Saturday, July 19, 2008

Usury is Quaint

Last night's discussion with William Greider on Bill Moyers' Journal produced this gem:

People of great wealth and their institutions like banks naturally have the power to overwhelm people of lesser means. And you can't allow that in a decent society. It won't survive.

The disaster that unbridled greed has brought about is starkly illustrated by the descriptions Greider gives of how total redistribution of power has been.

(Special thanks to Avedon for carrying that quote also, at The Sideshow.)

BILL MOYERS: You have been writing for a long time now that America's moving toward a corporate state. If we become one, can we exercise the self-correcting faculty that prevents us from hitting the iceberg out there?

WILLIAM GREIDER: One of the reasons I think politics is going to change fairly dramatically is that the Federal Reserve, accompanied by the Treasury Department and I think will be accompanied by the Congress, has crossed a very dangerous line in their bailout. They have essentially said, "We will put money on the table, taxpayers' money on the table, for any financial institution or business that is too big to fail." That is, if it fails, it'll send dangerous ripples through the economy.

And we've got a list now of maybe 30, 40, depending on how you count them, that we will be there to save you. I regard that as profoundly dangerous for the American Republic because once you cross that line and you have this special club that's privileged, that has benefits from government that nobody else can get, where do you stop it?

I mean, if I were running a big manufacturing company, I would have quickly run out and buy a subsidiary that's a bank or a financial firm that looks like a bank. And I would then try to get myself on that list. Who wouldn't? What's going on right now it's gotten a little attention - the union SEIU is fighting it, is these private equity firms, which are huge money pots of investors that take over and change corporations and come away with huge profits. The private equity firms are trying to buy into the banks and financial firms.

BILL MOYERS: And what would that mean?

WILLIAM GREIDER: That would mean that this private unregulated equity fund would be participating behind the door, so to speak, in the management of our regulated banks. But it would also, in a pinch, if it's big enough, maybe have a tap into that federal guarantee that if you're too big to fail, we'll be there for you.


WILLIAM GREIDER: You see what I'm getting at? And-

BILL MOYERS: I do. This morning in the "New York Times" one of the big stories in the business section is the financial industry is organizing to stop Congress from trying to regulate excessive speculation on oil and energy. They don't want this capacity for exploiting-


BILL MOYERS: -people's needs.

WILLIAM GREIDER: Well, I could lay us alongside that the Securities and Exchange Commission, which, remember in olden days, was supposed to defend us innocent investors against the guys running corporations. And that's why we have all these reports and so forth and so on. They announced this past week that they're going to go after the short sellers in the stock market.

The short sellers are the guys who say these folks at the corporate headquarters are lying to you or the folks at Citigroup are still not telling the truth about their losses and liabilities. So you see what I'm getting at. It's equivalent to saying we don't want anybody bad mouthing us in the middle of this trouble. And we'll try to penalize them if we can. Isn't that contradictory to the public interest?(Emphasis added.)

The very institutions that were set up to keep economic disasters from occurring are working to produce those very disasters.

The origins of democracy are based in a strong, well designed constitution to construct a rule of law. Destroying the constitution should never have been the object of any public officials. Unfortunately, in the highest offices we have now the enemies of the people of the sort that formerly we warred against.

It's a sad time, and one that hopefully will teach voters that they can't accept lies, and have to see through them. We have to insist on correct information, which very few places besides the internet provide. Greider gives a hopeful message, one that I share.

We have an opening in this crisis for, this is really going to sound grandiose. We have an opening in this crisis for a deep transformation in American politics. I don't say it happens this year, next year, or it's going to take a number of years. But we are in the shock of reality. And people get it everywhere and see the blood in the streets. And you tell them how this worked and who did what to whom, and that's a basis for a new politics.

I don't agree with everything he says, but Greider, like Moyers, looks relentlessly into facts, and puts them starkly on view. What is happening to our once functional government, turning it into the instrument of destruction that it has become, is a dreadful sight. Bringing into the light of day the betrayal of our country is difficult, but necessary. We have to react to it, but can only get better for it.

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