I kinda have a thing for Matt Tiabbi. I never would have expected a Rolling Stone columnist to constantly harangue and brutally deconstruct the players of the economic fiasco. Without remorse, restraint, or mercy, he absolutely eviscerates everything from Goldman Sachs and AIG to the current administration and everything in-between. It really is a thing of beauty, and one of the best reasons investigative journalism had better survive the media reorganization caused by the internet.
Well, recently he wrote a shorter piece entitled Looting Main Street that really had me gritting my teeth. As if they weren’t brazen enough already, banks such as JP Morgan Chase effectively transformed a $250-million debt into more than 1.28 billion, and that was just interest and fees. How on Earth did they accomplish this? The article goes into greater detail, but it was a certain amount of political graft and underhanded dealing, including several examples that should have lead to prison time for the bankers instead of a paltry $25-million fine.
The revolting part of this is that it happened in a small Alabama county. It’s almost assured similar situations are happening across the country, considering how many state and county governments have gone from mostly OK to swimming in debt far exceeding the tax base in record speed. Illinois alone has a 13-billion dollar shortfall just for 2010. Even if every single state employee was fired today, the state would only save $4-billion. Holy shit!
All of the poor misled people across the country grousing about education costs, excessive teacher pensions, administrative overhead, and so on, are completely missing the bigger picture. These things are all monumentally irritating, and possibly even enough to undermine the fundamentals of our government given enough time, but hilariously they might not get that chance. These perceived samples of avarice and corruption have actually been eclipsed by other shenanigans enacted by Corporate America by nearly an order of magnitude. While fraud, bribery, and misappropriation are undoubtedly driving elements of Illinois politics, a certain amount of enabling has transformed theft into outright and unashamed plunder.
Various segments of America, even entire states, may actually be bankrupted by the very banks that contributed to the housing bubble. It was bad enough the market crashed; suddenly tax revenues tanked, state investments dwindled to fractions of their original worth, small and medium businesses folded and caused a domino-effect of unemployment, further decreasing the tax base and increasing those dependent on public aid. The banks have effectively been pouring napalm on a grease fire, and instead of arresting them, we snatch the guys who started the fire. Several of the officials in Alabama were arrested for their part of that debacle, but not one banker suffered for his part in transforming the situation into a cataclysm.
So this will continue, and why not? Is a $25-million fine supposed to deter someone who just made several billion? They’ll shrug with a sheepish “Our bad!” and continue as if nothing happened. These are the companies we bailed out in 2008. These are the sociopath foxes we’ve left in charge of the hen-house, and while we’re distracted by the undoubtedly flawed Health Care bill and our Tea Parties piss and moan about taxes, the real villain is allowed free reign. I’d feel bad for the government if it weren’t so complicit here; it’s their inaction and culpability that allows this to happen. I understand humans are imperfect creatures, but Jesus Christ!