Wall Street’s big banks and their financial networks that collapsed the U.S. economy in 2008-2009, were saved with huge bailouts by the taxpayers, but these Wall Street Gamblers are still paid huge money and are again creeping toward reckless misbehavior. Their corporate crime wave strip-mined the economy for young workers, threw them on the unemployment rolls and helped make possible a low-wage economy that is draining away their ability to afford basic housing, goods, and services.
Meanwhile, Wall Street is declaring huge bonuses for their executive plutocrats, none of whom have been prosecuted and sent to jail for these systemic devastations of other peoples’ money, the looting of pensions and destruction of jobs.
Just what did they do? Peter Eavis of the New York Times provided a partial summary – “money laundering, market rigging, tax dodging, selling faulty financial products, trampling homeowner rights and rampant risk-taking – these are some of the sins that big banks have committed in recent years.” Mr. Eavis then reported that “regulators are starting to ask: Is there something rotten in bank culture?”
The “rot” had extended long ago to the regulators whose weak laws were worsened by weak enforcement. Veteran observer of corporate criminality, former Texas Secretary of Agriculture and editor of the Hightower Lowdown newsletter, Jim Hightower writes:
“Assume that you ran a business that was found guilty of bribery, forgery, perjury, defrauding homeowners, fleecing investors, swindling consumers, cheating credit card holders, violating U.S. trade laws, and bilking American soldiers. Can you even imagine the punishment you’d get?
How about zero? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. No jail time. Not even a fine. Plus, you get to stay on as boss, you get to keep all the loot you gained from the crime spree, and you even get an $8.5 million pay raise!”
Hightower was referring to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, “the slick CEO who has fostered a culture of thievery during his years as a top executive at JPMorgan, leading to that shameful litany of crime.”
Shame? Dimon doesn’t know how to spell it. “I am so damn proud of this company. That’s what I think about when I wake up every day” he said in October, 2013.
Millions of young Americans (called Millennials, between ages 18 and 33) should start agitating through demonstrations, demand petitions and put pressure on the bankers and members of Congress. First the plutocrats and their indentured members of Congress should drop their opposition to a transaction tax on Wall Street trading. A fraction of a one percent sales tax on speculation in derivatives and trading in stocks (Businessweek called this “casino capitalism”) could bring in $300 billion a year. That money should go to paying off the student debt which presently exceeds one trillion dollars. Heavy student debt is crushing recent graduates and alarming the housing industry. For example, people currently between the ages of 30 to 34 have a lower percentage of housing ownership than this age group has had in the past half century.
A Wall Street transaction tax was imposed in 1914 and was more than doubled in 1932 to aid recovery from the Great Depression before it was repealed in 1966. But the trading volume then was minuscule compared to now with computer-driven trading velocity. A tiny tax – far less than state sales taxes on necessities – coupled with the current huge volume of trading can free students from this life-misshaping yoke of debt.
Some countries in Europe have a securities transaction tax and they also offer their students tuition-free university education to boot. They don’t tolerate the same level of greed, power and callous indifference to the next generation expressed by the monetized minds of the curled-lipped Wall Street elders that we do.
What about young people who are not students? The Wall Street tax can help them with job-training and placement opportunities, as well as pay for tuition for technical schools to help them grow their skills.
A good many of the thirty million Americans stuck in a wage range lower than the minimum wage in 1968, adjusted for inflation, (between $7.25 and $10.50) are college educated, in their twenties and thirties, and have no health insurance, no paid sick leave and often no full-time jobs.
A youth movement with a laser-beam focus, using traditional forms of demonstration and connecting in person, plus social media must come down on Wall Street with this specific demand. Unfortunately, while Occupy Wall Street started an important discussion about inequality, they did not advance the transaction tax (backed vigorously by the California Nurses Association), when they were encamped near Wall Street and in the eye of the mass media in 2011. A missed opportunity, but not a lost opportunity. Fighting injustice has many chances to recover and roar back.
It is time for, young Americans to act! Push Congress to enact a Wall Street speculation tax to help roll back your student debt and give you additional opportunities that are currently denied to you by the inside bank robbers who never had to face the sheriffs. They owe you.
As William C. Dudley, the eminent president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently said of Wall Street – “I think that they really do have a serious issue with the public.” Yes, penance and future trustworthiness enforced by the rule of law.
Young America, you have nothing to lose but your incessant text messages that go nowhere.
Start empowering yourselves, one by one, and then connect by visiting Robin Hood Tax.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.