Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Enemies of Peace

~ FDR 1936 ~  We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. 
~ They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.  

~Eisenhower 1961~  "... this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the Federal Government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together." 

~ G.W. Bush~  Beginning in 2001, the Bush administration began pressing congress to regulate Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac. "The Administration's FY02 budget declares that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is "a potential problem," because "financial trouble of a large GSE could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting Federally insured entities ...."" Both the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and he Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) formally identified the risks, and Treasury Secretary John Snow testified to the need for immediate reform.

Congress ignored the repeated warnings, accusing the president of creating an "artificial issue". In 2007, Senate Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd attacks the President's warnings and calls on him to "immediately reconsider his ill-advised" position. The crash followed shortly thereafter, generally as was formally presented to Congress on eleven separate occasions.

This is how things have played out over time.  How much influence does corporate money have in government today? Are decisions and policy really up for sale?

The financial industry pressed for (or purchased) repeal of the separation between savings and investment banking over a two decade period.  The repeal of Glass-Steagall gave us the derivatives marketplace (including mortgage backed security derivatives) and triggered the Great Recession.  Trillions were lost as the nation and the world recoiled; related deaths exceed one million, but the industry continues with little change.

Assets of the U.S. banking industry have risen to $15.3 TRILLION.  Together, JPMorgan and Bank of America hold 23% of the total.  Each is financially larger than most countries in the world.  Taken together they're larger than the 80 countries at the bottom of the list, combined.  Cross reference that comparison in fiscal size to one of political influence, and you begin to see cause for concern.

On the upside, the U.S. leads the world in the financial services industry.  The downside is that the U.S. leads the world in the financial services industry, and in doing so, we carry responsibility for our impact on the entire world and on each individual.  Much has perhaps been good, of course, but globalization is a new realm and not entirely predictable.