Freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rattled Wall Street Thursday when she made her debut on the Senate Banking Committee.
In a cool, professorial tone, she asked what many Americans have been wondering since the 2007 mortgage market meltdown that set off the worst recession in more than 70 years. “I want to ask a question about supervising big banks when they break the law,” Warren said.
The phrasing was gentle, but the implication was piercing. Had Warren gone straight for the jugular, she might have said, how could federal banking regulators have stood by and done nothing while banks illegally gambled with the financial future of the country?
Challenging the federal oversight of US banks deemed “too big to fail,” or “too big to jail” is part of a much deeper problem in the relationship between Washington and Wall Street.
As Warren aptly pointed out during the hearing, Wall Street bankers were allowed to commit crimes that others would have been punished for, but not one of the bankers has been prosecuted in a court of law.
Government favoritism for corporate criminals has integrated itself into the ever-widening income inequality gap that, if not checked, has the potential to propagate the self-destruction of capitalism itself.
In the New York Times, journalist and author Chrystia Freeland said, “Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.”
For all the talk from right-wing conservatives about the evils of socialism, few dare to speak of the self-destructive forces of capitalism.
Among all the abuses of profit-driven capitalism, none is more obvious than the transformation that overtook the American landscape after the 2008 coup d’état of the US government by Wall Street. Since then, the country has not been the same, and it may never be again.
Everywhere you look in American society, there are signs of corporate greed. Sick people are bankrupt when they need medical care, not only because of the astronomical costs, but because the motivation for massive profits often exceeds moral codes of conscience. Hungry children are demonized by right-wing ideologues when their minimum wage-working parents need government programs like food stamps.
There are many examples of American hypocrisy fueling inequality, not the least of which includes the nature of governing from a perch of plutocracy. Just about every decision made by lawmakers is driven by its benefit for a CEO’s bottom line, instead of its value for the common good of American society.
As it has been demonstrate by the wave of Tea Party conservatives swept into control of congress in 2010, voters can indeed be persuaded to vote against their own interests. Perhaps because “common good” is being turned into yet another a fear-based sound bite for politicians with ulterior motives.
The political machine driving America’s financial markets and income inequality is steamrolling over the perceived freedom of millions of people all over the world, because what happens in America is not contained by its borders.
Pollution from environmental deregulation travels by air, water, and into the global food supply. A financially starved education system cheats American children out of opportunities in the global workplace. And the bankers controlling who gets financing concentrates an enormous amount of power in the hands of very few individuals, who have demonstrated virtually no interest in the “common good.”
A simple question reveals the truth behind the rhetoric of lawmakers. Who will benefit most from the policy or concept being sold to the public? More often than not, the answer is a corporate interest with well-groomed lobbyists and deep pockets for political campaigns.
Warren knows this, and might be the only person in Washington bold enough to use her power for the “common good,” by deflecting the self-destructive nature of capitalism with tough questions and even tougher regulations for America's bankers.
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