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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bad Banker! Bad Banker!

This is a long one. Bear with me...

Propaganda and over-dependency on old black-and-white clips aside, to me, the heart and strength of Michael Moore's documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, was made by the little guy(Wallace Shawn) from The Princess Bride. Inconceivable! Basically, it's the idea that capitalism, the way it's supposed to be, or was intended, I should say, was imagined so that the people who provided the best goods or services, and worked the hardest to fill vacant niches, thrived. And if someone got complacent, another someone could come along and offer a better incarnation of the same product or service, and the new producer would thrive. Healthy, relatively fair competition that theoretically ensured that the needs of the people were met at costs that people were willing to incur...everyone benefited by getting something, be it money, goods, or services. Every party acquired something of merit.

Then, Goldman Sachs, and every other financial monolith, came along and sought out loopholes in this system. They found new ways to make money through the implementation of intentionally complex algorithms and lots of bet-hedging (most of which I, admittedly, don't really get - which was the point!), without actually providing any...anything. And this has been going on for years, and the government has known, and everyone in finance has known, and many economists had long ago sounded the alarms, but these loopholes existed, legally, because our government chose not to put in place regulations that would protect and uphold what I believe to be the intended spirit of the free market, which in and of itself is, I think, a pretty damn good thing. (One can reasonably argue that if the free market allows for the existence of these loopholes, then they should be allowed to be exploited until the market regulates itself and stops them. BUT, we didn't let the consequences of these "deceptions" play out because the government stepped in and bailed out the banks! People who do the exploiting, in general, not just in this case, love to play dumb and act like they were unaware that what they were doing was wrong, and I think our judicial system fosters this disingenuousness because we can't pretend to know the mind of another individual, and convict him/her on those grounds. But, at the end of the day, we all have a pretty good sense of right and wrong, which makes this feigned lack of common sense all the more insulting and infuriating...not that I have a good solution for that.)

Now that our country has suffered this financial collapse, it's very convenient for the federal government to vilify and chastise the financial institutions "responsible" (and they certainly deserve a good chiding), but ultimately, the people doing the scolding are really redirecting their anger at themselves for not doing anything about the problem (probably because their pockets were getting fatter, too) and (mildly) displacing it onto the banks. It's like, imagine the federal government is the father, the US citizens are the mother, and Goldman Sachs is one of their kids. Dad gives his son the family credit card, without Mom knowing, so the kid can make some online purchases. The kid gets a little click-happy and buys tons of shit that the family can't really afford, but he rationalizes it because, technically, he's not doing anything wrong, and he even buys Dad a couple things to keep him happy. When the credit card bill comes, Mom goes, "What the fuck?!" And Dad has to put on a big show and yell at the kid in front of the whole family, when really, he knows he shouldn't have given the kid free reign with the credit card in the first place!

So, Federal Government, have fun yelling at the bankers; for the most part, they're bratty, selfish, spoiled children who think they're the only people in the world and don't give a remote shit about anyone else as long as they get as much as they can as quickly as they can (pretty much a bunch of Eric Cartmans), and so they deserve to at least be made to feel crappy publicly...even though they still get to fly home in their private helicopters, and motorboat their wives' expensive fake tits, and bathe in seas of gold like Scrooge McDuck. But when the show's over, can we please actually pass some meaningful, common-sense laws that are vague enough to scare the people who control all our money into being fair and actually trying to provide some benefit to people other than themselves? Something as simple as, if it's determined by a jury of civilians that a bank intentionally sought out loopholes and employed deception in order to make more money off of other people's losses, there would be significant consequences? I know it's a lot more complicated than that...but it kinda isn't.

Here's a clip of Bill Clinton making a similar point...just much more concisely:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/04/28/bill_clinton_timing_of_goldman_sachs_suit_is_suspect.html

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