by Jamie Peck for deathandtaxes.com – April 12, 2016
Even the icon of Wall Street greed is feeling the bern
Bernie Sanders has received an endorsement from an unlikely person: Gordon Gekko.
Or rather, Asher Edelman, the cutthroat financier that the Gekko character in Oliver Stone’s 1987 classic “Wall Street” was in part based on. (Tagline: “Greed is good.”)
In an editorial published Tuesday in The Guardian, Edelman makes a convincing case that Sanders is the only candidate currently running with a plan to effectively regulate Wall Street, a sector whose abuses are as far reaching as they are poorly understood by the average American. If nobody does this, he predicts a depression, and not merely a recession, will sink the United States into a hole even deeper than the one we’re in now:
The potential for a depression looms heavily on the horizon. As a trained economist who has spent more than 20 years on Wall Street – and one of the models for Gordon Gekko’s character – I know the financial system is in urgent need of regulation and responsibility. Yet Hillary Clinton is beholden to the banks for their largesse in funding her campaign and lining her pockets. The likelihood of any Republican candidate taking on this key issue is not even worthy of discussion.
Central to his argument is the Glass-Steagall Act, an act repealed by Bill Clinton — after years of lobbying from the financial sector — that once separated consumer banking from more risk-heavy investment banking. Because deposits are backed up by the Federal Reserve, the big banks can now be expected to be bailed out by taxpayers if their speculative activities fail:
The recession of 2007-2016, and the persistent transfer of wealth from the 80% to the 1% is, mostly the result of banking irresponsibility precipitated by the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. The law separated commercial banking (responsible for gathering and conservatively lending out funds) from investment banking (more speculative activities).
A new culture emerged that rewarded bankers for return on equity rather than sound lending practices. The wild west of risk-taking, staked on depositors’ money, became the best sport in town. Why not? If management won, they got rich. When they lost, the taxpayer took on the responsibility. If that sounds like a good wager, it was (and is).
And if you thought the banks learned their lesson from being handed $15 trillion and given a stern talking to by the Obama administration following the financial collapse of 2008, Gekko explains, you’d be wrong:
Remarkably, today the derivatives positions held by the large banks approach 10 times those of 2007-2008. In four banks alone, they exceed the GDP of the entire world. This is the interesting consequence when unchecked risk management rests in bankers’ hands.
After the collapse of 2008, the Federal Reserve invested more than $15tn to save the banks under the guise of monetary stimulation. At the same time, little or no funds were channeled to the needs of the American people. Yet today we face another crisis of liquidity. This time Europe will break first, followed by their highly leveraged US colleagues. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% of Americans remain mired in a recession, having seen no increase in their incomes during the last 20 years.
Considering every other major candidate’s ties to Wall Street, Edelman concludes Sanders (presumably working with other progressive Democrats) to be the only person able to do the massive job of breaking up the big banks, reinstating Glass-Steagall, and enforcing the provisions of the D0dd-Frank Wall Street reform act signed by Barack Obama:
Dodd-Frank provides the necessary structure with which to begin. Enforce it. Put teeth into bank regulation. Determine the acceptable level of risk at which banks can operate. Make management, not underlings or stockholders, responsible for violating the law. Encourage the Justice Department to be clear in seeking appropriate penalties for financial crimes in large institutions, not by fines alone but by the prosecution of those executives responsible.
Bernie Sanders is the only independent candidate who escapes the malaise of being bought. He is paid for by the people and represents their interests. And you can take that to the bank.
Strong words from a man who once epitomized the plutocracy. Either he’s grown a heart since the ’80s, or he knows another Great Depression would be disastrous, even for people like him.
[The Guardian | photo: 20th Century Fox]