Jan 152010

Editor Comments

Complex Issues & Public Outrage


It’s not that American bankers are greedier than anybody else’s bankers. It’s that our laws allow them to do things they can’t do everywhere else. We let them take advantage of the system… This stuff is very, very complex, and that is exactly the reason why you need simple rules to rein it in. Because the more complexity you have, the more loopholes there are, the more you can take advantage… One place where I think we should lay some of the blame is the media and the financial media… The issue is sort of down in the weeds, and it gets no attention… People don’t see it enough to get angry about it. You can’t get angry about something unless you’re told about it.

Reforms are necessary but that the details of financial regulation may be simply too complex for the mass public to comprehend or make into an urgent political issue.

Ultimately, this is about knowledge. This is about information. This stuff is really complicated and convoluted. Try reading any one of these bills and figuring out what’s actually being said… It’s mystifying. These guys who know the rules – they know the language, they have the access, and they’re giving contributions to the people writing the rules – have all the advantages… A Democratic pollster remarked, ‘Listen, if 99 percent of Americans can’t understand derivatives, you can’t regulate derivatives in our Democratic process.’ I think there’s a lot of truth to that; people have to understand it. If only the people who benefit from them understand what’s going on, they have the leg up, and there’s no way for average citizens to even enter the process.

Thinking it over, and listening carefully to the discussions on financial television and the news, You can come to no other conclusion. Wall Street also thinks that the American people are stupid cows and even jealous little malcontents.

They believe that the public wants to limit the bonuses paid by Wall Street because they are just jealous and stupid. Or at least they wish to leave the view or reader with that impression.

That’s the long and short of it. You, average working stiff and retiree, are just a jealous little malcontent who envies the great success of the financial sector, much like some foreign agitator who attacks the West because they envy its freedoms.

And you are seeking retribution, revenge. That is what this bank tax is all about, retribution.

An economics professor just admitted that he too feels a need for retribution at times, as an emotional response, but being a more educated fellow he sees how negative that is. Instead he proposes that if we must have some bank tax that we divert the funds received into a bank holding fund, a kind of a TARP II, to pay for future financial disasters. Forget about reform. The banks are too smart for it.

I would not call it jealousy or a need for retribution. I would say that the people as a whole have a sense of right and wrong, a sense of fairness and balance, a sense of outrage that is being held in check by patience, a remarkable forebearance, but wish to see justice done for themselves and their children, because it is the right thing, the only practical thing, to do.

But I can also understand why the Wall Street Bankers and the financial elite would see this as jealousy and envy.

This slow and awful self-hypnotism of error is a process within our culture. It is hard to pick out and prove; that is why it is hard to cure. But this mental degeneration may be brought to one test, which I truly believe to be a real test.

A nation is not going mad when it does extravagant things, so long as it does them in an extravagant spirit. But whenever we see things done wildly, but taken tamely, then the culture is growing insane…

For madness is a passive as well as an active state: it is a paralysis, a refusal of the nerves to respond to the normal stimuli, as well as an unnatural stimulation. There are commonwealths, plainly to be distinguished here and there in history, which pass from prosperity to squalor or from glory to insignificance, or from freedom to slavery, not only in silence, but with serenity.”

And in this slow descent into madness, the worst is surely yet to come.

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