Marchers Deserve Support
by Bob Henderson
The peaceful demonstrations that began on Wall Street now have expanded to more than 75 cities and are still growing. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are protesting the fact that our economy no longer works for them. All they are asking is that our government start representing all of us for a change, and not just the very wealthy. I don't think that's too much to ask.
Completely unorganized, the demonstrations are the spontaneous result of conditions I have been writing about here for the past year.
This is a massive popular indictment of elected representatives for allowing corporations and Wall Street to capture our government and use it to gain immense private fortunes, at the expense of American families.
The demonstrations are not a protest against President Obama or either political party, alone. However, reaction coming from both parties is hugely instructive.
Democrats are supportive and continue to push for jobs legislation.
Notwithstanding that the Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to peaceful assembly, Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, has described the demonstrators as a “growing mob.”
Most of us realize that money has long since systematically made a lie of the American ideal of a democratically elected “government of the people.”
U.S. senators and members of Congress, from both parties, are engaged in permanent campaigns to raise money. In return for financial support, corporate lobbyists are able to demand laws favorable to their clients and unfair to the rest of us.
How did America's government become so corrupted?
It is the direct result of the relentless dismantling, over the past three decades, of regulatory and anti-trust laws FDR passed during the New Deal to protect Americans from the inevitable excesses of great wealth and power.
Repealing the Glass-Steagal Act was a signal mistake. The repeal was passed by a Republican Congress but signed, to his everlasting shame, by Bill Clinton.
So long as Glass-Steagal continued in force, banks couldn't combine commercial and investment banking. While even smaller, local banks have been gouging us with highly profitable (for them) fees, investment bankers are the villains who engaged in the wild and reckless speculation that brought America to the brink of a second depression.
The six largest are Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citi-Group, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Fifteen years ago, their combined assets totaled 17 percent of our GDP. Today that total is 63 percent, a national calamity waiting to happen.
Truly, these banks have the best Congress their money can buy.
They borrow from the Federal Reserve for about one percent, and have been charging credit card members as much as 30 percent. The Dodd-Frank Act attempts to limit this indecency through its Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Dodd-Frank is Congress's response to the big banks' recklessness that caused our near financial collapse in 2008 and this long period of high unemployment. It has been described as wide, but shallow. Rather than forcing the “too-large-to-fail” banks to downsize, they have been allowed to grow even larger. That makes it ideal for their officers and all those on their bonus plans.
The Republican solution to all our challenges never changes, good times or bad. More deregulation. Lower and lower taxes. High on their present agenda is the repeal of Dodd-Frank.
Meanwhile, millions of American homeowners are underwater with their mortgages, and hundreds of thousands have lost their homes. President Obama's American Jobs Act was defeated in the Senate by Republicans who care more about denying the President a second term than about helping millions of unemployed Americans find jobs.
Protesting a government that ignores most of its citizens and acts only to protect millionaires and billionaires is hardly a radical act.
These Americans, and millions more, are frustrated, fed up, and deserve our support.