"Testifying" this morning -- (if you can call prevaricating, lying, and posturing "testifying") -- to another toothless Beltway body called the "Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission" were the four horseman: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, John Mack of Morgan Stanley, Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs. For them it's been a terrific year of record profits, soaring stock prices, and huge bonuses while the rest of the nation -- us -- is mired in a debilitating recession. Former California Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides tried to focus Lloyd Blankfein's attention on his firm's nefarious practices and asked some important questions but it was like trying to pin down a slippery, slimy vampire squid.
Even after watching just five minutes of the tete-a-tete between Angelides and Blankfein one can see how this commission endeavor is going to play out. The big financial firms will stonewall and their state-of-the-art legal teams will drag out the requests for documents and throw up smokescreens and diversions that will be every bit as creative as the CDOs and CDSs their finance wizards conjured up.
The chump change that Congress appropriated for the commission -- a measly $8 million (pocket lint for these financiers) will run out very quickly. And the December 15th deadline for the commission's final report will be a day when Blankfein and his buddies pop open champagne bottles knowing they'll face no more public scrutiny. Besides, most members of Congress, including Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank, want to sweep this stuff under the rug because now that the Democrats are in the majority they're on the receiving end of all that sweet Wall Street campaign cash. Blankfein et al. have all the money so if you want to maintain your majority in Congress you better serve their interests well. And that is exactly what the Democrats have done so far.
I didn't see Blankfein honestly answer one question. He even compared his corporation's ethically bankrupt practices to unexpected natural disasters like hurricanes. Arrogant and unrepentant, Blankfein clearly has learned nothing from the crisis and refuses to accept any responsibility. These guys not only view money differently than the vast majority of Americans but they also view government differently. We see the government as serving us against them -- they see it (more accurately) as the government serving them against us. They win. We lose. Any questions?
So that's gonna be the game now, uh?
The Democrats ensconce themselves in huge amounts of Wall Street campaign money and in exchange they pursue the short-sighted prerogatives of a bunch of rich guys who have already been bailed out and have shown the world that they're nothing but a gang of white-collar crooks. These men and people like them have caused more suffering across the nation than any terrorist organization ever could. It appears to be the same old Wall Street exploitation but under new management. With the last two election cycles Democrats have gotten their chance to spin the wheel and prove to the corporate oligarchy that they too can "manage" its affairs in a way that will not to rattle stock and financial markets.
"Yes We Can! -- Service Wall Street Like Republicans!"
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner opposes any financial transaction tax even though the European Union and the G-20 are calling for it. Neither will he support a windfall profits tax slapped on his overpaid Wall Street buddies' bonuses. I don't recall seeing Geithner out there at any Obama rallies chanting "Si Se Puede!" Geithner has distinguished himself as the Joe Lieberman of the Obama Administration. The "Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission" cannot succeed because the Secretary of the Treasury and the heads of the congressional committees that "oversee" the financial services industry don't want it to succeed.
I was thinking about how "unpatriotic" Blankfein et al. are: They didn't care about their investors (especially public institutional investors that were stewards of police, fire, and teachers' pensions -- a real "mom and apple pie" move there ripping off these public employees). And they ripped off their own shareholders. And then they ruined the economy of the United States of America (I fear) in a very deep way. No one has any confidence in American financial markets or "products" anymore. What does a "Triple A" rating mean now? They stripped about $11 trillion in wealth from our society and then they just moved on and made billions more after ripping off taxpayers in the form of bailouts. No one goes to jail. No one faces any retributive taxes. It's just business as usual. A "New, New Deal?" Forget about it.