Sunday, February 7, 2016

Clinton, Cruz, and Corporate Crooks are playing us for suckers. Let's not play along.


Above: In this audio, we hear President Franklin Roosevelt warn us about organized money taking control of politics and government. Corporate America and the super-wealthy hated FDR for taxing them more, and for signing laws that prevented their frauds; insured the bank accounts of their middle and lower-income depositors; deprived them of slave-wage labor; prohibited them from gambling with depositors' money; strengthened unions; and so on. They just couldn't stand the fact that the government was helping someone other than them.

Hillary Clinton and Wall Street

In an article about Wall Street giving more money to Hillary Clinton than any other presidential candidate, a Clinton spokesman said, "People from across the country and a range of backgrounds support Hillary Clinton because they know that she’s fighting for them... holding Wall Street accountable and strengthening the middle class."

So, let me get this straight: She's receiving millions from Wall Street, but she's holding them accountable? Um...okay...

We know that Clinton voted to make bankruptcy more difficult for struggling families (a favor to the financial industry), does not want to reinstate Glass-Steagall (thereby allowing her banker friends to keep gambling with depositors' money), hesitated on expanding Social Security (since that would raise taxes on her rich buddies), and is a war hawk (which must surely please the wealthy investors of the defense industry - after all, more unnecessary and perpetual wars = more profit). 

Ted Cruz and the Big Banks

According to the New York Times, top Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz (a Tea Party darling) has been a "populist firebrand who criticized Wall Street bailouts and the influence of big banks in Washington." However, the Times also points out that Cruz has received sweetheart loans to run his political campaigns, from both Goldman Sachs (where his wife worked, just coincidentally of course) and Citibank ("Ted Cruz Didn't Report Goldman Sachs Loan in a Senate Race," New York Times, January 13, 2016).

And we know that if Ted Cruz becomes president, he'll start signing off on gargantuan tax breaks for the wealthy before he's unpacked his first suitcase at the White House.

The Corporate Crooks of America

So, who are these people funding Clinton, Cruz, and other presidential candidates? Well, many of them are greedy and unethical, and others are just downright criminal. But don't take my word for it, consider the following...

U.S. financial institutions have been hit with about a quarter-of-a-trillion dollars in fines for fraud and criminal conduct (see here and here). On the other hand, few, if any, top executives have been criminally prosecuted by the Department of Justice. It seems as though, as long as the Obama Administration can get a piece of the action, it's willing to let super-wealthy wrongdoers off the hook (see, "Are banks too big to jail? PBS Frontline's stunning report shows how the Obama administration undermined the rule of law," Salon, January 23, 2013).

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren recently said that the justice system is rigged in favor of the wealthy: "There are two legal systems. One for the rich and powerful, and one for everyone else." She knows this from both empirical studies and personal experience. When she confronted the CEO of JP Morgan, about possible illegal behavior at his company, he just leaned back, smiled, and said, "So hit me with a fine. We can afford it."

Charles Ferguson, an Academy Award-winning documentary maker, recently pointed out that "Hillary Clinton and her husband, along with many others, are increasingly trapped by the wealth, credentials, and insider status they have pursued so fervently - because they derive from a corruption whose nature and consequences can no longer be concealed. America's financial elites are now so corrupt, arrogant, and predatory that political leaders beholden to them can't even pretend to deliver economic or political security, much less fairness or progress."

Former banking regulator William Black, now a professor of law and economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has recently formed an anti-white collar crime group and is asking each presidential candidate "to pledge not to take campaign contributions from financial felons. That group, according to the federal agencies that have investigated them, includes virtually all the largest banks." Black concludes that "We cannot... fail to act now given the urgency of the problems caused by the collapse of personal accountability for Wall Street elites. Our economy and our democracy are both imperiled by that collapse and require urgent redress."

Bernie Sanders

Clinton, Cruz, and the others who take large sums of money from Wall Street are, in fact, taking money derived from illegal tax evasion, mortgage & securities fraud, money laundering, illegal manipulation of the world's interest rates & currency, accounting fraud, bribery, price fixing, illegal foreclosures on U.S. soldiers in combat zones, and so on (indeed, this is the whole point behind professor Black's request that presidential candidates stop taking money from the big banks).

We know that Bernie Sanders is going out of his way to avoid this type of campaign money, relying instead on smaller donations from middle and lower-income Americans (although, to be fair, it appears that he may have benefited from a healthy dose of Wall Street money in the past). Sanders has noted the difference between a Clinton White House and a Sanders White House: "The CEOs of large multinationals may like Hillary. They ain't going to like me. And Wall Street is going to like me even less. And the reason for that is we've got to deal with the elephant in the room, which is the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street."

And the more Bernie Sanders talks about law & order, the more Wall Street shovels money towards Clinton. During the run-up to the Iowa Caucus, Clinton left the state to court Corporate America. Sanders said, "My opponent is not in Iowa tonight. She is raising money from a Philadelphia investment firm. Frankly, I would rather be here with you." 

Now, a lot of people say that Sanders can't get elected, but a recent poll shows him doing better against Republican candidates than Clinton - which seems to indicate that if anyone is un-electable, it would be Clinton. Critics also say that, even if Sanders is elected, he won't be able to get anything done because Republicans will block him. Well, first off, they'll block Clinton too, even if her policy proposals are more timid than Sanders', which they certainly will be. Just look at how they've consistently blocked Obama's weak proposals these past 7 years (Obamacare, by the way, just barely squeaked in before Republicans took full control of Congress). Second, Sanders will surround himself with progressive-minded advisers and officials, not the corporate shills that Obama has surrounded himself with, and not the corporate shills Clinton will surround herself with. And third, Sanders will use the bully pulpit more effectively, persistently, and aggressively than Clinton. Clinton will do just as Obama has - talk tough for a few minutes and then move on. Sanders, on the other hand, will be relentless. He's the grumpy old guy this country so desperately needs in this, the Golden Era of White Collar Crime. (Also see, "It's a Movement, Stupid: Why Bernie Can Deliver on Promises of Change, While the Sensible Centrists Can’t," Common Dreams, January 29, 2016.)

Let's Stop Being Suckers 

Clinton, Cruz, and others are receiving gobs of money from Wall Street, but telling us, "Hey, I'll be your defender against Wall Street! I'll hold them accountable! They won't influence me at all!!" My God, are we really going to fall for this?  

We need to get Corporate America out of our political system. They are keeping us in crushing debt, providing us with stagnant or dropping wages, leading us into old age poverty, and creating an atmosphere of contempt for law and government - and simultaneously enriching themselves with unprecedented sums of money. In short, we need to stop being Corporate America's suckers. America is supposed to be a democracy, not a plutocracy. Let's make it so.

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