Face it, if we found out that a Vegas casino was run like our banking system, the worst strung out addict wouldn’t gamble there.
Even they wouldn’t be able to stand the stench.
Casino operators know you have to provide at least the appearance that the games aren’t crooked.
Casino operators know they can’t force people to spend their hard-earned money gambling on a toxic waste dump.
But the bankers and their political cronies who have been playing us for suckers forced us to pay to clean up the shambles, as well as the continuing costs of the broken economy.
Now the casino operators are trying to assure us that everything is hunky-dory, but that same foul scent is still wafting from their dumpsite. Goldman Sachs shrugs off the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud charges, hiring the president’s former lawyer to fight them, while it rakes in eye-popping profits that beat even the most optimistic projections.
The man we hoped would clean up the mess, President Obama, appears at long last to be taking a more nimble, hands-on approach to financial reform than he did on health insurance reform. But the plans endorsed by him and the Democratic leadership contain too little actual reform and too much reshuffling of the same weak hand regulators have been bringing to the casino.
We’ll never win against the sharks the way the game is rigged now.
That’s the bitter lesson brought home by the revelations of the last month, from probes into the tragic bank follies of the Lehman and Washington Mutual collapses, and the SEC lawsuit charging Goldman-Sachs with fraud.
As we learn more details of each of these debacles, they provide potent weapons in the fight to overhaul the system that led to the financial meltdown.
Far from being an unforeseeable natural disaster, it was a predictable consequence of the system we still have in place today. In each case, the financial giants rigged the game with fraudulent bookkeeping and lack of disclosure while regulators looked the other way. And far from being isolated instances of improper conduct, the Lehman, WAMU and Goldman fiascoes are prime examples of how far the financial industry has fallen in common sense and ethical standards.
But the Democrat leadership has squandered its credibility on financial reform, offering legislation that largely preserves the status quo.
Rather than galvanizing public outrage against Wall Street into support for fundamental change to rebuild a financial system that truly serves our economy, the president and the Democratic leadership are caving in to Wall Street lobbyists and Republican obstructionists who pay lip service to reform while they block and dilute it.
Meanwhile, we’re treated to the truly disgraceful spectacle of each party accusing the other of having taken more campaign cash from Goldman-Sachs and the other major casino operators than the other.
The truth is they’re both beholden to the cash generated by the toxic dump of our financial system. The Democrats may be ahead in the fundraising game right now, but the Republicans are working hard to curry favor from Wall Street and catch up.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are left on the sidelines.
Fortunately we don’t have to stay there.
Several other Democratic senators have proposed amendments worthy of support.
Among the most articulate voices for a stronger version of reform is Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware. Along with senators Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, Carl Levin D-MI, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Kaufman has proposed a bill that moves toward rebuilding the wall that used to separate traditional, federally guaranteed banking activities from high-risk speculative gambling. That wall was torn down when the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act was repealed during the Clinton Administration. In addition, a conservative Democrat who faces a tough reelection fight, Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, has proposed derivatives regulation that is substantially tougher than that which has been proposed by the Obama Administration.
Now is the time to clean up the casino. We have to channel our genuine, justified anger into action to push our politicians to do the right thing, whether they want to or not.