Accountability Deficit

Bill Moyers talks with MOTHER JONES journalists David Corn and Kevin Drum who offer a hard look at the obstacles to real reform of the financial industry.

MOTHER JONES’ special report on the nexus between Wall Street and Congress is very much worth the reading:

MAYBE WALL STREET should open a casino right there on the corner of Broad, because these guys simply cannot lose. After kneecapping the global economy, costing millions their homes and livelihoods, and saddling our grandchildren with massive debt—after all that, they’re cashing in their bonuses from 2008. That’s right, 2008—when amid the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the $700 billion TARP legislation (a mere 5 percent of a $14 trillion bailout; see “The Real Size of the Bailout”), humiliated banks rolled back executive bonuses. Or so we thought: In fact, those bonuses were simply reconfigured to have a higher proportion of company stock. Those shares weren’t worth so much at the time, as the execs made a point of telling Congress, but that meant they could only go up, and by the time they did, the public (suckers!) would have forgotten the whole exercise. It worked out beautifully: The value of JPMorgan Chase’s 2008 bonuses has increased 20 percent to $10.5 billion, an average of nearly $6 million for the top 200 execs. Goldman’s 2008 bonuses are worth $7.8 billion.

They make an important point. Namely that, as citizens, our means for action is Congress. I.e. the only thing politicians need more than money is votes, and that is where the heat might well come from:

So is Wall Street in the clear? Just a few new regulations here and there, and then it’s game on? The pollsters I consulted agreed that anyone tracking popular anger in the coming months should be watching not the Dow but the unemployment numbers. Anger prompted by joblessness will focus on politicians, not hedge fund managers. Which means that if politicians let Wall Street get away with shenanigans that kill jobs, they could end up paying for it with their careers. “Wall Street has probably weathered the worst,” Rep. Sherman says ruefully. “And Washington has not faced the worst.”

As they point out in the interview, even the Wall Street Journal reports that there is Much Talk, But Little Changed on Wall Street


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