After President Obama gave his major speech on Wall Street reform last week, labor educator Les Leopold (author of the must-read The Looting of America took the President to task on the idea that, as Obama put it, “there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street.”
To the contrary, said Leopold:
The entire story of this crisis is about how we are not in this together. For the past three decades we have become more and more a nation divided between the super-rich and the rest of us. In 1970 the ratio of compensation of the top 100 CEOs to the average worker was 45 to one. By 2008 it was a whopping 1,081 to one.
Evidence of this sharp divide exploded last week in Eyjafjallajokullian fashion. It came in the form of “smoking gun” emails from Goldman Sachs traders gloating over their ability to make a killing while the mortgage market plunged by betting against that market even as they were selling poisoned mortgage-based bonds to, as the trader put it, “widows and orphans”.
(In Wall St. parlance “widows and orphans” normally refers to low-risk but high yield investments. In this case Goldman colluded with inside investors and ratings agencies to disguise radioactive bonds as low-risk investments.)
Tomorrow Democrats will seek to bring a major Wall St reform bill to the floor of the Senate. Republicans are vowing to block it – and lying through their teeth to conceal the fact that they’ve come down squarely on Wall Street’s side.
Amazingly, even with trust in government at near historic lows, the public still wants much stronger government regulation of major financial companies by a huge 61-31% margin. Fortunately, members of Oregon’s delegation - especially Jeff Merkley - and Washington’s Maria Cantwell are leading the way in seeking to toughen the bill as it moves through the Senate. They need our strong support. And since the bill will go back to the House, we also need to let Greg Walden and Blue Dog Democrat Kurt Schrader know that we’re disgusted with their votes siding with the banks).
April 26-28 are national call-in days; let your voice be heard!
But there’s also more we can do at the state and local level. Across the country, community organizations like PICO and National People's Action, together with labor unions like SEIU and the AFL-CIO are confronting the big banks directly, demanding that they end usurious interest rates and stop foreclosures.
Oregon has already acted against predatory payday lenders. Washington has now followed suit, and organizers in Montana are seeking to do so via ballot initiative. Meanwhile, the State of Massachusetts will be withdrawing funds from Bank of America.
So the time is now!. Unless we take strong action, the same crew who crashed the economy while becoming the super-rich will go back to the same old same old. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.