Politics as Distraction: Please Focus on Wealth Distribution

Warning: This is a political rant.

I have been thinking a lot about the political environment lately. It is hard not to. And the more inflamed I become at the administration’s attack on the press, immigrants, women, environment, and general truth, the less I think about the issue that I was most focused on at the beginning of the election cycle: wealth distribution. But this is the key, I think. While everybody is up in arms about racism, sexism, etc., while the President makes headlines with his ridiculous press conferences, while the press is busy fact-checking and the people are at each others’ throats about who or what is racist or illegal, financial regulations are being dismantled; the regulations put in by Obama after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, which was caused by faulty mortgages, negligent regulators, and Wall Street banks (including Goldman Sachs and others) trading these faulty mortgages. This is not a blame game. This is fact.  (This is discussed in a recent podcast by the New York Time’s podcast, The Daily. That is where I get a lot of the following information.)

Taxpayers bail out these banks (“too big to fail”) for the sake of the national and global economy. To be clear, this means the entire taxpaying population of the United States gave their money to the people and organizations that caused the recession that hurt those very people. The CEO’s and managers at these banks took away millions of dollars because of this bailout. Let me reiterate… the people that caused millions of people to lose their jobs and nearly destroyed the global economy received million-dollar salaries paid for by the American people: 700 billion dollars.

The Obama administration decided to bail out Wall Street instead of punishing them, stating, “There will be time to punish those who set this fire,” but, essentially, they needed to fix the system first and could not do so if they sought punishment, to “put out the fire.” No Wall Street executives go to jail. None are forced to give back salaries. The Dodd-Frank Law was the only piece of legislation to come out of this crisis, and contained some reforms; for instance, requiring banks to hold greater capital. Yet, 9 years later, the same people that were running the banks in 2008 are running them now.

Gary D. Cohn was the president of Goldman Sachs in 2008, which got 10 billion dollars from the federal government.  That year, he “earned” 9.6 million dollars at Goldman Sachs.  In December of 2016, he left Goldman Sachs to chair Trump’s national economic council. He is now in charge of deciding what regulations to apply to Wall Street banks.

On February 3rd, Trump signed an executive order that would start to unravel the Dodd-Frank Law.  Gary Cohn was right behind him when he signed it.

The Daily states that the Dodd-Frank law was flawed, and question whether the regulations crafted by the people of Goldman Sachs and signed by the President will be responsible, based on their intricate knowledge of the financial system and the crisis of 2008, or whether they will be motivated by self-gain. That is the question.

I do not pretend I know the answer to this, but I do not have much confidence in these people to regulate responsibly, and have no inkling of hope that they will do anything to diminish their profits and salaries or seek to give up their extraordinary power to influence government policy.

I did not see this story given the attention it deserves. Why does it seem like nobody gives a shit? Maybe because everyone is pissed off about the million other things that Trump is doing, or they are pissed off at liberals for being self-righteous liberals. I mean to say that Trump’s inflammatory accusations of the press being the “enemy of the American people” with their own agenda, or his narcissistic defense of his administration’s first month in office, or the increasing attention on his team’s communication with Russian officials before, during, and after the election; all of these things serve as fodder for pitting the American people against each other. The people who were all alike in being taken advantage of by major banks and corporations and who, together, gave up their money so that people like Gary Cohn could take home millions of dollars.

Stop saying we need to unite under national security issues because it is not going to happen. Stop letting the government and the establishment political parties pit us against each other with threats and moral superiority complexes. It is a distraction.

We need to reform wealth distribution so that the money that is going into the pockets of people like Gary Cohn, who in turn directly affect policy, is instead invested in schools so that teachers earn what they deserve and people are being taught skills that will prepare and qualify them jobs in a market that is changing rapidly. Republicans and Democrats are both seeking ways to create jobs. There it is. Invest the money that CEOs and executives are taking home (and using to influence policy) into improving schools for kids and adult education opportunities in growing fields like alternative energy because please, I am as afraid for my Earth as I am for my fellow Americans that are caught in a blinding torrent of misplaced blame and desperation.

 

Disclaimer: I do not think this issue is more important than other issues, I think it is key to addressing and solving them. 

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