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The Biggest Outrage: Bank "Persons" Preferred Over American Citizens

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  Many Americans are critical of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United that corporations have freedom of speech to affect elections. It is an alarming extension of corporate personhood.   Private business corporations have limited purposes, no consciousness or empathy. They have limited liability and potentially unlimited life spans. Human citizens have some scruples, limited life spans and unlimited liability. Thom Hartmann's book Unequal Protection [1] , (2002) usefully exposed the growth, in American law, of legal permission for corporations to do, without liability, things that harm real human citizens. This paper goes beyond Hartmann's work in dealing, not with unequal protection, but grossly preferential treatment of corporations. Our mainstream "news" media have failed to make prominent a combination of the most important facts about the financial collapse of 2006 -- 2008 and its aftermath.   So here they are, with references. Between 2006 and 2008 the collapse destroyed nearly $12 to $13 trillion of household and nonprofit organization assets or net worth. [2]   Then "job creators" destroyed 8.5 million jobs between December 2007 and December 2010. [3] The Bush stimulus estimated cost for 2008 was $152 billion [4]   and the Obama administration's Recovery Act [5] ($787 billion) totaled less than $1 trillion. There is no way less than $1 trillion could offset loss of 8.5 million jobs and $12 -$13 trillion of wealth. It may be argued that "Stimulus has been tried twice, and failed, so money should not be wasted on it again." What can be replied but "Stupid, that!" Beyond the Treasury Troubled Asset Relief Programs' $700 billion bailout, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) just created, with keystrokes, $16.1 trillion in near 0% interest loans to the very same giant gambling banks, including foreign ones, which caused the collapse. [6] By another measure "only" $7.77 trillion was pledged, guaranteed, in total, by the Fed. [7] Only the staggering amount is unusual. Allowing bubbles to inflate assets too rapidly, hurtful sudden crashes to occur, and re-flation of assets, by lowering interest rates, is the regular policy of our government and the Fed at least since the beginning of the Greenspan era, 1987. "Too Big To Fail" is a lie. There is "life after death" by corporate bankruptcy. It occurs in reorganization. Hundreds of banks have failed since the Great Depression. The FDIC takes them over and either reopens them in whole or sells off parts so that any essential utility functions they perform can continue. That's exactly what happened with the biggest bankruptcies in history, those of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual. Only big stockholding corporations lost a great deal of money. Some of their executives lost value of stocks and options, even jobs. But they were hardly wiped out.

  Where are the $7.77 trillion super-low interest loans real American human citizen persons need to refinance our mortgages and student loans? To become entrepreneurs, to start small businesses and buy American stuff to re-employ other Americans? We millions of Americans, when we have incomes and credit, are the actual "job creators" through our consumption, our effective demand for goods and services. When Republican propagandists speak of "job creators," they are only talking about potential job allocators, those who hire and fire. Jobs can only exist when demand has created, through labor, workplaces and tools, e.g., factories and offices, machines and computers, for workers to use. The multi-trillion Fed program only enabled "too big to fail" (TBTF) banks to make super-profits re-lending the near 0% money at commercial rates. And this all was done without any significant inflation! Inflation now in oil and food prices is due to speculation by the same gambling mega banks. Big corporations profited enormously and stock prices re-flated. Banks now have $1.4 trillion in excess reserves at the Federal Reserve and corporations have $2 trillion. With that, they could hire 19 million workers to do useful jobs repairing or building infrastructure, retrofitting buildings, education, medical clinic and childcare work, etc. See "19 Million Jobs for American Workers," Robert Pollin, et. al. online.

But private corporate "persons" don't have a responsibility to hire millions of laid off workers. And they won't hire now because they can't see how, banks having destroyed so much wealth, consumers could buy extra goods and services made with extra workers' labor. The responsibility to fuller employment was explicitly assumed by the Congress partly in the mandates of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 (to promote full employment) and in 2 Full Employment acts of Congress, 1947 and 1976. The Fed or Congress itself even, could create the money to do this (even debt-free money, greenbacks.)   We American voters did our part to get the economy back on track. We voted Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress and the Presidency in the sweep election of 2008. But the Senate has a self-created filibuster rule that blocks any laws a majority wants to pass unless it can muster 60 votes. And the Democrats shirked a duty to amend that rule.

Voters then, extremely angry and confused, gave a punishing sweep to Republicans in the House elections of 2010. But many voters are now scared that the plans of these "Tea Party" conservatives to slash general welfare expenditures (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) would make things even worse.   Real job killer processes are at work: 1) productivity - increasing mechanization and automation, 2) MAD:   merger, acquisition and downsizing, 3) recessions and depressions, 4) free trade capital and job export to foreign countries, and 5)   private equity leveraged buyouts that leave the company bought saddled with so much debt it must go bankrupt. Some of Romney's fortune derived such deals by Bain Capital. These killers, coupled with governmental disinvestment in higher education, make voters fears realistic. Our college students take loans partly as acts of faith that they will be able to get better paid jobs with more education. But now they are nearly $1 trillion in education loan debt with lesser opportunities.

The general project of adequate stimulus by means of the excess reserves and corporate cash, or new government programs, is blocked by Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats.   The economy continues to under-perform. Tax revenues are too low.   Millions of Americans remain unemployed or underemployed.   Real incomes of many Americans are actually declining, federal support programs, state and local ones are cut or threatened. Why? Basically because both major political parties have become corrupted beyond capacity to serve the general welfare by big money election financing and lobbying.   Two recent books, Unequal Democracy, by Larry Bartels, and Winner - Take - All Politics, by Joseph Hacker and Paul Pierson, document how deformation of democratic governance by corporate interests, largely in the 1970's and "80's, has accelerated a great engine of unequal wealth accumulation to the smallest, one-tenth of one percent of wealth holders. For one example, note that there is now a permanent army of registered lobbyists occupying Washington, D.C. They endlessly buy the support of Representatives and Senators to write and amend laws that enable them to protect and increase profits. Money doesn't trickle up or fall up. It's hoovered up to corporations and wealthy individuals through retail pricing of goods and services (profit's got to come from someone, producing workers or consumers)   lax or even nonexistent regulation or law enforcement, corporate subsidies, higher tax rates for money real citizens have to work for than for unearned income like capital gains.

  Bartels, Hacker and Pierson also document findings that income growth for poor and middle class Americans is much greater under Democrats than under Republicans. How, then have Republicans retained rough voting parity with Democrats? In the first place, when the Democrats supported the Civil Rights movement and Civil Rights Act, masses of southern whites turned Republican. Second, Republicans campaign on a promise of tax cuts. They promise and, when successful, do deliver to poor and middle income tax payers small additional amounts of their pay, but function as an incentive (bribe?) to vote for them. Their policies, however, ensure that income growth for the wealthiest remains higher in the next 3 years. They count on voter myopia to remember doing better in the first year and not attending to economic performance in the second through fourth years. [8]   

Wealth and income are strongly related to liberty. Possession of wealth or at least sufficient income enables people to exercise liberty to take good care of their health, to develop their talents and abilities with better schooling, relocation for better employment, travel in general, and experience in entrepreneurship. Americans unlucky enough to be born poor, very many of us, tend to be stuck in poor neighborhoods, inferior schools, fewer and less well-paid employment opportunities. And inequality in wealth and incomes has been increasing in America over the last 30 years while economic mobility has actually been decreasing. Income volatility, i.e., insecurity, the measure of change, has been increasing. Longitudinal studies of this, reported in The Great Risk Shift, by Joseph Hacker, indicate that a staggering 52.8% of American adults 21 -- 75 will spend at least 1 year living in poverty. [9] And that figure excludes cash -- poor college students.   And when real American persons and families fall, we fall far. Hacker points out that "if we track family incomes over 10 years, Americans aged twenty-five to sixty-one have less than a third the income in the year they are poorest, on average, as they do in the year they're richest." [10]

Big (federal) Government and Big (corporate "person') Business dominate real human American citizens. And they are an Unholy Alliance, collaborating rather than countervailing powers. They manage the lives of millions of us. The Federal Reserve's ("The Fed's") power to set interest rates enables it to control economic expansion and contraction. Ordinarily, when the economy expands fairly smoothly, the Fed pursues primarily its mandate to keep inflation low. Inflation is not everybody's enemy equally. It does hurt people on fixed incomes. But most incomes are not quite fixed. Many rise, one way or another. Inflation is more the enemy of Big Business, especially creditors, lenders such as the powerful mega banks, than it is of debtors, borrowers. This is because debtors, under inflation, get to pay off their fixed, nominal debts with more (cheaper) dollars than the fixed nominal amount of the debts. Bank creditors are in business borrowing short (in demand deposits) but lending long. So they don't like inflation and they have political clout to get the Fed to raise interest rates. That stalls expansion or reverses it and workers are thrown out of jobs. Thus does this nearly invisible great power, the Fed, strongly influence whether millions of American real persons and families can keep or loose jobs, throwing them into unemployment and poverty.







[1] Hartmann, Thom,   Unequal Protection, The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights, Rodale, 2002

[2] (See Federal Reserve "Flow of Funds Report z1," 12/8/2011, Table B.100, subtract columns 3 from 1, available online.)

[3] Employment Situation Summary, 2010-01-08 . retrieved 3/16/12.   "Job creators" is a term of Republican propaganda art.   Jobs in which people can be gainfully employed depend for their existence on the existence of whole workplaces, mines, factories, offices with computers, etc., which were created by other workers. "Job creators" in this case are really just job allocators, people who hire and fire. As Republicans   use "job creators," the same people also job destroyers when they lay workers off.

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I could be Bernie Sanders older brother by similarity. I was born in Manhattan, 1940, he, about a year later, in Brooklyn. I too am a white male American. A retired college professor of philosophy. We both were born of Jewish parents. I was (more...)

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