A new group, Take On Wall Street, has emerged which vows it won’t rest until it breaks up the big banks and stops the stranglehold Wall Street has on Congress and the American taxpayer! Take On Wall Street may have enough backing behind it do so. Twenty national organizations joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D- Mass) and other legislators to launch the initiative. Senator Warren, a long time Wall Street critic says, “This will not be an easy fight… but we didn’t take on this fight because it’s easy, we took on this fight because it’s right. Wall Street has money – they have money and access to a lot of senators and congressmen. We are in this fight because someone has to be willing to fight back – and that’s us.”
Take On Wall Street is urging Americans to sign its petition to Congress. Its agenda is setting the stage for much needed financial reform and taking its platform into the conventions of both parties. Journalist Katrina vanden Huevel, of the Washington Post says,“It (Take On Wall Street) vows to take the platform into the conventions of both parties. Its members plan both direct action and political action, forcing candidates to reveal whose side they are on.”
She quotes another vocal supporter of their agenda, AFL- CIO President, Richard L. Trumka, “We are going to make this an issue in congressional races. No one will be able to run from this. All this will set the stage for a big push on financial reform in 2017.”
Considering that the majority of Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, want stronger regulation of Wall Street, very little has happened to curtail Wall Street’s unbridled power. In fact we appear to be going backwards and supporting Wall Street’s business model of rampant greed, fraud and corruption. Just last week I wrote of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, which found insufficient proof under federal fraud statutes to establish Bank of America’s liability over its mortgage program called “Hustle” run by the former Countrywide Financial Corp.
The Justice Department had claimed Countrywide, which Bank of America bought in July 2008, defrauded government-sponsored mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by selling them thousands of toxic loans, and it took a federal jury only three hours to render the fraud verdict.
As a result of the 3-0 appellate decision, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Wesley said the evidence at most showed that Countrywide breached contracts to sell investment-quality loans, and that there was no proof it intended any deception. According to Wesley, “The trial evidence fails to demonstrate the contemporaneous fraudulent intent necessary to prove a scheme to defraud.”
To date, not one Wall Street banker involved in the 2008 financial crisis has gone to prison; instead the big banks have grown larger at the expense of the American taxpayer and our community banks. There has been no accountability; none! The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, in spite of their promises to hold the TBTF accountable, have failed miserably.
Phil Angelides, chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, summarized the sad reality of bank reform on the fifth anniversary of its report:
“The nation’s biggest banks are bigger than ever, with a greater concentration of assets than before the crisis. Compensation on Wall Street has rebounded to record levels. There have been no real legal, economic, or political consequences for the senior executives of the financial firms that crashed the economy. . . . And, Wall Street and its allies in Congress continue to wage a fierce, well-funded, rear guard action against financial reform.”
Vanden Huevel of the Washington Post adds, “bankers not only have not gone to prison; they have walked away with the fortunes made from their frauds. Impunity for past crimes is an invitation for bad behavior in the future. That makes tougher regulation even more imperative.”
We can’t continue rewarding Wall Street for its recklessness. From my perspective, they are building continued precedents for being outside the justice system, even more egregious a stance than being too big to fail.
I’m a bit reserved as it relates to some of the Take On Wall Street credo, and cannot wholeheartedly endorse several of their points. I wholeheartedly agree with breaking up the TBTF banks and possibly ending the carried interest loophole, and believe a tax on high speed trading would eliminate that abuse. And who is not in favor of ending predatory lending (although this proposes that post offices take on the payday lending function)? So there are a number of issues worthy of further discussion.
Here are their key points and I’d be interested in your feedback on these.
The five point Take On Wall Street credo calls on every member of Congress to co-sponsor and urge passage of its agenda to:
- Close the carried interest loophole that lets Wall Street money managers pay lower tax rates.
- Create a Wall Street speculation tax that would discourage short-term bets and high-speed trading.
- End “Too Big to Fail” by breaking up the big banks – making them smaller, simpler, and safer.
- Stop subsidizing excess CEO bonuses by ending the CEO pay tax loophole.
- And end predatory lending and also expand access to fair consumer banking services.
I believe we need to examine some of their points and yet take some even further. As citizens who have been harassed by the egregious and blatant fraud perpetrated by Wall Street, how about each of us personally call on our representatives to join the fight and support and take on the Take On Wall Street agenda that you are in agreement with.
Before Wall Street takes us all on and brings us all down!