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December 22, 2011

The Laws that Apply to Everyone Else Don't Apply to Wall Street's Mega-Banks

“No one is above the law” is one of the core foundations for a functioning and sustainable democracy.  The US has been telling that to countries all over the world for almost as long as the country has existed.  It is a belief that is central to what Americans think about the country and the social contract that underpins it. 

While people can argue about whether or not that belief has worked in reality over the years, there’s really no genuine debate about it now.  There are two sets of rules now:  one for big, powerful, wealthy and well-connected Wall Street mega-banks and bankers and another set of rules for everyone else.  It is no longer true that “no one is above the law.”  The biggest banks, Wall Street and the bankers and financiers that run them and profit from them are above the law.  That has been made clear by the actions and words of this President, his administration, his Department of Justice, much of the Congress, and everyone else who is supposed to enforce the law without fear or favor. 

How could this happen?  The financial industry today is the richest industry in the history of the world and it has used that wealth and economic power to gain political power, through campaign contributions, lobbying, funding all sorts of purportedly independent front groups and allies including academics and institutions of higher learning, and maybe most important of all by exploiting the revolving door between industry and government to ensure that they have a seat at the law-making and law-enforcing table.  To merely say this is a threat to a democracy would be to grossly understate the threat. 

I’ve discussed these issues in other posts like “Obama’s Shameful Dodge on 60 Minutes” and “A 5-Part Plan for the President to Fight the Banks ‘Every Inch of the Way’”, but no one does it better than Simon Johnson in his New York Times Economix column today, “No One is Above the Law,” which is a wake up call for anyone who doesn’t understand the corrosive consequences of such an anti-democratic and dangerous development:  

“The American ideal of equal and impartial justice under law has repeatedly been undermined by attempts to concentrate power. Our political system has many advantages, but it also provides motive and opportunity for resourceful people to become so strong they can elude the legal constraints that bind others.”

Simon’s column is a must read.  For a outstanding, but longer discussion of these issues, Ron Suskind’s book “Confidence Men” is also a must read. 



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