A cascade of developments should make us afraid of what seems to be emerging politically in the United States at this time. Although politicians keep telling us how great we were or will be or are. Donald Trump has ridden a wave of populist enthusiasm touting his brand with the slogan ‘make America great again’ emblazoned. One wonders whether he means ante-bellum America, Reagan America, the America that decimated native Americans, the Indian Nations, or more likely, militia America.
By contrast, Hilary Clinton reassures her rallies that is ‘America is great now’ but it can be made even better. She foregoes any criticism of the America of drones, regime-changing interventions, hazardous no-fly zones, special forces, and counterterrorist terrorism, views Israeli behavior through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses, promises to do more militarily than Obama in the Middle East, blows hot and cold the trade winds shift from Sanders to Wall Street, and only has hard words for the banker and hedge fund operators when voters are listening.
This is a sad moment for procedural democracy where voting was once seen as the indispensable guaranty of vibrant republican governance. When money and mediocrity controls the process, and we are forced to choose between the lesser of evils, and even the lesser of evils generates nightmares, there is serious trouble brewing in the body politic.
The maladies are not just on the top of the socioeconomic pyramid, although there is plenty of sickness at the lofty heights of wealth and power. The political culture is sending warning sign after warning sign without giving rise to the slightest sign of restorative energies.
A few of these telltale signs can be mentioned to provide content to an insistence that a condition of societal urgency exists:
–When massacres of innocent persons occur in public places (schools- Sandy Hook; theaters-Aurora; night clubs-Orlando), gun sales surge in the days that follow; we are in the midst of a populist climate that has embraced ‘Second Amendment fundamentalism,’ so much so that Trump when asked at the third presidential debate what he hoped the Supreme Court would do, responded by declaring his priority to be upholding an unrestricted right to bear arms; Hilary Clinton was deemed brave and an anti-gun militant because she favored background checks and closing of gun show loopholes, hardly prospects that would send the NRA to the trenches except to tighten further their already firm grip on the political process!
–When a group of armed white militia members, led by the Bundy brothers (Ammon and Ryan) take over a Federal wildlife reserve in eastern Oregon in January of this year, using threats of violence prevent its operations for several days, initially vowing to die if necessary to oust the Federal Government from Malheur National Wildlife Refuge before eventually backing down, the jury in a criminal trial with mistaken foregone conclusions, astoundingly and unanimously found them not guilty of any crime, we know that the hour of violent populism is upon us. Simultaneously in Standing Rock North Dakota hundreds of unarmed native Americans and their supporters are being arrested and charged with trespass and riot crimes for protesting an oil pipeline being constructed near to their reservaion;
–When it looked like Trump would be defeated in a Clinton landslide, the election was, according to Trump, ‘rigged’ in favor of the Democrats, and the option of rejecting the outcome was kept wide open by the Republican candidate. Trump supporters were not shy about thinking that even violent resistance would be justifiable to keep ‘a criminal’ out of the White House. Trump even vowed in their TV debate to put Clinton in prison for corruption and her violation of classification laws shortly after he is sworn in as the next president. He does not object when his revved up crowds chant ‘lock her up’ or ‘jail her.’ If nothing else, Trump’s campaign reminds us that legitimate political competition presupposes a certain framework of civility and a clear willingness to part company with populist violence. Such minimal civility doesn’t have to concede much about the character and record of the opponent, but it does need to avoid language and sentiments that signals extremists to man the barricades. When Trump gives overt permission to his followers to remember their second amendment rights he is encouraging violence to overcome the problems of governance if he should lose the election. With such guidance, the country would mount a train that has only one stop—fascism in some form.
My claim here is not only the tainting of the electoral process, but the violent disposition of the political culture. It is not even necessary to invoke growing nativist hatreds directed at immigrants, Muslims, family planners, adherents of Black Lives Matter, and transgender and native American activists to recoil from this inflamed cultural moment. Underneath, yet integral, are the wider structural issues associated with neoliberalism, inequality among and within states, wage stagnancy, impotent labor movement, collapse of socialist alternatives, and the right-wing overall monopoly of visionary, highly motivated politics. Trump supporters are wildly enthusiastic about their candidate, while Clinton backers are under motivated and lacking in conviction.
This is not only an American problem. Similar patterns are visible in all parts of the world, although there is everywhere a national coloring that produces significant differences. In this regard, the structural pressures dispose politics in all parts of the world to move in authoritarian directions as conditioned by a wide diversity of national circumstances.
Yet the United States does pose a special threat of its own world wide, and is not only menacing its own future. It controls the dominant arsenal of nuclear weapons, it maintains a network of bases spread around the world, militarizes oceans and space, sends its predator drones and special ops kill squads to find prey wherever on the planet it perceives threats. This militarized and unaccountable global security system is reinforced by preeminent diplomatic and economic leverage, and emboldened by a self-serving ideology of ‘American exceptionalism,’ What happens in the United States is of great, often decisive, importance to the wellbeing of the many countries, especially in the global South, that lack both voice or exit capabilities (Hirschman), and thus find themselves captive of history’s first, and possibly, last ‘global state.’
Richard Falk is an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. For six years (2008-2014) he acted as UN Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine
Wall Street and the Pentagon: Pre-Mature Political and Military Ejaculations
Wall Street and the Pentagon greeted the onset of 2016 as a ‘banner year’, a glorious turning point in the quest for malleable regimes willing to sell-off the most lucrative economic resources, to sign off on onerous new debt to Wall Street and to grant use of their strategic military bases to the Pentagon.
Brazil and Argentina, the most powerful and richest countries in South America and the Philippines, Washington’s most strategic military platform in Southeast Asia, were the objects of intense US political operations in the run-up to 2016.
In each instance, Wall Street and the Pentagon secured smashing successes leading to premature ejaculations over the ‘new golden era’ of financial pillage and unfettered military adventures. Unfortunately, the early ecstasy has turned to agony: Wall Street made easy entries and even faster departures once the ‘honeymoon’ gave way to reality. ; The political procurers persecuted center-left incumbents but, were soon to have their turn facing prosecution. The political prostitutes, who had decreed the sale of sovereignty, were replaced by nationalists who would turn the bordello back into a sovereign nation state.
This essay outlines the rapid rise and dramatic demise of these erstwhile ‘progeny’ of Wall Street and the Pentagon in Argentina and Brazil, and then reviews Washington’s shock and awe as the newly elected Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte embraced new ties with China while proclaiming, ‘We are no one’s ‘tuta’ (puppy dog)!’
Argentina and Brazil: Grandiose Schemes and Crapulous Outcomes
The international financial press was ecstatic over the election of President Mauricio Macri in Argentina and the appointment of former Wall Street bankers to his cabinet. They celebrated the ouster of the ‘evil populists’, accusing them of inflating economic results, reneging on debt obligations and discouraging foreign lenders and investors. Under the Macri regime all market obstacles were to be removed and all the bankers trembled with anticipation at the ‘good times’ to come.
After taking office in December 2015, President Macri unleashed the ‘animal instincts’ of the market and the carrion birds flocked in. US ‘vulture funds’ scooped up and demanded payment for on old Argentine debt ‘valued’ at $3.5 billion – constituting a 1,000% return on their initial investment. A devaluation of the peso of 50% tripled inflation and drove down wages by 20%.
Firing over 200,000 public sector employees, slapping 400% price increases on utilities and transport, driving small and medium size firms into bankruptcy and enraged consumers into the streets ended the honeymoon with the Argentine electorate quite abruptly. This initial massive dose of free enterprise ‘medicine’ was prescribed by the local and Wall Street bankers and investors who had promised a new golden era for capitalism!
Now that he had banished the ‘populists’, Macri was free to tap into the international financial markets. Argentina raised $16.5 billion from a bond sale taken up by the big bankers and speculators, mostly from Wall Street, who were eager to cash in on the high rates in the belief that there was no risk with their champion President Macri at the helm. Wall Street based its giddy predictions on a mere three-month experience with Mauricio!
But then… some of the hedge fund managers began to raise questions about the viability of Mauricio Macri’s presidency. Instead of reducing the fiscal deficit, Macri began to increase public spending to offset mass discontent over his triple digit increases in utility fees and transportation, the mass layoffs in the public sector and the slashing of pension funds.
The major banks had counted on the abrupt devaluation of the currency to invest in the export sector, but instead they were confronted with a sudden 11% appreciation of the peso and a skyrocketing inflation of 40% leading to high interest rates. As a result, the economy fell even deeper in recession exceeding minus 3% for the year.
While most Wall Street bankers still retain some faith in the Macri regime, they are not willing to fork-over the kind of cash that might allow this increasingly unpopular regime to survive. What keep Wall Street on board the sinking ship are the political and ideological commitments rather than any objective assessment of their protégée’s dismal economic performance. Wall Street counts on free market bankers appointed to the ministries, the massive purge of social services (health and education) personnel and the lucrative bond sales to cover the burgeoning deficit. They hope the vast increase in profits resulting from increased utility fees and the sharp cuts in salaries, pensions and subsidies will ultimately lead them into the promised land.
Wall Street has expressed dismay over Macri’s failure to stimulate growth – in fact GDP is falling. Furthermore, their ‘golden boy’ failed to attract productive investments. Instead thousands of Argentine small and medium businesses have ‘gone under’ as consumer spending tanked and extortionate tariffs were slapped on vital public utilities and transport – devastating profits. Inflation has undermined the purchasing power of the vast majority of households. Wall Street speculators, concentrating on fixed-rate peso denominated debt, are at risk of losing their shirts.
In other words, the administration’s ‘free enterprise’ regime is based largely on attracting foreign loans, plundering the national treasury, firing tens of thousands of public sector workers and slashing spending on social services and business-friendly subsidies. Macri has yet to generate any large-scale investment in new innovative productive sectors, which might sustain long-term growth.
Already facing growing discontent and a general strike of private and public sector workers, the ‘bankers’ regime’ lacks the political links with the trade unions to neutralize the growing opposition.
To hold back the growing tidal wave of discontent, President Macri had to betray his overseas investors by boosting fiscal spending, which has had little or no impact on the national economy.
Wall Street’s hopes that President Mauricio Macri would inaugurate a ‘golden era’ of free market capitalism lasted less than a year and is turning into a real fiasco. Rising foreign debt, economic depression and class warfare ensures Macri’s rapid demise.
Brazil: Wall Street’s Three Month ‘Whirl-Wind’ Honeymoon
Most of the current elected members of the Brazilian Congress, Senate and the recently-installed (rather than elected) President, as well as his cabinet, are in trouble: The hero, Michael Temer and his argonauts, chosen by Wall Street to privatize the Brazilian economy and usher in another ‘golden dawn’ for finance capital, now all face criminal changes, arrest and long prison sentences for money laundering, bribery, fraud, tax evasion and corruption.
In less than four months, the entire political edifice constructed to impeach the elected President Dilma Rousseff and then de-nationalize key sectors of the economy, is shaking. So much for the financial press’s proclamation of a new era of “business friendly” policies in Brazilia.
The pundits, politicians, journalists and editors, who prematurely celebrated the appointment of Michael Temer to the Presidency by legislative coup, now have to face a new reality. The key to understanding the rapid collapse of the New Right project in Brazil lies in the growing ‘rap sheets’ of the very same politicians who engineered the ouster of Rousseff.
Eduardo Cunha, the ex-president of the Congress in Brasilia, used his influence to ensure the super majority of Congressional votes for the impeachment. Cunha was godfather to ensuring the appointment of Michael Temer as interim president.
Cunha’s influence and control over the Congress was based on his wide network of bribes and corruption involving over a hundred members of congress, including the newly anointed President Temer.
Once Cunha secured the ouster of Rousseff, the Brazilian elite washed their collective hands of the ‘fixer’, overwhelmed by the stench of his corruption. In September 2016, Cunha was suspended from Congress and lost his immunity. One month later, he was arrested on over a dozen charges, including fraud and tax evasion. It was public knowledge that Cunha had squirreled away a ‘tidy nest’ of over $70 million in Swiss banks.
Cunha directed (extorted) public and private firms to finance the campaigns of many of his political colleagues. He had intervened to secure bribes for President Temer, his foreign minister and even the next presidential hopeful, Jose Serra. One of the most powerful representatives of the new regime, Moreira Franco, Grand Wizard of the Privatization Program, was ‘in hock’ to Cunha.
As all this has come to light, Cunha has been negotiating a plea bargain with the prosecutor and judges in return for his ‘singing’ a few arias. He is facing over a hundred years in jail; his wife and daughter face trial; Eduardo Cunha is prepared to talk and finger political leaders to save his own neck. Most knowledgeable observers and judicial experts fully expect Cunha to bring down the Temer Administration with him and devastate the leadership of Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, as well as ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s Brazilian Social Democratic Party.
The Brazilian elite, Wall Street bankers and their mass media propagandists, who wrote and directed the impeachment plot scenario are now discredited and bereft of political front men. Their expectations of a new ‘golden era of free market capitalism’ in Brazil has turned into a political mad scramble with every politico and corporate leader desperate to save his own skin and illicit fortune by denouncing each other.
With the demise of the ‘Brazilian takeover’, Wall Street and Washington are bereft of key markets and allies in Latin America.
The Philippines: The Duterte turn from the US to China
In April 2014, Washington ‘secured’ an agreement granting access to five strategic military bases in the Philippines critical to its ‘pivot to target’ China. Under the outgoing President ‘Noynoy’ Aquino, Jr. the Pentagon believed it had an ‘iron-clad’ agreement to organize the Philippines as its satrap and military springboard throughout Southeast Asia. Washington even prodded the Aquino government to bring its Spratly Island dispute with China before the obscure Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. Washington anticipated using the Court’s ‘favorable’ ruling as a pretext to confront the Chinese.
All this has changed with the June 2016 ascent to the Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte: In only four months, all Washington’s imperial designs had been swept off the table. By October 21, 2016 President Duterte announced he would end military exercises with Washington because they threatened Philippine sovereignty and made his country vulnerable to a military confrontation with China. He promised to end sea patrols of disputed waters that the US uses to harass China in the South China Sea.
In advance of the Philippines President’s meeting with China, he had already declared that he would not press the Dutch-based ruling over the South China Sea island dispute against Beijing but rely on diplomacy and compromise. During the China meeting President Duterte declared that the two countries would engage in a constructive dialogue to resolve the Spratly Islands as well as other outstanding issues. The ‘agreement’ over US access to bases in the Philippines was put in doubt as the President declared “a separation from the US” and promised long-term, large scale economic and investment ties with China. Undergirding the Philippines pivot to China were 13 trade and investment agreements worth more than $20 billion, covering financing of infrastructure, transport, social projects, tourism, industry and agriculture.
The military base agreement, signed by the notoriously servile ex-President Aquino without Congressional approval, was review by the Philippine Supreme Court and can be revoked by the new President Duterte by decree.
Inside of four months, the US strategy of armed encirclement and intervention against China has been dealt a major blow. The newly emerging China-Philippines linkage strikes a fatal blow to Washington’s overtly militarist ‘pivot’ against China.
2016 opened with great fanfare: The defeat of the two major center-left governments (Argentina and Brazil) and the advent of hard-right US-backed regimes would inaugurate a ‘golden era of free market capitalism’. This promised to usher in a prolonged period of profit and pillage by rolling back ‘populist’ reforms and creating a bankers paradise. In Southeast Asia, US officials and pundits would proclaim another ‘golden era’, this time of rampant militarism, encircling and provoking China on its vital sea lanes, and operating from five strategic military bases obtained through a Philippine Presidential decree by an unpopular and recently replaced puppet, ‘Noynoy’ Aquino, Jr.
These dreams of ‘golden eras’ lasted a few months before objective reality intruded.
By the autumn of 2016 the rightist regimes had been replaced in the Manila by a colorful ardent nationalist, while the ‘banker boys’ in Brasilia faced prison, and the ‘Golden Boys’ of Buenos Aires were mired in deep crisis. The notion of an easy Rightist restoration was based on several profound misunderstandings:
1) The belief that the reversal of social reforms and denial of popular demands would smoothly give way to an explosion of foreign financing and investment was shattered when private bond purchases profited the financial sector but did not bring in large-scale productive investment. Devaluation of the currency was followed by skyrocketing inflation, which led to fiscal deficits and the loss of business confidence.
2) Washington’s promotion of ‘corruption investigations’ started with prosecuting democratically elected center-left politicians and ended up with the arrest of Wall Street’s own protégés encompassing the entire right-wing political class and decimating the ‘Golden’ regimes.
3) The belief that long-term hegemonic relations, based on client regimes in Asia, could resist the attraction of signing trade and investment agreements with the rising Chinese mega-economy, while sacrificing vital economic development, and relegating their masses to more stagnation and unemployment, collapsed with the massive electoral of nationalist Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines.
In fact, these and other political assessments among the decision makers in Washington and on Wall Street were proven wrong leading to a strategic retreat of the empire in both Latin America and Asia. The policy failures were not merely ‘mistakes’ but the inevitable results of changing structural conditions embedded in a declining empire.
These decisions were based on a calculus of power, rooted in class and national relations that may have held true two decades ago. At the dawn of the new millennium the US still dominated Asia and China was not yet an economic alternative for its neighbors eager for investment. Washington could and did dictate policy in Southeast Asia.
Twenty years ago, the US had the economic leverage to sustain the neoliberal policies of the Washington Consensus throughout Latin America.
Today the US continues to pursue policies based on anachronistic power relations,seeming to ignore the fact that China is now a world power and a viable economic trade and investment alternative successfully competing for markets and influence in Asia. Washington is failing to compete in that marketplace and, therefore, can no longer rely on docile client state.
Washington cannot effectively control and direct large-scale capital flows to shore-up its newly installed rightist regimes in Argentina and Brazil as they crumble under their own corruption and incompetence. Meanwhile the world is watching a domestic US economy, mired in stagnation with its own political elites torn by corruption and scandals at the highest level, and staging the most bizarre presidential campaign in its history. Corruption has become the mode of governing under conditions of deregulation and rule by political warlords. Political allegiance to the empire and open doors to foreign pillage do not attract capital when those making political decisions are facing prison and the business ‘doormen’ are busy stuffing their suitcases with cash and making a mad-dash for the airports!
For Wall Street and the Pentagon, Latin America and Asia are lost opportunities – betrayals to be mourned at the officers clubs and exclusive Manhattan restaurants. For the people in mass social movements these are emerging opportunities for struggle and change.
The strenuous US effort to rebuild its empire in Latin America and Southeast Asia has suffered a rapid succession of blows. Washington can still seize power but it lacks the talent and the favorable conditions to hold it.
The vision of a Brazilian state, build on the edifice of the privatized oil giant, Petrobras, and the political incarceration of its left adversaries, with foreign capital attracted and seduced by political procurers, pimps and prostitutes, has ended in a debacle.
In this vacuum, it will be up to the new governments and peoples’ movements to seize the opportunity to advance their struggles and explore political and economic alternatives. The aborted rightist power grab inadvertently has done the peoples’ movements a great favor by exposing and ousting the corrupt and compromised center-left regimes opening the door for a genuine anti-imperialist transformation.
Who Was Behind the 2008 Financial Crash? US Aristocracy’s Immunity From Prosecution. Proposal to Hold Top Level Wall Street “Crooks” Accountable
US Aristocracy’s Immunity From Prosecution Disturbs TARP’s I.G.
For the very first time, on October 25th, a high federal official, the “SIGTARP” or Special Inspector General for the TARP program that bailed out the largest financial institutions and their top investors after the 2008 economic crash, is now making a specific proposal to hold the top-level crooks accountable for the incentive-systems they had put into place motivating their employees to pump-and-dump ‘investments’ during the growth-phase of the ‘free market’ Ponzi game that existed since 2000 when the end of the FDR-era Glass-Steagall Act and the start of totally unregulated financial marketeering went wild after 2005 and came crashing down in 2008.
Despite the deregulation that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (and both political parties in Congress) instituted, there still remained on the books some laws that high financial executives were breaking, but the SIGTARP has now come to an impasse in trying to obtain the evidence that will enable investigations to proceed against the top executives, and so she is coming out to urge cooperation of the rest of the government in order to enable it to happen. The SIGTARP, Christy Goldsmith Romero, urges:
A PROPOSAL TO BRING ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE “INSULATED CEO”
I propose that Congress remove the insulation around Wall Street CEOs and other high-level officials by requiring the CEO, CFO and certain other senior executives to sign an annual certification that they have conducted due diligence within their organization and can certify that that there is no criminal conduct or civil fraud in their organization.
According to a Reuters report from Patrick Rucker, titled “Wall St. Rescue Fund Watchdog Says U.S. Bank Heads Too Insulated”, “Wall Street executives are too shielded from prosecution and should answer for misdeeds committed by underlings, the watchdog for a multibillion-dollar [federal-government] bailout [of the mega-banks] said on Wednesday.” This article, dated Wednesday October 25th, continued: “Senior banking officials should attest each year that their companies are free of criminal fraud and civil abuse, said Christy Goldsmith Romero, special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. ‘Every executive should be able to conduct due diligence,’ she told Reuters in an interview. ‘If they are too big to do that, then they are too big, period.’”
That policy, if honestly placed into practice, would likely result in lengthy prison terms for many of the people who are the big-dollar political donors; and so it can’t possibly happen. But the very fact that someone in a federal-government capacity has finally said publicly that it needs to happen is shocking enough.
The article continues:
“U.S. taxpayers have invested more than $400 billion since the crisis, mostly in large Wall Street banks. Goldsmith Romero leads a staff of roughly 140 investigators examining possible abuse of the TARP program.”
Romero on Wednesday sent to Congress her agency’s 550-page investigative report (not linked-to by Reuters but here) on that subject, and Rucker continued: ”Goldsmith Romero said the report also described cases where executives are complicit in fraud but the highest-ranking officials are walled off. ‘The knowledge stops,’ she said. ‘It resides at lower levels and stops there. And in many cases, I think that’s by intentional design.’”
The reporter, Mr. Rucker, makes clear how grave this situation really is:
“Goldsmith Romero has never before suggested a reform of the financial system. She said that she felt compelled to speak up this time after facing so many cases where senior executives seemed out of reach from prosecutions.”
So: although the aristocrats’ immunity will not be removed, a federal official has now had the courage to state that it must be removed.
Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. Senator who held off from making any endorsement during the Presidential primaries, is now campaigning for Hillary Clinton to become President — the same candidate that Wall Street executives are overwhelmingly funding to win the Presidency — but Warren is already verbally supportive of what Romero is urging. On September 15th, David Dayen at The Intercept bannered, “Elizabeth Warren Asks Newly Chatty FBI Director to Explain Why DOJ Didn’t Prosecute Banksters”, and he reported that on that day:
“Warren released two highly provocative letters demanding some explanations. One is to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, requesting a review of how federal law enforcement managed to whiff on all 11 substantive criminal referrals submitted by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), a panel set up to examine the causes of the 2008 meltdown. The other is to FBI Director James Comey, asking him to release all FBI investigations and deliberations related to those referrals.”
Warren’s campaigning for Clinton, who has always been against accountability at the top in the U.S., is drastically inconsistent with this public display of supporting such accountability, and is therefore untrustworthy.
I (who until now had always voted only for Democrats) earlier reported the fundamental dishonesty of the Democratic Party’s elite about precisely this matter.
Privately, Obama had told Wall Street executives that he would protect them. On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. It’s not on the White House website; it was leaked out, which is one of the reasons Obama hates leakers (including such heroes as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange). What the DOJ’s IG indicated was, in effect, that Obama had kept his secret promise to them.
The CEOs went into their traditional stance. “It’s almost impossible to set caps [to their bonuses]; it’s never worked, and you lose your best people,” said one. “We’re competing for talent on an international market,” said another. Obama cut them off.
“Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that,” he said. “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”
It was an attention grabber, no doubt, especially that carefully chosen last word.
But then Obama’s flat tone turned to one of support, even sympathy. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem,” he said. “And I want to help. But you need to show that you get that this is a crisis and that everyone has to make some sacrifices.” According to one of the participants, he then said, “I’m not out there to go after you. I’m protecting you. But if I’m going to shield you from public and congressional anger, you have to give me something to work with on these issues of compensation.”
No suggestions were forthcoming from the bankers on what they might offer, and the president didn’t seem to be championing any specific proposals. He had none: neither Geithner nor Summers believed compensation controls had any merit.
After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.
He had been lying to the public, all along. Not only would he not prosecute the banksters, but he would treat them as if all they had was “an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem.” And he thought that the people who wanted them prosecuted were like the KKK who had chased Blacks with pitchforks before lynching. According to the DOJ, their Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) was “established by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.” But, according to the Department’s IG, it was all a fraud: a fraud that according to the DOJ itself had been going on since at least November 2009.
If this matter that Romero is raising will be coming up during a Hillary Clinton Administration, the lying about it will simply continue, that’s all. Barack Obama is no less vicious a liar than Hillary Clinton is, but she’s not nearly as skillful a deceiver as he is, but that’s the only real difference between them. She’ll get the job done for the political megadonors, just the same, like she always has.
However, if Donald Trump is to be President, then no one can intelligently say what his policy on accountability would be — other than that he’ll work with Congress to get an independent prosecutor to investigate the criminal allegations against Hillary Clinton, including the ones that the untrustworthy FBI alleges that it has already investigated in an impartial manner. Regarding the specific issue that Romero is implicitly also urging, the reinstatement of the FDR-era Glass-Steagall Act, which Bill Clinton and the Republicans terminated in 2000 and which had limited bank-size, Trump is on record as demanding that it be done. (That’s one of the reasons why he has been receiving far less from Wall Street than Hillary Clinton has been. Wall Street loathes Trump. Almost everything in this ‘election’ is nearly the opposite of what is commonly presumed.)
For the first time in recent memory, there really is an important difference between the two major-Party Presidential candidates. The last time it happened was 2000, when the far-right candidate, George W. Bush ‘won’. This time around, it seems likely to be repeated (and maybe this time by a landslide): the far-right candidate Hillary Clinton will probably win — same result, just different nominal parties this time around. In an important sense, this year’s George W. Bush is Hillary Clinton. (He demanded regime-change in Iraq; she demands regime-change in Russia.) This year’s Al Gore is Donald Trump. Except that this time the big issue isn’t global warming, but instead nuclear war against Russia. Of course, GW Bush was bad on both issues (denying climate-change, and demanding “regime-change in Iraq” where the Moscow-friendly dictator Saddam Hussein ruled). But so too is Hillary (who followed up her ardent advocacy for regime-change in Iraq, by regime-change in Moscow-friendly Libya, and regime-change in Moscow-friendly Ukraine, and regime-change in Moscow-allied Syria; and who is now pushing for regime-change in Russia itself, and thus unchallenged U.S.-aristocracy control over every other nation’s aristocracy).
All of this election-year, the supposedly big issue was bigotry, but the thing that’s actually destroying this country and the entire world is class — rich versus poor; the super-rich crushing everyone else — and the ‘news’ media are controlled not by the many poor but by the very few super-rich. And this is why Romero’s call for justice is, sadly, just a cry into the wind.
Regarding politics, one has no reason to trust what one hears from the politicians, reads in the newspapers and magazines, or hears or sees on radio and TV. The elite scams are overwhelming from all of the Establishment sides. But finally, an obscure federal official, Ms. Romero, the SIGTARP, has spoken her conscience, despite knowing that she’ll only be punished for it once she’s out of office. Unlike the Democratic Party politicians, she’s not grandstanding. She’s instead truly heroic, speaking truth to power, and really meaning it — and ready to face the consequences for having done it.
It’s remarkable. It’s Quixotic, in a really heroic way: pathbreaking, even if that path leads only to a brick wall. At least it will expose to the public the extent to which the system itself is their enemy. Not Mexicans. Not Blacks. Not Whites. Not Muslims. Not Christians. Not Jews. Not Russians. Not men. Not women. Not even (though bigots are dangerous fools) bigots against any such group. The system, right here in the U.S., needs to be changed. Nothing can authentically be blamed on any “not us” target — either for invasion, or otherwise.
Romero wants to cancel the immunity of aristocrats — the people who control this country.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.