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General Interest, Politics

FIRST, HANG ALL THE BANKERS

William Shakespeare’s advice for straightening out society was “First, hang all the lawyers.” Sorry, Mr. Shakespeare, but hanging all the lawyers is only a secondary concern in our modern age. No doubt in your day lawyers did their best to mangle the law and turn it to their own personal advantage. Well, they’re still at it, but their malignant efforts are not quite as distressing as the actions of today’s bankers, those who handle everybody else’s money. It seems that in recent years they conveniently forgot the “everybody else’s” part of the money that passes through their hands and came to consider the collective wealth of nations as their very own to do with as they pleased. And so they gambled recklessly, engaged in fraudulent business practices and helped themselves to other people’s money in the form of staggering “bonuses.”

The result? In America alone, the destruction of 5 to 7 trillion dollars (no one’s really certain exactly how much these clowns flushed down the toilet) of collective wealth and the near-collapse of the richest economy in history. In turn the whole world was affected and a severe worldwide recession in is progress. Bankers now claim it is at an end since they are making money again thanks to socialist government bailouts, but the fact that a very tiny portion of humanity (bankers) is in the chips again has not lifted the hard times from the backs of average citizens. Their life savings are still depleted, their homes are worth less than they paid for them, if they haven’t already been tossed to the curb, and unemployment is rampant.

So it’s small comfort to anyone but themselves that bankers are once again the living embodiment of the French aristocracy as so colorfully described by Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities.” There is no joy to be derived from the news that these corporate princes are granting themselves obscene bonuses from someone else’s money once again, formulating more questionable investment schemes and declaring that it is all to the good. Sure, it’s all to the good for champagne-swilling, private jet-riding and treasury-looting greedaholics, but for the rest of us, still pretty grim.

The banks have yet to invest in a single industry that provides actual jobs or produces any tangible products. Far too much of the nation’s wealth is tied up in the financial industry, where the only “products” they produce are pieces of paper in a game of “hot-potato” where a tiny elite makes money off the shuffling of valuable assets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average doesn’t mean a damned thing to the nation’s workers, the people who actually built this place and keep it functioning. To value real property on what anyone’s feelings are about that property borders on the mystical and the weirdly religious. That’s pretty much how stock prices are determined, a baffling approach to business but one that allows speculators to earn endless money on nothing more than guessing (!) how people feel. Dow Jones is merely an indicator of who’s ahead in some colossal poker game where only a few are sitting at the table, with the rest of us providing them the chips with which to gamble.

When they win they don’t share their profits and when they lose they pass their losses off to others, then demand more chips from us to keep on playing the same old game. When they lose big they run to our national treasury for even more chips, this on top of the direct socialist subsidies and tax breaks they have been accepting for many, many years, even in their most profitable times. This they see as their just due, much like the royalty of centuries past figured they were ordained by God to run the world and live in luxury while the vast majority of humanity suffered an impoverished and precarious existence.

That’s why things like the American and French Revolutions occurred. While the lives of average Americans in no way compare to the degradation and starvation of the Age of Monarchies, the broad gulf between the haves and have-nots is rapidly widening. Right now in America, less than 1% of the population owns more wealth than 95% of all Americans. The super-wealthy and the corporations contribute far less of a percentage of taxes than ever before, with some paying none or actually receiving money from the government just for existing. This means that workers have had to make up the difference. Successive Republican administrations have orchestrated the largest peacetime transfer of wealth from the working classes to the rich in the history of mankind with a series of unfair tax laws, making people who were already very wealthy a super-wealthy aristocracy, while the classes below them took another step down the economic ladder.

Which is why America might need a Second American Revolution, not to overthrow our government but to liberate it from the clutches of the wealthy elite and their corporations. These cutthroat quasi-royals who champion free market Capitalism are actually practicing Socialism for the wealthy while opposing social programs for everyone else. Through their extensive lobbying organizations they have corrupted our democratic government, in many cases even writing laws to benefit themselves, an illegal usurpation of the duties of our elected government. Has anyone noticed how few of the perpetrators of the financial collapse of 2008 have been arrested for their crimes, which were many and well-documented? Or how many of the same individuals are still running the major corporations they nearly ran into the ground out of naked greed?

The fact that their self-induced financial disasters so negatively impacted every other segment of society also goes practically unmentioned. Millions of jobs were lost or downgraded in pay and benefits, and now these greedy patricians are chaffing at the government’s demands to limit the pay of corporate executives whose companies accepted federal money. It has finally dawned on the government that the bonus system encouraged reckless gambling with the nation’s collective wealth.

Why it didn’t occur to them to take all these bankers out and hang them is another story, one that may have to be told in the Anti-Corporate Revolution. Unless and until these people are fired for their larceny and the wealthy and the corporations are bought under the rule of law like everyone else and made to pay their taxes, other solutions may have to be sought. Thanks for the suggestion, Mr. Shakespeare, and for the reminder of where all this is going, Mr. Dickens. People can take only so much, and people who have tasted freedom and prosperity are likely to take even less.

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