a curious Yankee in Europe's court

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A cathartic rant on the egregiousness of Wall Street (take it if you need it)

Posted on the May 10th, 2010

A classic old song popped up on my iPod shuffle this morning, reminding me of something rant-like a United States Senator said a couple of weeks ago during a Congressional hearing on the financial markets. First, the song:

When you wish upon a star,
makes no difference who you are
anything your heart desires
will come to you…

It’s tantamount to blasphemy, I know, to compare the financial free market system in its present incarnation to the pure magnificence of a star. But, in fact, for a long time the extremist proponents of this finance philosophy tried to spin it as if it actually were the lovely fairy tale of the lyrics above. Anybody can play, anybody can win, they said, the system is so very perfect it will reward all who invest wisely.

Not true, of course. The system’s loudest cheerleaders were those who saw it as a way to protect and perpetuate their existing economically privileged positions (aka: the haves are always entitled to have most — or all, really — of the world pie). That was their ideology and it beat the stuffing out of competing ideas.

In Las Vegas terms, these dudes were (are) the “house” (see below). And, as in that betting town, their system ensured that the house always wins the lion’s share (Exhibit A: see third world).

Still, for some time the citizenry by and large tolerated it all. It allowed some earnings advantages to them also. Teachers, accountants, IT workers,  plumbers, construction workers, waiters, janitors, police officers, nurses, doctors, lawyers and fire chiefs — i.e., people who actually do something to serve society — were able to create group pension funds to invest in the financial markets and earn a respectable return. Private individuals also were able to build portfolios of more-or-less reliable, longterm investments.

But then, as all know now, the greed-is-good bunch blew it all to pieces. Citizen investors and taxpayers worldwide lost bigtime. The house had gone insane with its own game. So much so that it’s commonplace now to hear mainstream news commentary refer to the Wall Street of today as casino capitalism (or worse).

And if you’ve been following the news about financial reform efforts now finally underway in Washington D.C., then you know that the house is still mad as a hatter and dementedly demanding that it be allowed to remain so.

Rhetorically speaking at least, some Congressional members now seem inclined to reign in the lunacy. As a fairly entertaining example, here’s the video of that U.S. Senator that I mentioned earlier, Claire McCaskill, giving a roasting to some bankers. Quote: “…you all are the house. You’re the bookie.”

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