millions of the things from China but they fell apart before people could get them to their cars in the Walmart parking lot.

You won't see torches and pitchforks until people are very hungry as well as angry, and by that point we'll probably be well into the Civil War 2.0 and citizens will be fighting over the scraps and garbage, instead of going after the corporate unpersons and the corrupt politicians who lay in bed with them like they should have in the first place.
posted by loquacious at 12:13 AM on February 17, 2011 [18 favorites]


Doom! There are those of us who have been pronouncing it for years, laughed at, ridiculed, persecuted even. But saying it we have. Doom!

Folks have gotten so used to denying reality to the doom sayers, they mostly can't comprehend the reality of the doom staring them in the face. The truth, it is too horrible to handle. Doom!

Joe and Jane Blow have been boxed in to their situation. There is now only serve, or there is die. Or, if you are very very lucky, there just might be the slight chance you could make enough effort at refusing to cooperate with your own enslavement, that you could change the tide that is coming in against you. Fat chance.

Doom! Seriously. Reject the robber barons and do unto them because they sure as hell are spending like mad to do unto you, and money generally wins! It may or may not be too late. Difficult to say.

But consider the shape of the world and its resources. If the masters win this time, there may never be another chance. There may not be enough left in the world to see the human race through, this time. Decent followed by eternal oblivion, could be the end game. Sucks, but that's what happens when you deny reality.

Doom!
posted by Goofyy at 12:17 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I had really hoped that things would get bad enough under Bush to cause wide spread protest. I still believe things are going to have to get worse before they get better, but am not looking forward to it. Taking down and rebuilding societies and governments is hard work.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 12:17 AM on February 17, 2011


Maybe we can connect the dots for people? "You don't have a job right now because [name some of the involved financial institutions] defrauded everyone" doesn't seem like such a difficult sell.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:24 AM on February 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Maybe we can connect the dots for people? "You don't have a job right now because [name some of the involved financial institutions] defrauded everyone" doesn't seem like such a difficult sell.

Wasn't this tried in the UK recently, on the subject of tax-dodging corporations? I could swear it was mentioned here on the blue, but my search-fu is failing me. The gist of it was that people organized sit-downs in stores and branch offices of big corporations operating in the UK that were registered in Luxembourg or wherever. They explained to passers-by that there was a very real link between 200.000 council flat residents evicted and $BIG_CORPORATION's failure to pay taxes. Apparently this resonated with people.
posted by Harald74 at 12:48 AM on February 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I don't believe that any of your politicians have any interest in having the dots connected.
posted by adamvasco at 12:51 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

Maybe you'd see them if they shut the internet off for a couple days.
posted by the_artificer at 12:55 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


if you want a reaction from people i would probably just profile some of these wall street wizards in more depth. Get some choice quotes and cspan archive footage of them being very unapologetic and on the opposite page of the glossy have them standing in front of their new yacht(don't forget to include the name and current dock location) or one of their many large mansions(address and zip code please), or perhaps at a fancy gala, you can also create a comical chart of household expenses for the year, or give a full spread of their cars in the garage. That or just get them swimming in their vault of gold.

Be careful though, cause i'm pretty sure it is illegal to incite violence, but that isn't to say, based on the linked article, that doing something illegal means anything anymore.

I suppose it's a pillar (if not foundation) of the social contract, you know, magna carta and all that jazz, and without that rule of law, i don't know, i guess it's back Hobbess' state of nature. Good luck to all ya all, and don't forget to tip your private security.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:58 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

I'm not sure there's a big enough market for your product, but perhaps we can manufacture one. All we need is some rich Wall Street type to finance our new range of civil protest accessories and some dumb, pseudo-celebrity whore to endorse them. That ought to do it.
posted by londonmark at 1:02 AM on February 17, 2011


I wonder how long the dailyshow or colbert report would stay on the air if either of those guys decided to champion this (torches and pitchforks vs known wall street n'er do wells).
They managed to get a ton of people to rally in opposition to Glenn Beck...Stewart (I know I know he's just an entertainer) seems to 'get it' on he subject of the Elite getting a free pass on this, and cable news' complicity in giving them that free pass.
Hmmm.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:11 AM on February 17, 2011


Obama and the Repubs have been controlled by the banks from day one. Imagine the political capital that could have been gained by making only four or five of these captains of industry do the perp walk in an orange jumpsuit -- not even a full cleanup, just a few sacrificial lambs for purely political purposes. The free floating rage that was later channeled into the Tea Party (a masterful bit of class judo by the Koch Bros.) would have been mostly defused.

I don't have any good ideas about what it will take to reform these institutions, but as soon as somebody finds an Egypt-style catalyst and plan of action, I'm in.
posted by benzenedream at 1:20 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


The problem is that the major opposition organizations , the so called "liberals" or "left" in America have been pretty much bought off by corporate money so they are unlikely to provide leadership. This is Chris Hedges' theory at least. The ones that aren't directly bought off, often embrace the same narrow neo-liberal economic view of the world that got us into this situation to begin with; those would be the nice organization kids who are now in their 20s and early 30s, who think that somehow it's all about having some debates, where the best intellectual viewpoints will prevail. Yeah right.

And, a lot of the left that remains is caught up in reliving the 1960s, or seems unable to understand how to channel popular anger at financial institutions into anything productive. This is because most of the rest of the publicly prominent left that isn't corporatized or cognitively captured by neoliberalism instead embraces this unrealistic kumbaya, hold hands, let's-be-afraid-of-anger-because-we-should-all-be-nice attitude. Whatever. I shouldn't have to be nice to someone who is punching me in the face or picking my pocket.

I am heartened, however, by the recent protests in Wisconsin by the public employees after the governor threatened to call out the National Guard (!) on strikers. People do care, at least, enough to get out there when there jobs are being threatened. Between the governor of Wisconsin threatening to call out the National Guard, and scumbag security contractors/law firms threatening to go after Wikileaks donors, it's pretty clear what's happening. The power elite in America are all about threatening average people who dare to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, hell, their basic HUMAN RIGHTS of freedom of expression and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. I get it, it's okay for some oil company to donate money to a lobbyist to get looser environmental regulations, but it's magically not okay for an individual to donate money to a group that wants to support the 1st Amendment right to a free press. It's not okay for people to protest having their livelihoods destroyed. But paying other people to advocate the destruction of a junior high school teacher's livelihood in Wisconsin is Constitutionally protected free speech.

We're all supposed to get down on our hands and knees and give thanks to our benevolent overlords for deigning to give us a chance to work in their massive oligarchic enterprises, not a job mind you, since that's a privilege (despite this "right to work" thing I keep hearing about....how can I have a right to work if I don't have a right to a job?), no I have to grovel just for the chance at debt slavery. I'm supposed to feel grateful for even having a job, even though my wages are flat for the last 30 years, and also, more and more of my money is sucked up into my house, which I had to buy to show I was a responsible citizen and a good person, but I'm a bad person for borrowing money to do it, since obviously I borrowed more than I could afford. However, when a CEO of a financial institution during the boom made tens of millions in compensation because the company booked a "profit" based on all these bad loans, well , he gets to keep that money and he is an awesome dude for making that money, even though all those loans he made turned out to fail, and the company then needed bailout money.

No, I'm the bad guy, he's the Galtian ubermensch, no, even better, he's the Olympian deity to whom I should sacrifice my first born child, by draining her college fund to pay the mortgage on my house which has lost 20% of its value. And, if it turns out that, surprise, the toolboxes he hired to handle the securitization of my loan fucked it all up and no one followed the law so it turns out the guys who claim to own my loan don't own jack shit, and I hire a lawyer to fight this out in court, and stop making my payments until the court can sort it out, then I, and my lawyer, are the sons of Satan who are screwing up the economy while simultaneously burning up motherhood and apple pie in a bonfire lit with an American flag.

Since we can't have that, our Galtian ubermensch and his cronies have hired a corn pone Evita Peron (apologies to Jim Kunstler) and a dry-drunk, hysterical, shameless, sobbing, poor excuse for a man to whip people up into a frenzy about how our friend of the financial industry president is a Maoist. Really? He's a Maoist? All those crying talk show hosts and paranoid white nationalists show how ridiculously they are when the say that. If the president were an actual Maoist, all the Galtian ubermenschen and their retinues (including their propagandists) would have already either been savagely beaten in the streets, forced into labor camps, or fled the country, and had all their property expropriated and turned over to a raging mass of students for destruction, with Leon Panetta sliding away with the choicest art pieces. And is that happening? NO IT'S NOT, which means that anyone who calls Obama a "Maoist" is either a dissembling agitprop specialist, or an ignorant jackass who doesn't even know how to use Wikipedia.

Now, however, as these recent protests in Wisconsin show, I think Americans are starting to realize how hard the power elite in our country are screwing us over. Maybe it's the inspiration of the Egyptian revolution.

The amazing bravery of the Egyptian people has shown all of us that even in the middle of a repressive dictatorship, people can find a way to express their discontent. Our leaders would do well to remember that, per the United States Constitution, the people are sovereign. This is our country. And, like the Egyptians, we too can make our voices heard.
posted by wuwei at 1:25 AM on February 17, 2011 [106 favorites]


Harald, you are probably thinking of the Progressive Tea Party thread.
posted by marakesh at 1:32 AM on February 17, 2011


There's a lot of Japanese cetacean researchers who are suddenly out of work. I'm sure only minor cross-training would be required for them to research bankers rather than whales.

And if we sold the waste meat, post-research, it could be self-funding.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:34 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


If Corporations were properly taxed there would not be so much cash slopping around for the mega bonuses and golden parachutes for underachievement; however Roughly a quarter of the world's wealth is held offshore; thus contributing the fact that "A tiny few will have their boots washed in champagne while the rest of us struggle for our lives in conditions of steepening inequality".
Seconding benzenedream.
posted by adamvasco at 2:31 AM on February 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


Torches are battery operated and the pitchforks have motors now.

We can say "Rise up against the oppressors" all we want, but until our comparatively happy and secure people face something intolerable we won't do more than grumble and occasionally protest. By intolerable I mean that we are subject to martial law with no end in sight, food scarcity, politicians deciding to take the direct route and gun us down in the middle of afternoon traffic... stuff like that. Unfortunately, things like corrupt bankers and their support staff of politicians are apparently tolerable to a degree even though we're trying - or would at least like - to change it.
Real, appreciable change can happen, but it would take motivation on a massive scale and it would be very unlikely to be peaceful, given that the tail-biting, money-hoarding and alpha-dog complexes going on in Washington won't be given up without the military stepping in, and that's where things would get ugly. It's our country, yes, and we can do something about it, but it would in no way be easy and those currently in power would not give up without a disproportionately violent response. It's just a matter of what everyone's willing to put up and pitch in with.

Of course, that's well down the road after everyone realizes that there's something we can actually do.

Then you have a lot of people that actually think about what all this would take in the States and get pretty morose about it, have a beer and don't do much to help because it would be too much work to organize without being jailed. Hi, mom!

Sorry, I'm sort of a cynic and that rant's been building. Don't mind me...
posted by neewom at 2:37 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I sometimes ponder that the tipping point might be when the I.T. class realises it has as much capability for a coup d'état as the military. I am confident we are witnessing the the first signs of this already.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:52 AM on February 17, 2011 [17 favorites]


The whole system is built on fraud. So all of the pitchforks in the world will not solve the problems.

Confessions of a Wall Street Nihilist
posted by AndrewKemendo at 3:28 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


From the article: Perhaps the most notorious example involved Gary Aguirre, an SEC investigator who was literally fired after he questioned the agency's failure to pursue

Now I sort of want to literally punch the author in the nose. I know it's petty but that's bush league stuff.
posted by Justinian at 3:59 AM on February 17, 2011


(for the record, Matt Taibbi is awesome and has more talent in one finger than my entire body... I have some sort of compulsion about the word "literally").
posted by Justinian at 4:06 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


...it raises a profound and difficult question about the very nature of our society: whether we have created a class of people whose misdeeds are no longer perceived as crimes, almost no matter what those misdeeds are.

Not to sound frivolous, but my main problem with the Harry Potter franchise is that it's given a generation a set of heroes who all seem to belong to this class.
posted by stuck on an island at 4:14 AM on February 17, 2011


Also, this is some really good writing on an intimidatingly complex situation. Clear, colloquial and compelling.
posted by stuck on an island at 4:16 AM on February 17, 2011


...whether we have created a class of people whose misdeeds are no longer perceived as crimes, almost no matter what those misdeeds are.

That is absolutely nothing new. What's recent is the concept that we can create a society where that is not the case, and what's tragic is realizing we've failed.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:18 AM on February 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


From the article: Perhaps the most notorious example involved Gary Aguirre, an SEC investigator who was literally fired after he questioned the agency's failure to pursue

Now I sort of want to literally punch the author in the nose. I know it's petty but that's bush league stuff.


If he was sacked from his job then he was literally fired, since that is what fired means. It is just applicable in this case as if someone had put a match to him.
posted by biffa at 4:22 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's redundant since there was no chance the guy was only fired metaphorically.
posted by Justinian at 4:23 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

Oh, they're coming. Trust me.

But, you should be very, very fearful of who will be carrying those torches and pitchforks. You saw their vanguard in the past election. They're FOX News viewers. They're Beck and Hannity listeners. They totally agree that everything's fucked up. They've just been taught and convinced that the only solution is to rid the country of liberal thought.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:24 AM on February 17, 2011 [18 favorites]


I think it's very important to repeat that an awful lot of us put our asses on the line for "change we could believe in" and that that supposed representative of change, Mr. Barack Obama, is exactly the individual who is preventing the prosecution of these criminals.

Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around, trillions of dollars worth of blame and millions of jobs worth, but when it comes down to it, the buck stops at Mr. Obama's desk, and he has done everything in his power to see that these scumbags are immune from prosecution, and just as bad, has sat passively by while attempts to actually reform the legal system have died in the water.

His supposed "reforms" rely almost entirely on a new organization yet to be funded or created and his endless mantra of "looking forward, not back" (which is exactly how the US has run itself since about 1973, what sort of change is that?) has guaranteed that the criminal financiers and bankers feel completely safe from the slightest consequence of their massive crimes and are, while I write this, going about exactly the same sort of thing again - but this time, when they screw up (and they will, because there are no incentives against them doing this), we won't have the ability to pick up the pieces using even the pathetic half-measures that we had in 2009.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:27 AM on February 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


> It's redundant since there was no chance the guy was only fired metaphorically.

Absolutely not - he could have been "asked to resign" or "decided to spend more time with his family" like most senior government officials do at the end of their career when they fuck up. In these cases, you'd say the guy was fired, but not literally fired.

Might I also suggest to a previous poster that it's rude and childish to contemplate punching someone in the nose because you don't like their English - particularly when you are referring to one of the very very few reporters that is actually covering this, and forgetting about the fact that you are, in fact, wrong in your complaint?

If the best you have is a grammar quibble, and this makes you want to punch the writer in the nose, might I suggest you punch yourself in the nose? This would probably convince you that nose-punching is rude and childish, and certainly prevent you from writing off-topic pointlessnesses like the above.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:34 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooops, I see a mea culpa below on that. So stand down on the self-nose-punching. :-)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:35 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's very important to repeat that an awful lot of us put our asses on the line for "change we could believe in" and that that supposed representative of change, Mr. Barack Obama, is exactly the individual who is preventing the prosecution of these criminals.

This is what happens when you confuse capitalism for democracy. Our (western) political parties may be divided along philosophical lines but all are equally enslaved to the economies that underpin our societies. By all means, vote for social reasons, but don't expect the system to change. That's like changing your car and expecting it to run on soda instead of petrol.
posted by londonmark at 4:37 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


lupus -

You're damned right. If Obama wants to go down in history as a truly great president, then he needs to start the prosecutions now and start putting these assholes in jail.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to see these men blantantly break the law, screw their shareholders, lie, obfuscate, dodge and slink away and never be called to the carpet with the exception of the knuckle-rapping they got before a few Congressional committees.

Bullshit.

As Taibbi stated, "You put Lloyd Blankfein in pound-me-in-the-ass prison for one six-month term, and all this bullshit would stop, all over Wall Street".

Teddy Roosevelt had the balls to stand up to the trusts once he realized just how corrupt and greedy they had become to the detriment of the majority of Americans: "We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth.

Unfortunately, misconduct has become the name of the game in America and apparently the looters are taking us for all we are worth.
posted by tgrundke at 4:46 AM on February 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


The wealthy and the right wing media have become quite adept at convincing the masses to weild the torches and pitchforks against the very people who would support policies that would help them. They obfuscate, they divert and they outright lie to Joe Six Pack so he will decry as "SOCIALISM!" policies that actually might result in him having stuff like health insurance a decent school for his kids, and a job.

Also, they don't bother with torches and pitchforks anymore. They just bring their guns.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:56 AM on February 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


> This is what happens when you confuse capitalism for democracy.

FDR did exactly what I'm suggesting, and that wasn't that long ago.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:58 AM on February 17, 2011


louche mustachio -

Easy there. I wouldn't just lump the wealthy and right wing media in there - it's the entire power axis in Washington, DC and Wall Street that are complicit in this. Obama has done no better than George W. Bush on this front, much to everyones' lament.

The problem, you see, is the posturing and positioning of the political class and how they easily manipulate the masses. Take for example the Tea Party members. I would argue that a good number of them (note: not the batshitinsane ones who make for good soundbites) disagreed vehemently with the government bailouts and are absolutely livid about the lack of prosecutions for malfeasance. The more conservative leaning politicos have latched onto this and are milking it for all its' worth. I bet you would easily get a large percentage of those people to vote democrat were the Democratic Party ballsy enough to start prosecuting.

If anyone has any history of the Spanish Civil War under their belt, this should all sound very familiar. I once read many years ago that should a second American revolution/civil war take place, it would be much more similar to the Spanish Civil War than any other event. That in itself should scare everyone because it demonstrates a citizenry who is very fractured, not just split, along political, party, ideological, religious and financial lines.
posted by tgrundke at 5:05 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not to be defeatist about this, but the truth is, we (American citizens) have been trained to believe that only a few rogue traders and bankers brought down the system. In addition to that, most people (99%) don't have any concept about how the entire banking/monetary system works, and how it intertwines with the real economy. We've seen thread after thread here, and everywhere, where people spout the torches and pitchfork theory for effecting change, and as someone noted above, that's EXACTLY how we got the Tea Party.

I wrote this a couple of years ago here:

The bonus issue is just a way to stir up populist rage, and both sides (nationalize vs. let banks fail) are using it well. The only catch is putting the tiger back in its cage once it's let loose; angry, pitchfork-wielding denizens are a tricky bunch and can turn on you at a moment's notice. I think Obama dug his own grave when he railed against bonuses because he incited an uncontrollable furor that'll be tough to control when the second leg of bank bailouts hits us this Fall or next Spring. ~ link

I certainly didn't know at the time that the Tea Party would end up as the pitchfork-wielding denizens (frankly, I was hoping there would have been a movement on the Left, not the Right). But what has not changed is our relative ignorance for how the system works, and how to fix it. And the press, frankly, is making us more stupid, because they've realized that all the public likes to read at this point is inflammatory drivel that - wait for it - makes us want to whip out pitchforks.

We don't want Egypt here in the US. What we need is better dialogue in the middle class that makes them realize that if we continue down this road, they will not EVER achieve the American dream, but in fact will end up poor. Like I said, I don't want to sound defeatist about this, but it feels like we didn't really learn the lesson yet - it feels like we had some short term anger, it created the Tea Party, but now people are getting back to their lives in the "New Normal" of 9% unemployment, limited job mobility, and continued indebtedness (until a medical emergency bankrupts you).
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:08 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Easy there. I wouldn't just lump the wealthy and right wing media in there - it's the entire power axis in Washington

Which is exactly and completely the wealthy and the right-wing media.

There is NO left-wing media in the US that has any power at all. What would it be? Salon? Mother Jones? Certainly not the New York Times!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:09 AM on February 17, 2011


> What we need is better dialogue in the middle class that makes them realize that if we continue down this road, they will not EVER achieve the American dream, but in fact will end up poor.

And what could that possibly achieve for us? Another Obama Administration?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:10 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


FDR did exactly what I'm suggesting, and that wasn't that long ago.

I'm not that familar with American political history, but was politics funded in the same way then? If you look at the top contributors to Obama's campaign, it includes Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Morgan Stanley... You see where I'm going? I'm not out-and-out accusing Obama of corruption, it's just the system. He is indebted to these people for his position, is it really so surprising that he doesn't turn round and jail them?
posted by londonmark at 5:12 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a salient quote from the "Confessions of a Wall St. Nihilist" piece linked above:

“I’m sure you have the answer, you and Ron Paul and all the other pot-smoking libertarian do-gooders have it all figured out. But what I’m saying is, no confidence means end of the confidence game. That’s what Lehman showed. Every single player in finance suddenly had to face the fundamental problem—this whole fucking economy is built on fraud and lies and garbage. So when Lehman collapsed, every single player panicked, going, ‘If Lehman was nothing but a Ponzi scheme—and I know what I’m running is a Ponzi scheme—holy shit, that means everyone else is running a Ponzi scheme too! Run for the exits!’ No one trusted anyone else, everyone pulled out, and the entire global economy collapsed just like that. And that meant your parents, my parents, every teacher, every fireman, every person in the country going into retirement, every price on every asset—wiped out.

THIS is where we've allowed the country to go. There ain't no turning back.
posted by tgrundke at 5:14 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


> He is indebted to these people for his position, is it really so surprising that he doesn't turn round and jail them?

He is indebted to the fucking AMERICAN PEOPLE for his position. He swore an oath to upload the Constitution and consequentially, the laws of the land. Taking the position that his primary constituency is a tiny number of massively rich, deeply anti-social, and profoundly criminal individuals, rather than the vast mass of Americans, is a deeply morally bankrupt position to take.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:20 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


.... for Mr. Obama to take. The previous poster suggesting this is simply being realistic, no moral fault falls to them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:21 AM on February 17, 2011


I think the previous poster was suggesting that deep moral bankruptcy is part of the job description.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:22 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I understand American politics, getting a decent poll result for a third party, and one not hugely indebted to the current campaign financing system at that, is about as likely as getting Santa Claus to run for office. And getting reforms through without controlling Senate and Congress is almost impossible. Heck, it seems to be difficult for any administration to get any real changes done anyway these days.

So what does that leave you? Waiting until increased food prices and general insecurity mobilises the masses, and the US erupts into the Second Civil War?

Or will it be a slow descent into a long twilight?

(The counter to this, hopefully, is to show that things are indeed slowly improving, and that I'm too caught up in the eschatology here.)
posted by Harald74 at 5:24 AM on February 17, 2011


He is indebted to the fucking AMERICAN PEOPLE for his position.

Yes, sorry, of course we are in agreement on this. That's how it should be. I'm taking the cynical view that big business owns western government. That's certainly how big business sees it.
posted by londonmark at 5:27 AM on February 17, 2011


I wouldn't just lump the wealthy and right wing media in there

I was referring specifically to the most prominent torch-and-pitchfork wielding mob, not the entire spectrum of rot.

And no, I won't whoa. They would certainly not extend me the same courtesy.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:36 AM on February 17, 2011


And just to add, perhaps even in defence of Obama, he can afford to neglect his electorate, because he can compensate for a lack of popularity with clever (expensive) marketing (just ask Thatcher). He won't be re-elected without another oscene bucketload of cash from rich and powerful contributors (and that prospect only looks dicey because of the rich and powerful people like Murdoch and the Kochs standing behind his opponents). He is simply playing the game, like all western governments. I sincerely wish one of them would have found some principles through this crisis, but sadly they all seem to have put their careers over duty.
posted by londonmark at 5:39 AM on February 17, 2011


Some people recognized this over ten years ago and tried to change it by voting for a party not beholden to corporate interests. Funny thing is, most so-called liberals blame them for the election of George W Bush.
posted by rocket88 at 5:51 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here's why I have consistently voted for Nader, from the article:
His boss told him the case wasn't likely to fly, explaining that Mack had "powerful political connections." (The investment banker had been a fundraising "Ranger" for George Bush in 2004, and would go on to be a key backer of Hillary Clinton in 2008.)

Both parties are owned by the banksters. Gore, Kerry and Obama didn't come in second in my mind, they are down below Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan.
posted by 445supermag at 6:05 AM on February 17, 2011


I wonder when we'll see "If This Goes On--"?
posted by LD Feral at 6:08 AM on February 17, 2011


Ive spent some time around actual big wigs, people who have wigs so big they need other people to hold them up, and I took away the feeling that the only thung you can do is keep your head down, cultivate small pleasures, and remember to go up the stairs and then destory the staircase.
posted by The Whelk at 6:16 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, seems that somebody's had enough: Thousands Protest Wisconsin Governor's Plan To Roll Back Union Rights:

Demonstrators gathered in large numbers at the Wisconsin state Capitol on Tuesday, to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal to help close the state's shortfall by removing nearly all collective bargaining rights for public employees.

As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, over 10,000 protestors gathered at the state Capitol building Tuesday, with thousands also crowded inside the building itself.
It's pretty cold in Wisconsin in February, no? Not excactly a revolution, but a nice break from all the apathy.
posted by Harald74 at 6:35 AM on February 17, 2011


What's going on in Wisconsin is pretty awesome. Sadly, outside of the usual progressive outlets, it just doesn't seem to be getting the coverage it really deserves. I mean...can you imagine the 24/7 cable news pile-on it would be getting if those were tea partiers crowding into the statehouse?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:54 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


if you want a reaction from people i would probably just profile some of these wall street wizards in more depth. Get some choice quotes and cspan archive footage of them being very unapologetic and on the opposite page of the glossy have them standing in front of their new yacht(don't forget to include the name and current dock location) or one of their many large mansions(address and zip code please), or perhaps at a fancy gala, you can also create a comical chart of household expenses for the year, or give a full spread of their cars in the garage. That or just get them swimming in their vault of gold.

This needs to be done. Simply pointing to the excesses of those who have legally stolen your money and culture will lead to action. Do not incite violence! Just point it out, and keep pointing it out. Don't let the man off the media hook; the twitter hook.

Invent a new kind of paparazzi - a paparazzi that follows someone other than drug-dependent movie stars (because we all want the beautiful ones to have troubles, don't we, so we can feel better about our own miserable little lives!). Create a paparazzi that follows these financial and corporate thieves to the ends of the earth, and reports on their constant abuse of the common resources and good required for people to live peacefully. Show in no uncertain terms their connections - personal and financial - to power, and policy.

Have we done this, ever? No, not really. Not to where we catalog the lives of the quiet financial and other scions of wealth who have abused the law and bought politicians to get their way. There have been marginal attempts, but someone(s) need to cut loose with this idea. It will make someone very, very rich. I can imagine millions of Americans watching something like this, and finally getting pissed enough to really get informed and maybe pull a voting lever for someone who will not rip them a new one, once in office. Just maybe. That, and more than a dollop of jail time - in a real prison, with more than a few bubbas - for a few thousand of the thieving bastards who have stolen more money, and created more mayhem or human tragedy than probably all the thieves that have ever been jailed on earth, since the beginning of time.

And yet, there they remain - still untouched; in fact, thriving in their new world.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:15 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I dunno Vibrissae, if this doesn't make people storm the barricades and put heads on pikes so I don't think anything will.


What's the joke, someone people hate how much money the rich have, others just hate their propensity to spend it on tacky junk ?
posted by The Whelk at 7:23 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is the story of how empires fall. It's really nothing new. And FWIW (which isn't much, I know) none of this has gone unnoticed by a lot of people. Some of us have been blowing the trumpet for thirty years.

How do we stop it now? I don't know; I'm not sure we can. I can think of a few non-violent things, although I'm not sure how effective they'd be.

First, these people have to be turned into pariahs. If they need your services, refuse them. If they come to your restaurant, refuse to seat them. If they your need plumbing services, you're too busy. Of course, this approach requires massive personal sacrifice and probably wouldn't work. Then again, if a significant number of folks did it and the message got out ..?

Shame on a large scale might still work. The uberrich and powerful don't live behind gates for no reason.

Second, we need to create and support more local power bases. Local banks, barter groups, etc. Anything and everything that can allow people to opt out of having to deal with MegacorpUSA.

That said, I'm not holding out much hope. Things will get worse before they get better. And if fundamental change doesn't happen, I can't see a successful ending for the American experiment.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:29 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Obi Wan Anonymous, come rescue us. You are our only hope.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:32 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


youy want revolution? Keep the internet on and shut down the T.V. providers. I only have enough DVDs to keep me on the couch for a few weeks...
posted by Redhush at 7:44 AM on February 17, 2011


Holy fucking shit, The Whelk! That link is unbelievable!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2011


This is bizzare and amazing. I know the "former Senate investigator" and I saw him a few minutes after he left that dinner with Tabbibi.

He's a nice guy--and has helped one of my whistleblower cases immensely with advice. We disagree on a lot, but his heart is in the right place.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:53 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now I sort of want to literally punch the author in the nose. I know it's petty but that's bush league stuff.

I thought the literally fired part meant that he said, "Hey this is illegal. We should investigate this." And the response was, "No. You're fired." As in literally fired the minute after he said it.
posted by anniecat at 7:58 AM on February 17, 2011


I think the reason people are not in jail is because they did not break the law.
posted by H. Roark at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2011


I think the reason people are not in jail is because they did not break the law.

This is unfortunately true. Law and regulation lags too far behind financial regulation.

Also voting for Nader enables the wrongdoers. Because he cannot obtain anywhere near the votes to win--nor could he work with congress to get anything done. Vote smart, not dumb.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well that settles it then.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:14 AM on February 17, 2011


Sorry supposed to be lags behind financial innovation.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:15 AM on February 17, 2011



I think the reason people are not in jail is because they did not break the law.


That, and the fact that there is the cooperation between those who should be enforcing the laws and those who are breaking them.

If there was a law that said that going to the DoJ/SEC/etc. meant that you could not work on Wall St. or any private law firm for 10 years (or call it 25 years), that might change things. As long as the people who enforce the laws do so for a few years and then move on to lucrative jobs protecting those who break laws, there's no incentive for anyone to be sent to jail.
posted by gen at 8:22 AM on February 17, 2011


I think the reason people are not in jail is because they did not break the law.

You're kidding, right? These firms have payed multiple fines for everything from sketchy accounting to missreporting to outright fraud.

That crimes have been committed is undeniable. The question here is why the punishment has been so small.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:27 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the reason people are not in jail is because they did not break the law.
NO. The reason people are not in jail is because their reptile friends blocked any investigation.
posted by adamvasco at 8:28 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we can easily manage a TV show pitting a computer against humans, and we're so obviously in need of competent leadership, why don't we organize a national leadership competition?

The game of politics clearly isn't up to providing us with timely, rational, non-self-serving leadership. Clearly politics is the dinosaur we've strapped ourselves with. A glut of natural resources has saved us from this serious handicap in the past.

There may be an untapped leadership mine in this country, if we could only get the pompous, mean-spirited, egomaniac cancer cells out of the picture. Let them compete on a level playing field with our best in a national competition. With Cheneys and Becks and Kochs setting the agenda, the only way forward is clear.
posted by Twang at 8:31 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I dunno Vibrissae, if this yt doesn't make people storm the barricades and put heads on pikes so I don't think anything will.

This show is done as a kind of whimsy. What would work would be to follow this woman and her husband to the Hill. Stand outside their home and film politicos coming and going. Report on how their influence caused the loss of health insurance for some regular working Joe or Jane. Show how this kind of influence is used to create policy that, in turn, creates human tragedy.

What I find ironic on today's MeFi is the thread that talks about the measly $53M stolen in the UK, some years ago, with perpetrators behind bars, compared to the "hands-off" policy that we give to legislators who make it legal to bankrupt our people, as they are bought off by lobbyists like this one.

I don't hate these people; I hate what they do with their talent. They are, in terms of their behavior, over the top - approaching pathological - relative to limiting what their fellow-citizens need to thrive.
posted by Vibrissae at 8:34 AM on February 17, 2011


Here we go again. A bunch of wealthy elites whining about another group being wealthier and more elite. "Oh noos, we only robbed rest of the world blind for centuries, and now someone is stealing from us! WAAAH!" Cry me a river.

What we need is better dialogue in the middle class that makes them realize that if we continue down this road, they will not EVER achieve the American dream.

The American Dream involves a thousand third-worlders getting their heads stomped on by jackboots so one American family can have a huge house in the suburbs, His and Hers SUVs, and a big-screen tv in every room. Again, cry me a river, elite-boy.

posted by happyroach at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2011


BoingBoing has picked up the story.
posted by Harald74 at 8:45 AM on February 17, 2011


And here's a YouTube clip of Americans actually protesting: State Capitol Rotunda. (Via BoingBoing as well)
posted by Harald74 at 8:48 AM on February 17, 2011


America has become an oligarchy, well strictly, a kleptocratic plutocracy. Just like all those 3rd World countries we like to laugh at when they pratfall on CNN. Even the former chief economist of the IMF says so.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 9:13 AM on February 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


If there was a law that said that going to the DoJ/SEC/etc. meant that you could not work on Wall St. or any private law firm for 10 years (or call it 25 years), that might change things.</em

Nobody would ever work for the SEC. My father was an Associate Regional Administrator at the SEC, second in charge of one of only 11 regions in the country. Although I clerked there, in the trial unit of the Enforcement Division at SEC headquarters, I have not worked in the field of securities law, despite specializing in that field in law school. The SEC pays shit compared to law firms. And lawyers are like everyone else, they want to make money so they can get their family things and put their kids through college and the like. My father would have never gone to the Commission if he would not have been able to work at any private law firm for 25 years. Why then, would you make it less likely that top talent would go to the SEC. The idea hamstrings the very

I do federal employment law. I know the SEC's personnel regulations. Its not like the SEC is not enforcing the law as written. And its regulations are written by the general counsel's office and voted on by the Commission. The public may comment on those regulations and those comments are taken seriously.

The Commission isn't perfect--its trying to balance the need to allow people to buy and sell stock while protecting the buyers and sellers from fraud. And it has limited resources. But if you want to point a finger, point it at Phil Gramm. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 is your culprit. It disallowed the regulation of derivatives swaps by the SEC, far beyond the smaller battle between SEC and CFTC over who could regulate derivatives. It passed.

The other issue here is criminal charges. Most of these items are dealt with administratively by the SEC. The sheer volume of transactions and the low numbers of US Attorneys and DOJ criminal division attorneys available make it nearly impossible to use criminal resources in many of these situations. This is pure economics--vote for higher taxes and we will have more prosecutions.

posted by Ironmouth at 9:17 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the reason people are not in jail is because they did not break the law.
NO. The reason people are not in jail is because their reptile friends blocked any investigation.


What investigations were blocked by whom?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 AM on February 17, 2011


Also voting for Nader enables the wrongdoers.

Dude, voting for Obama enables the wrongdoers. What's your point?
I don't care if it's Nader or someone else, but Americans need to stop blindly supporting plutocratic political parties.
posted by rocket88 at 9:25 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]



What investigations were blocked by whom?


I think the reference to blocked investigations was to this:

The deal looked like a classic case of insider trading. But in the summer of 2005, when Aguirre told his boss he planned to interview Mack, things started getting weird. His boss told him the case wasn't likely to fly, explaining that Mack had "powerful political connections." (The investment banker had been a fundraising "Ranger" for George Bush in 2004, and would go on to be a key backer of Hillary Clinton in 2008.)

Aguirre also started to feel pressure from Morgan Stanley, which was in the process of trying to rehire Mack as CEO. At first, Aguirre was contacted by the bank's regulatory liaison, Eric Dinallo, a former top aide to Eliot Spitzer. But it didn't take long for Morgan Stanley to work its way up the SEC chain of command. Within three days, another of the firm's lawyers, Mary Jo White, was on the phone with the SEC's director of enforcement. In a shocking move that was later singled out by Senate investigators, the director actually appeared to reassure White, dismissing the case against Mack as "smoke" rather than "fire." White, incidentally, was herself the former U.S. attorney of the Southern District of New York — one of the top cops on Wall Street.

Pause for a minute to take this in. Aguirre, an SEC foot soldier, is trying to interview a major Wall Street executive — not handcuff the guy or impound his yacht, mind you, just talk to him. In the course of doing so, he finds out that his target's firm is being represented not only by Eliot Spitzer's former top aide, but by the former U.S. attorney overseeing Wall Street, who is going four levels over his head to speak directly to the chief of the SEC's enforcement division — not Aguirre's boss, but his boss's boss's boss's boss. Mack himself, meanwhile, was being represented by Gary Lynch, a former SEC director of enforcement.

Aguirre didn't stand a chance. A month after he complained to his supervisors that he was being blocked from interviewing Mack, he was summarily fired, without notice. The case against Mack was immediately dropped: all depositions canceled, no further subpoenas issued. "It all happened so fast, I needed a seat belt," recalls Aguirre, who had just received a stellar performance review from his bosses. The SEC eventually paid Aguirre a settlement of $755,000 for wrongful dismissal.

posted by longdaysjourney at 9:32 AM on February 17, 2011


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

They came out in 2008 and last November, when they turned over the Presidency and then the House of Representatives to the opposition.

Unfortunately, due to the GOP radicalizing itself, it put the forces who created the mess right back in a position of power. It may take another two election cycles to clear out the ultra-conservatives. Enjoy your perma-recession in the meantime.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be a shame if someone used HB Gary style online stalkingintelligence gathering to dig up dox on these fuckers and posted them all over the internet.
posted by ryoshu at 9:36 AM on February 17, 2011


There is only one thing to do: get the hell out. Nothing substantial is going to change over the next few decades: the course is charted, the destination unchangeable. The nation is going to become third-world in social and political structure: a sliver of phenomenally wealthy, privileged, powerful people; and the destitute class.

If you have kids and you are not already a multimillionaire, the responsible action is to emigrate. There is no future for your family here.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


The whole system is built on fraud. So all of the pitchforks in the world will not solve the problems.

Pitchforks can smash systems. I've seen it.

I dunno Vibrissae, if this doesn't make people storm the barricades and put heads on pikes so I don't think anything will.

I don't know why but that doesn't upset me in the least. I love watching money destroyed.

If you have kids and you are not already a multimillionaire, the responsible action is to emigrate.

(1) Where should I go? (2) How much will it cost? (3) What are the odds my children can be in that "sliver of phenomenally wealthy, privileged, powerful people" vs. the "destitute class"? (honest questions.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:50 AM on February 17, 2011


Where are the torches and pitchforks?

Well, if any number of recent threads here are an indication, there's a large proportion of people on the political left that are absolutely horrified anytime anything pitchfork-shaped or torchlike comes into view... and that's before "will it work?" even kicks in.

Also in the United States politics is for old people, so when a political group talks about the torches and pitchforks (i.e. the tea partiers), it's composed of people who wouldn't bring them out anyway.
posted by furiousthought at 10:01 AM on February 17, 2011


I think it'd be fun to start leaving little model guillotines everywhere these people frequent, just to keep them tense.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:10 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


I sometimes ponder that the tipping point might be when the I.T. class realises it has as much capability for a coup d'état as the military. I am confident we are witnessing the the first signs of this already.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 5:52 AM on February 17 [10 favorites +] [!]


You mean the people whose jobs are being shipped to overseas contractors?
posted by Maisie at 10:35 AM on February 17, 2011


The problem is that the financial ecosystem is unbalanced.

Give SEC employees participating in an investigation a small share of any fine that eventually gets collected. Let's say 1% of every fine get divided as a bonus among the team that lands the investigation. That way investigators compete for the biggest fish, and the most tenacious and predatory talent has an incentive to stay at the SEC. Let them live—and live well—off the blood of unscrupulous executives.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:37 AM on February 17, 2011 [11 favorites]


I sometimes ponder that the tipping point might be when the I.T. class realises it has as much capability for a coup d'état as the military. I am confident we are witnessing the the first signs of this already.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 5:52 AM on February 17 [10 favorites +] [!]


So we are to toil under an IT Stalin? Why how much better can it get? Because, who needs democracy. Bring on the dictators and damn the will of the people!
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on February 17, 2011


Aguirre didn't stand a chance. A month after he complained to his supervisors that he was being blocked from interviewing Mack, he was summarily fired, without notice.

I'm a federal employment attorney. There is due process. You cannot be summarily fired without notice and a chance to reply.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:57 AM on February 17, 2011


I'm a federal employment attorney. There is due process. You cannot be summarily fired without notice and a chance to reply.

Which is probably why he was then paid $755,000.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:59 AM on February 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I sometimes ponder that the tipping point might be when the I.T. class realises it has as much capability for a coup d'état as the military.

I do wonder what would happen if you radicalized the IT workers.

I imagine a return to locked boxes and walled off systems and those late70s-early 80s telecommunication laws.
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 AM on February 17, 2011


Because, who needs democracy.

We certainly don't. That's why we are living in a kleptocracy.
posted by ryoshu at 11:00 AM on February 17, 2011


Which is probably why he was then paid $755,000.

It should be noted that this is an amount at least one order of magnitude below any other dollar amount mentioned in the article.
posted by carsonb at 11:18 AM on February 17, 2011


*Oh, except for the fines.
posted by carsonb at 11:21 AM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It should be noted that this is an amount at least one order of magnitude below any other dollar amount mentioned in the article.

Oh I know. That was just a settlement for the SEC footsoldier who got canned improperly IIRC. Ironmouth called bullshit so I decided to point out that Aguirre did get paid something for his trouble. It doesn't mean I don't think the whole thing is disgusting though.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:27 AM on February 17, 2011


Are there other issues competing for attention and action?
posted by Harald74 at 11:48 PM on February 16


Yes, shopping.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:49 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


<>>

I have worked at the govt -- and the SEC does not pay as well as large law firms, true -- but it pays just as well if not much better than you average legal job. And, due to the perks, the line to get into federal service is long, and competitive.

The biggest problem is not a lack of intellect by SEC lawyers (many are large law firm refugees looking to reclaim a quality of life), it's a lack of resources. Any big firm defending a corporate client can dump buckets of paralegals and associates and experts on that case; the typical staff on an SEC matter is a handful of attorneys, an accountant, and a paralegal. That disparity itself can lead to lopsided outcomes.
posted by hockeyfan at 1:37 PM on February 17, 2011


(1) Where should I go?

I wish I knew; I'd be going there.

(2) How much will it cost?

Less than the cost of staying will have on your children.

(3) What are the odds my children can be in that "sliver of phenomenally wealthy, privileged, powerful people" vs. the "destitute class"?

Very low. Upward mobility in America is largely mythical.

Nearly all children in America will have a markedly lower income and quality of life than their parents.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:56 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world's wealth — and nobody went to jail.

I'm so sick of hearing this. Repeat after me: wealth was not destroyed, it was transferred. For every stock market loser in the crash, there was a winner who made piles of money. Why on Earth are we ignoring that fact?
posted by zug at 2:30 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, Roark:

The article clearly spelled out in great detail how the law was (almost certainly) broken. (You can't say "certainly" without an actual trial, of course.)

You really need to justify why the specific cases listed in the article are not crimes - particularly considering that in many cases the firms responsible actually paid out money in reparation. Your simple claims that "there are no crimes here," unaccompanied by either new facts or reasoning, are completely without value and I wonder why you even bother to make them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:35 PM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Zug: Why won't anyone believe me? "wealth was not destroyed, it was transferred "

Because it is twaddle.

Huge amounts of wealth was destroyed. In pension funds, investment funds, house values, etc. Ordinary people's balance sheets were destroyed as their assets were abruptly devalued. Then there was the economic depression it caused, with all that unemployment.....

Finance isn't just a game you know. It is important for the whole economy - that's why we invented it in the first place.
posted by Philosopher's Beard at 2:45 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: I normally like your comments, but it is weird seeing you argue past the article's assertions repeatedly. 2nding lupus_yonderboy's comments.
posted by benzenedream at 2:54 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do wonder what would happen if you radicalized the IT workers.

Terry Childs.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:04 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Philosopher's Beard, I think you misunderstand me.

Look, for every financial transaction during this period that, as you said, royally fucked up the economy, somebody won. Somebody was on the winning end of the short sale, somebody stood to gain when house values fell, somebody made money when mutual funds tanked.

I hate this "oh the wealth just mysteriously disappeared" phrasing that I see in too many news articles, because it didn't. It's not just that the financial entities in this news article 'destroyed' wealth, it's that they completely abused the system to walk away with their pockets stuffed. Let's make it very very clear exactly what happened: people deliberately fleeced the system, with massive consequences for the entire world. Perhaps if it were more emphasized that the 'disappearing wealth' vanished directly into somebody else's bank accounts, people would care enough to see these entities prosecuted.
posted by zug at 3:50 PM on February 17, 2011


> Look, for every financial transaction during this period that, as you said, royally fucked up the economy, somebody won.

This is not correct. Finance is absolutely not a zero sum game.

If a house burns down, there is a net loss of value. In exactly the same way, if Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt, there is a net loss of value. Value once existed where none does now.

If a stock goes down in value, there is a net loss of value.

Huge quantities of capital have been destroyed in the financial collapse. Trillions of dollars were destroyed in the financial collapse.

This is uncontroversial and accepted by economist and financiers on both the left and right.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:03 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no law of conservation of wealth.

Wealth can indeed be created and destroyed. Not all stock market trades have a short-seller at one end. Not all real estate bursts have winners. The jobs lost and the jobs that would have been created if not for the financial crisis - they represent a real, tangible destruction of wealth.
posted by vidur at 4:14 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Commodities are zero-sum; stocks, bonds and derivatives are not.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:30 PM on February 17, 2011


> Commodities are zero-sum

Absolutely untrue. If I create, say, coffee by growing it, I have created value. The storms in Northern Australia two weeks ago destroyed billions in fruit crops.

Perhaps you mean commodity futures?

> stocks, bonds and derivatives are not.

Most derivatives are in fact zero sum. For example, futures are zero-sum, options are also. In fact, I'm having a tough time coming up with any derivatives that are not zero-sum.

Now, it might be that my firm dabbles in derivatives, loses, and goes bankrupt, destroying a lot of value - but that isn't inherent in the derivatives themselves, this could happen with any investment at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:41 PM on February 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


How can the popping of a comically large and clearly unsustainable debt bubble be called the "destruction of wealth"? It was the destruction of valuations, i.e. of hype and fantasy. You can't destroy that which was never real.
posted by blargerz at 6:50 PM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe FDR was initially supported by big business leaders like Morgan (that sounds familiar?) and Du Pont but instead of giving them the soft touch he gave them a bunch of stuff they didn't like and put them in their rightful place not behind the throne of political democracy but just a piece of it.

It could have been because FDR had the gall that Obama doesn't or because America had a much more vital intellectual and popular base for liberal policies. Obama got elected on a hope and a dream and a rejection of one of the most incompetent presidencies in American history - not as the crest and culmination of a decades long march toward more people friendly government policy. Or maybe it just seems that way.
posted by pynchonesque at 9:47 PM on February 17, 2011


if you want a reaction from people i would probably just profile some of these wall street wizards in more depth.
Inside Job is opening in UK having done so in the fall in USA. After that the sound of apathy was deafening.
posted by adamvasco at 12:12 AM on February 18, 2011


How can the popping of a comically large and clearly unsustainable debt bubble be called the "destruction of wealth"? It was the destruction of valuations, i.e. of hype and fantasy. You can't destroy that which was never real.

However houses are real, and many that were produced are now falling apart due to neglect. Goods produced by a healthy economy are real, and now instead of that wealth being created, we've 10% or more of the population unable to engage in wealth creating activity due to the state of the economy.

Sure, you can reduce the numerical amount of money in circulation without increasing the actual wealth in the economy, but that number is also representing fewer real, physical objects of value than it would have without the crash.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:02 AM on February 18, 2011


Still debating whether or not the wealth destroyed in the financial collapse was "real" or not, I see. Very interesting. How's that working out for you?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


However houses are real, and many that were produced are now falling apart due to neglect. Goods produced by a healthy economy are real, and now instead of that wealth being created, we've 10% or more of the population unable to engage in wealth creating activity due to the state of the economy.

If you mean to say that many who built and marketed incredibly overvalued homes are now out of jobs, well yes, they are. Now housing prices have dropped. It used to be a great time to sell homes; now it's a great time to buy homes.

If you are someone who wishes the housing collapse had never happened, you are essentially wishing that housing values had continued to dramatically outpace wage growth, making the middle class even more dependent upon unpayable debt for home ownership.
posted by blargerz at 11:44 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile in UK: Barclays Bank has been forced to admit it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn of profits.
Now what was it thsmchnekllsfascists was suggesting?
posted by adamvasco at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to know why we have budget deficits all over, look no further than the roaring success of corporate tax avoidance.
posted by adamvasco at 12:50 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Matt Taibbi on Democarcy Now.
posted by homunculus at 9:56 AM on February 22, 2011


Charles Ferguson's Oscar Speech Rips Wall Street: 'Inside Job' Director Levels Criticism During Acceptance
posted by homunculus at 9:15 AM on February 28, 2011


« Older Why Gawker Nick Denton is a genius - he can smell...  |  IBM's Watson computer destroys... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments