JR'S Free Thought Pages
Capitalism Sucks and is a Big Fat Lie
“Free” Enterprise, “Free” Markets and the Meritocracy are a Crock
If you don’t want to talk about capitalism, then you had better keep quiet about fascism – Max Horkheimer
The Nightmarish Fantasies and State Sanctioned Totalitarian Nature of Oz World Capitalism
We’re developing a new citizenry, one that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think - Rod Serling (1925-75) brilliant creator of the famous Twilight Zone television series
The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence.
There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it.
People will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that he is a victim. To him, the walls of his prison are invisible, and he believes himself to be free. – Aldous Huxley
In addition to the insightful prophetic snippets cited above, Aldous Huxley wrote in the 1930s,”All democracies are based on the proposition that power is very dangerous and that it is extremely important not to let any one person or small group have too much power for too long a time. The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy, but would basically be a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping. It would essentially be a system of slavery where through consumption and entertainment, the slave would love their servitude.” And to add misery to manipulation, Huxley adds, “This Power Elite directly employs several millions of the country work force in its factories, offices and stores, controls many millions more by lending them the money to buy its products and, through its ownership of the media of mass communication, influences the thoughts, feelings and actions of virtually everybody.”
We have been conditioned to worship our duplicitous political sock puppet demagogues, the multi-millionaires and now billionaires who finance those politicians, professional sports figures, actors, pop musicians and even notorious war mongering criminals like Donald Trump and almost every US president that preceded him. We are conditioned to believe we live in democracies which nothing more than a combination of tragedy and farce. Capitalism and its venal culture of greed and exploitation are not synonymous with democracy and never have been. All this is mere distraction so we pay no attention to the Wizard of Oz charlatan behind the political and economic simulacrum and the legalized larceny on a global scale orchestrated by that same Oz master of deceit. In late stage capitalism, hopefully the beginning of the end of a failed and botched experiment, we’re at the stage of the story when Dorothy said, "Toto, I don't think we're In Kansas anymore". Ninety-one year old Warren Buffet, one of the very few capitalists worthy of any admiration, said recently in the midst of the huge market declines and volatility during the moronic statements from Biden and others on the completely unavoidable stupid US proxy war in the Ukraine, “Wall Street makes money, one way or another, catching the crumbs that fall off the table of capitalism,” Buffett said, “They don’t make money unless people do things, and they get a piece of them. They make a lot more money when people are gambling than when they are investing.” His cohort 98 year old Charlie Munger, commented on the mania of speculation and then uttered what ought to be a truism, “We have people who know nothing about stocks being advised by stock brokers who know even less.” I’ll be commenting on these so-called “investment advisors” later in this paper.
With the exception of religion, capitalism is not only an amoral mind virus positioned at the rock bottom of authoritarian socio-economic ideologies in history, but the biggest bullshit story ever sold. With endless iterations of booms, bubbles, busts and obscene multi-trillion dollar bailouts every few years courtesy of the taxpayer, there’s nothing “free” about free enterprise or free markets. [1a] In addition to Christianity and the vast majority of other intrinsically despotic religions, capitalism is not synonymous with democracy however broadly construed. [1b] Canadian professor emeritus and political philosopher John McMurtry in a prophetic 1999 masterpiece referred to capitalism in its current form as being mired in a “cancer stage” which is symbolic of a tumour or ongoing gangrenous disease that invades and devours all life forms like a parasite devouring its host. Money and profit is the capitalist game and with the dominance of stealth financial predation at least since the 1980s when it went viral, combined with the postmodernist notions of “anything goes” epistemic and moral relativism, profit before all else, conflation of ends and means and the re-emergence of fascism underscored by the election of moral degenerates like Donald Trump, we must be at or near the bottom of the swirling cesspool. But is there any way out of this deeply immoral and unjust kleptocratic kapitalist morass? Capitalists, as Oscar Wilde put it succinctly, are low life instrumentalists who "know the price of everything but the value of nothing."
As Wilde suggested with his clever quip, the most disturbing aspect of capitalism is the total abandonment of ethical limits by invoking any means employed to achieve a profitable end. And anything and everything has been made legal, including online casinos, betting on professional sports, lotteries, usurious credit, tax havens for the obscenely wealthy, reverse mortgages, predatory payday loan sharks, endless telephone solicitations that your credit card has been hacked and the barbarous cage fighting and poker competitions peddled as sport, we have an insanely dissolute economic system that has far surpassed the boundaries of what it means to be moral. As the obtuse corporate pawn, banking lackey and US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell proclaimed when the covid-19 was spreading like a plague and impacting the financial and stock markets, “We will do whatever it takes” to save the markets and their financial criminals. No mention of the impact on the world’s most vulnerable like the long term senior citizen care homes in the West that were being decimated by the virus. It’s a national disgrace, like the gruesome economic inequalities, homelessness and racism and neglect that has been destroying Indigenous communities for decades. But there’s always billions of dollars for the military to purchase new killing machines or tax concessions to the fossil fuel industries and their abominations such as the abominable Alberta Tar Sand environmental calamity. Our corporate oligarchs, criminal banks and their bootlickers in government are the immoral epitome of the contra-Kantian anti-ethical notion that “any means will be employed to achieve an end”, the very antithesis of ethical agency.
Neo-liberalism is what is referred to as late stage capitalism, neo-fascist corporatism - or techno-feudalism - by the well-known leftist economist Yanis Varoufakis. Capitalism, in all its various incarnations and mutations, is an inherently undemocratic, cruel and murderous system that is killing thousands of people every day and plundering what’s left of the world’s resources. Every American president since the pious fraud Jimmy Carter and every Canadian Prime Minister since the corrupt self-serving sociopath bastard Lyin’ Brian Mulroney have been neo-conservative and or neo-liberal trickle down zealots, crushing unions and dismantling social security while doing the same to regulatory rules against corporate pillage and financial parasitism. This system is not only deeply immoral but is destroying all life forms and ecosystems on the planet. At the onset of the French R evolution in 1789, economic inequalities were unprecedented. The socio-economic situation is even worse today as 100 people on the planet control $3.8 trillion while millions go hungry and are dying of covid-19 and other curable disease. There is not a single democratic state anywhere in the world, not even close; they are all capitalist fiefdoms, oligarchies and financial dictatorships. Unless the political-economic system of the U.S. is fundamentally changed, there is no hope for the 95% of us who ought to be out on the streets with pitchforks and pillories. Off with their freaking heads.
Sadly however, for anyone like me, my wife and family - and I’m sure many others from working class backgrounds like us who simply desire some semblance of financial security - one cannot avoid complicity with the only game in town, the deplorable socio-economic cancerous capitalist moral vacuum cesspool in which the worship of money has become the real global religion, an add-on religion most mainstream Christians have enthusiastically and hypocritically embraced. Once my wife and I were able to pay off our home mortgage after several years of self-imposed austerity that entailed driving rolling total piece of shit vehicles and no holidays, we finally had some disposable income for savings and so-called “investment”. This occurred during the early to mid-1980s high interest rate period when mortgage rates were 22%and you could purchase a guaranteed investment certificate and earn 12-14%. On the other hand, today’s interest rates (at least for the larcenous banks) are close to zero and in some jurisdictions less than zero. But the bandit banks still peddle mortgages for 5% per annum or higher and over 20% for outstanding credit card balances. This practise was once deemed criminal and called “usury”, illegal and prohibited even in medieval societies and punishable by public flogging and shaming by being locked in a pillory for several days. Wasn’t it J C who smashed the moneylenders in the marketplace? Are not the “god wants you to be rich” prosperity gospel evangelists aware of this biblical entry? If he was alive today, would the Roman Empire dissident Jesus who described the capitalists/bankers of his own time as a “den of the thieves” be a venture capitalist - or a Julian Assange truth teller?
Returning to my brief complicity with capitalism, it didn’t take me long to figure out the insidious workings of the stock market, its gurus, the mafia banks, central bank enablers, insider trading and clandestine machinations and manipulations. Books, especially those by contrarians, heretics and technical analysts (chartists), were helpful in understanding the jargon and how stock markets worked (or not) but I soon discovered that the only characteristic of the stock markets that was reliable and which could not have the truth mangled, accounts cooked or contaminated by insider knowledge and standard traditional investment strategies that would invariably lose you money, was the analysis of graphs of stock price movements. Even quarterly and annual financial statements could be easily manipulated, although with the internet when discount brokerage platforms were implemented whereby the broker or agent could be bypassed (something that is needed for real estate transactions) I could undertake my own research, get most of the data I needed including charts and read between the lines. Fundamentals such as debt/equity, P/E, insider buying and selling and steady earnings were important criteria but I soon discovered the most reliable sources were the stock charts in which one could discern with some reliable accuracy the probable direction of the price of any security. Unlike the rest of the capitalist system and their lap poodle politicians, graphs do not lie. My mathematics background and graduate work in probability and statistics were invaluable and likely a key factor in successfully trading in and out of the markets. Entire books called “Technical Analysis” have been written on interpreting charts which were helpful in recognizing certain graph configurations for predictive trades. It was also important to inspect insider trading reports – who holds what, how much and when are they buying or selling?
The biggest paybacks I had were shorting stocks; selling shares and then buying them back at a lower price. It always mystified me when market analysts who by the way usually have serious conflicts of interest, only recommend that people BUY. Yet every trade has an optimist (buyer) and pessimist (seller) so who is right? Is it always the buyer and if so, why? With rare exception, holding stocks for the long term, given the gyrations and periodicity of bear and bull markets – and total collapses like in 2008 - is a fool’s game. As John Maynard Keynes once responded to a query about buying stock “for the long term”, he responded with, “In the long term we are all dead”. The phenomena of bear markets usually involve short precipitous descents that may take years to recover following those steep declines. It took about three decades to recover the highs before the 1929 crash that led to the Great Depression. When you see a parabolic or exponential graph, get ready to sell, based exclusively on approximated or hypothetical probabilities since precision and certainty are delusional. I discovered very early on that “buy and hold” for the long term, an adage touted by the vast majority of conflict of interest investment advisors and stock market sermonizers is not a good strategy.  And neither is diversification since most stock classes, like the resource sectors, are cyclical. The price of many metals such as gold are systematically manipulated but the volatility of gold allows one to buy and sell quality gold producers. This is not the strategy analysts and brokers want you to employ for quite obvious reasons. People lose in the stock market game because they never sell; and once again collapses, not infrequently from black swan events, can be quite accurately predicted by the charts of the major indices such as the DJIA, S & P 500 or TSE. And you don’t need a PhD in mathematics to understand technical analysis of stock charts although a senior high school mathematical understanding would be very helpful.
Capitalist Conjurers, Crystal Ball Gazers and Con Artists
One of the many stock market collapses in the past was called the “tech wreck” or dot com bubble in the Y2K (1999-2001) period in which indebted companies with no earnings were trading in the overvalued stratospheres. I had just retired at the time and one of my biggest paydays was shorting these tech and dotcom companies such as RIM (Research in Motion) which became Blackberry. After its roller coaster rides on the NASDAQ and TSE over the years it continues to be listed on the TSE, trading under $10. Many who had been in and out of this and many other over-hyped volatile stocks many times, called it called it “Crack Berry”. Twenty-two years ago it had nothing but an idea, debt and no earnings, but was trading as high as $200 per share on the TSE. I was in and out of this stock and others like it several times. During that period I eventually became involved as participant in a class action suit against TD Waterhouse which was scamming its clients on various swindles, in this case, currency conversions, primarily US-CAN and vice versa. I had an interesting conversation with the plaintiff lawyer who was very upfront about what would unfold; it which would take pages to explain the sordid details. Banks are crooks as anyone who deals with them in any serious way ought to know. Needless to say, the media never covered this story which was only one of four class action suits I’ve been involved since then with TD and my primary bank RBC. When I called the business editor at the Vancouver Sun about this scandal/scoop about the TD screwing its customers he informed me he’d be fired if he wrote up the story - which did not surprise me. I will not waste my precious time either reading or watching corporate news media which are notable as much for what they leave out as for the useless intellectual rubbish and trivia they spew out; nor do I pay much attention to the incredibly boring and banal Canadian stock market channel BNN (Bullshit News Network) other than for comedy relief. What a joke; the most aging burned out creeps on this channel NEVER tell you to sell anything because they are basically lowly boot licking evangelists for vulture capitalism and believe their bloviating bovine excrement as though it was holy writ.
In today’s economic postmodernist world of fantasy and fairy dust with techno-billionaire buffoon “entrepreneurs” like Elon Musk Ox who is one of the wealthiest and most arrogant assholes on the planet based exclusively on his Tesla stock holdings and its bloated valuation, there are no guarantees as anything goes, including all traditional moral boundaries. This include stock buybacks which were at one time rightly defined as insider trading, the quite obvious manipulation of stock prices, reverse mortgages (shamelessly peddled on TV by former third rate sports caster Bill “Gong Show” Good) , payday loan sharks, non-stop telephone scams about your credit card being illegally charged and lately entrepreneurial swindles such as the literally hundreds of online gambling web sites (one of which is peddled on TV by low life know nothing Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky) which are nothing but outright theft of mostly credulous poor people. Once there are no limits as to what can be marketed and sold, we have pretty much reached rock bottom ethically. Two and a half centuries ago Confucius understood this when he said, “The superior man knows what is right whereas the inferior man knows what sells”. The financial vampires of capitalism and marketing mania have been with us for a very long time. Moreover, the people in television advertisements are portrayed as complete idiots, like the ads for Scott towels to clean up the horrific avoidable messes by their pets (usually a massive dogs pissing on the carpets, sleeping with its master or languishing and slobbering on the $3000 sofa) or undisciplined brats and their dumb cavalier equally abominable behaving un-parents who seem to have earned nothing in life. Haven’t they read the charlatan capitalist Jordan Peterson’s silly inane best-selling book “12 Rules of Life”, the dozen adages that most ought to have learned from their mothers before grade school.
Long before monopoly capitalism and corporations that have more assets than many nation states, free markets have always existed. The most serious issue with the latest adaptation of capitalism (which should have been abolished after the Great Depression) called neo-liberalism is scale, gargantuan Godzilla companies and financial behemoths that monopolize markets, bribe and control our so-called “democracies” and squeeze out small business and that that are still the main drivers of economic activity. To understand why anything happens in our globalized FUBAR world, simply “follow the money trail”. Like everything else today, our politicians and the farcical elections and phoney “democracy” are now mere commodities for sale.
The most recent multi-trillion bailouts during the breakout of the covid-19 pandemic, the massive global bailouts of corporate criminals in 2008-09 and the regular boom-bubble-bust-bailout cycles of the past century confirm that capitalism is based on deceit and an ongoing fraud. The welfare state is now primarily designed for corporations and rogue financial institutions that do not have to live by the “rule of law” and are provided with golden parachutes when they make bad decisions. We are told they are “too big to fail”- without any explanation as to why this is any more meaningful than “too small to fail”. Why? - because money talks and bullshit walks.
Perhaps the two worst aspects of capitalism are (1) its moral depravity that surely must be obvious to anyone with ethical sensibilities and (2) its all-encompassing totalitarian nature, consuming and controlling everything, including culture, and recreation and sports. Nothing is left untouched or uncontaminated by the voracious throttling tentacles of the capitalist mind virus. Consider the first revolting feature of capitalism, its ethical vacuum, dramatically and accurately expressed by vulture capitalist Gordon Gekko who in Oliver Stone’s graphic 1987 movie Wall Street, declared “Greed is Good”. Even if everyone held to a minimalist ethical norm such as the golden rule, surely capitalism would not last a week. Sadly, the real existing golden rule is “those who have the gold make the rules” and this has been the case for every socio-economic arrangement throughout history. The main plot lines of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street were expressed precisely what the Ronald Reagan doctrine of supply side economics (the “trickle down swindle” that Robin Williams described as “someone pissing on you”) meant as a superstar financial speculator and parasite in illegal insider trading, a predatory takeover strips a profitable company of its assets as unionized workers are bamboozled into going along with a deal that will leave them without their decent paying with benefits and pensions. The amoral slimy viper corporate raider Gordon Gekko does get his comeuppance in the end because one of his up and coming stock brokers, the Charlie Sheen character who supplies him with the key insider information about his mechanic father’s airline company has moral reservations and exposes him.
The most unforgettable scene from Wall Street is Gekko’s speech to a meeting of like-minded vampire capitalists in a big hotel ballroom in midtown Manhattan. The listeners included hundreds of shareholders of a paper manufacturing company of which Gekko had bought up thousands of shares in order to orchestrate a hostile takeover. The company’s burned out crotchety geezer CEO speaks first, explaining to his investors that he’s “fighting the get-rich-quick, short-term-profit, slot-machine mentality of Wall Street.” In this new approach to American “free enterprise”, since we have undermined any possibility of integrity or honesty in capitalism today, now or in the past, we have now totally debased capitalism for the future as well. Stone’s movie has been prophetic, considering the 2007-08 global market collapse and multi-trillion dollar bailouts and the more recent equally obscene bailouts during the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. This “cancerous tumor”, the term used by philosopher John McMurtry to describe capitalism, is driven by a sociopathic character called greed. Greed, speculation, a casino mentality and outright thievery have, for the past 40 years at least, replaced long-term investment. Corporations are being taken apart and restructured like Lego without any consideration of the worker or the common good. Worker feudalism is back with a surveillance state technological twist.
In just four minutes, Gekko revolting barf bag speech summarized and incarnated the new dogma of America’s political economy. It casino capitalism and trickle down finance parasitism’s Economics for Dummies, the Milton Friedman Chicago Boys Doctrine stump speech for mammon manipulation as the root of all that’s glorious, godly and good. Recently the ecocide maniacal CEO of CIBC declared that Canada needs to be “obsessed with growth” which means embrace a Gordon Gekko “greed is good” philosophy and anything goes that turns a profit, even if it creates a green house gas dome over the planet.
Like lemmings over a cliff, Gekko’s audience responds with wild applause and standing ovation, the entire crowd ecstatic over his endorsement of single-minded financial manipulation and pillage. Among the millions of Americans watching in theaters and at home on TV were tens or hundreds of thousands of actual and would-be investors, traders, banking mafia and blood lust-minded market players of the system who were elated and inspired, virtually hyped up on capitalist crack cocaine. Legions of Wall Street acolytes and disciples also got their ferocious ape-like spirits ignited by watching and etching on their mind a most memorable scene from another capitalist companion piece, David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, a shocking movie about a predatory real estate “investment” company. Alec Baldwin’s character Blake, the company’s manager, suddenly appears in the office one morning to provoke and terrify an office of coffee drinking real estate salesmen. “A-B-C --- A, always, B, be, C, closing. Always be closing,” “Coffee’s for closers only,” “Do you think I’m fucking with you? I am not fucking with you,” “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you, go home and play with your kids,” and “What’s my name? Fuck You! ; that’s my name.” Baldwin’s character is more like a screeching unhinged Army staff sergeant as opposed to Gekko’s jovial general in the Capitalist American Legion as it was in the process of being financially reformatted to “anything that turns a profit” is fair game. The riveting performance by Baldwin is a classic humiliation put down of sales staff that makes everything about capitalism (in this case smarmy real estate developers) not only deeply immoral, but nasty and evil.
By 1987 far too many pompous ass Wall Street jerks started referring to themselves as Masters of the Universe, thanks to The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe’s novel inspired by, as he explained, “the ambitious young men (there were very few capitalist swine women back then) who, starting with the 1980s, began racking up millions every year in performance bonuses for what amounted to grand larceny. But millions have now become billions as for the insatiable slimy 21st century Wall Street pirates pulling in a few million dollars in bonuses for legalized theft with a mouse click is merely chump change.
Consider the second nasty feature of capitalism, its totalizing nature. Everything on the planet (living or non-living) is for sale as endless marketing pulverizes our sensibilities with advertisements plastered on every available square millimetre of the planet. Consider sporting events such as professional hockey. Every available space on both the ice surface and boards is taken up with advertising and corporate logos. Even the building that houses the arena is named after some predatory corporation, mafia bank or multi-billionaire, who are also often owners of the teams. The same can be said for the corporatized summer and winter Olympic Games which is all about marketing, money and profit. One cannot escape this hegemonic monster resembling a Godzilla creature from a 1960s Japanese horror flick. And not only are fake news, fake history and fake products becoming the global norms but we also suffer from fake democracy which throughout history resulted in fake laws, fake morals, fake science, fake educations, fake cops, fake courts, fake politicians and fake constitutions crafted by typically conservative wealthy privileged elites to serve their interests and agendas. This is obvious for anyone willing to pay attention, think clearly, logically, empirically and critically. And keep in mind the sacred anachronistic document regularly invoked by some government or business pundit, the phoney US constitution that was written up by wealthy slave owners.
Throughout recorded world history humans have been subjected to authoritarianism and various degrees of oppression and hierarchy, the most extreme of which would be totalitarianism. We need a re-read of Hannah Arendt’s book on the essence of totalitarianism. Theocracies and monarchies are typical historical forms of absolutism and total control; but what about the modern nation state and its capitalist political, socio- economic regimes and money driven manipulated farcical elections? Surely no one in their right mind would refer to capitalist states with their bribery, and other forms of systemic corruption, a “democracy”‘. I would classify them as dictatorships of money which within capitalism is synonymous with raw power. Our current totalitarian world order of neo-liberal oligarchic corporatist capitalism is referred to by Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis as techno-feudalism .What we have been currently experiencing for at least the past four decades since the Reagan/Thatcher neo-fascist counterrevolution is arguably the most economically unequal, hierarchical, authoritarian and oppressive political and economic system in history. The minor breakouts of democracy following the Second World War were fear driven anomalies that were promptly rescinded at the first opportunity. Capitalism, even when compared with medieval theocracies and monarchies, is perhaps the most unequal, grotesque inflexible socio-economic dystopian system ever implemented. The MIC (military-industrial complex) that former president Dwight D Eisenhower warned about in his retirement speech as now become the MIFTFC (military-industrial-financial techno feudalistic complex) as the military component has become a gargantuan behemoth with an annual US budget of one trillion dollars.
Alongside the slow demolition of any miniscule democracy we may have had, imperialist wars continue (the latest being the NATO induced debacle in Ukraine) as we are destroying the world’s life forms and ecosystems in the process. An early example of the burgeoning US Empire and its sovereign power, totalitarian scope, dogmatism and rigidity was clearly evident in 1980 when leftist liberation theology proponent (Tommy Douglas and Norman Thomas style Christian socialism) Bishop Oscar Romero was murdered by CIA supported paramilitary thugs in El Salvador. Romero’s crime was supporting the struggling poor and inciting dissent. This is nothing new as any challenge to the lords of capital is dealt with by endless propaganda and failing that, violence in the form of militarized cops or the military. There are countless examples in history of those who challenged oppression and illegitimate power such as Louis Riel, Sitting Bull, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Ts Tung, Patrice Lumumba, Che Guevara, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, key members of the Black Panthers and too many others, most of who were murdered by capitalist states such as the USA.
One of the most obscene of countless hysterical anti-communist/anti-socialist purges and pogroms and mass murder occurred following both the First and Second World Wars. During WW II, for example, it was the communists who made up the vast majority of anti-fascist underground and partisan movements that fought the Nazi occupations in France, Italy, Greece, the Balkans and elsewhere throughout Europe. Consequently after the war the communist parties were very popular among the masses in these countries, much to the consternation of the conservative and liberal elites in the United States and UK. In fact Winston Churchill, a conservative elitist and monarchist who despised the working classes was such a rabid anti-communist that he, along with General George Paton, recommended leaving the Allied Troops intact in Europe to fight the Soviet Union, thus creating World War III. Moreover, in the immediate chaotic aftermath of the war the Marshall Plan was implemented primarily to shamefully destroy the communist movements and kill their leaders to avoid them winning the elections in many European countries which surely would have been the outcome.
Police and military, in case you haven’t noticed exist almost exclusively to serve and protect the capitalist class and its offshoots, privilege, power and inherited wealth. The harassment, infiltration, dirty tricks and in many cases murder of inconvenient left wing political movements have always been one of the primary functions of police and their smarmy spy agencies such as CSIS in Canada and the FBI in the US. So much for political freedom; you are “free” insofar as you do not cross certain political or ideological boundaries. Otherwise you are marginalized, ostracized and the victim of oppression and harassment. It that doesn’t work there is the violence of the totalitarian capitalist police state and its cages called “prisons” that will come down on you. Consider a disturbing fact about the USA that speaks volumes to what kind of country it truly is. The United States of America contains about 4% of the global population yet incarcerates 25% of all people in the world in its prisons. And prisons are highly selective; consider Canada which is deemed only marginally less racist than its southern neighbour. Indigenous people with whom I have a genetic bond on my father’s side are 5% of the Canadian population yet comprises 30% of all people in our prisons. In the US 13% of people are black yet make up 40% of its prison population, many of which are privatized.
Is this the best we humans can do? Ants and bees treat each other better.
The Endless Iterations of the Capitalist Boom-Bubble-Bust-Bailout Cycle
The Money Vortex: There’s always an endless supply available when the right people need it. But for education, health care, decent wages, pensions for the mentally and physically crippled sucker who works 50 years as a Door Dash Driver, the piggy bank is empty. Remember “Freedom 55”; it’s been updated to “Freedom 95”.
Capitalism has always been about profit before all else, including human dignity, civil rights and all life on the planet. But the velocity of predation and subsequent criminality and financial parasitism has accelerated dramatically since the rescinding of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999. This closed the door to any government oversight to all manner of financial shenanigans and was essential to the process of dramatically cutting back the government’s role as a firewall of the public interest and what was left of the common good by social programs such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal implemented during the Great Depression when capitalism should have collapsed for good. At the same time it opened the door for every manner of financial predation and exploitation by banks, brokerage firms and other financial cockroaches. The Glass-Steagall Act was an essential component in measure in FDR’s New Deal package to protect ordinary working people from bandit banks.
FDR signs Glass Steagall (1933) – No bailouts for big business boneheaded crooks back then
It can be argued that FDR, born into family wealth, was certainly not a socialist or even social democrat as the New Deal was merely a temporary tactic for saving capitalism from itself by moderating its most predatory practices. Implemented in 1933 in response to the stock market meltdown and onset of the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act separated the operations of deposit-accepting savings banks from the more speculative activities of “investment” firms.
The termination of the regulatory framework put in place by Glass Steagall opened new avenues for all kinds of speculative experiments in the manipulation of money and the stock markets. The changes began with the merger of different sorts of financial institutions including some in the insurance businesses. Those overseeing the reconstituted entities headquartered on Wall Street took advantage of their widened latitudes of operation, developing all sorts of devious ways of enhancing their financial services and presenting them in new packages. Moreover, stock buybacks, once deemed insider trading (which it is) was declared legal and all sorts of enterprises such as lotteries, gambling (including the current growth of online casinos, including gambling on sports) and the endless telephone financial scams that should be stopped, but never will.
Derivatives, for example, like the futures market (clearly a form of gambling) are often associated with many applications of the new wild speculation games in the reconstituted financial services sector. The word, derivative, can be applied to many kinds of transactions involving speculation and arbitrage of various kinds dreamed up by the high priests of capital.ous sorts. As the word suggests, a derivative is derived from a fixed asset such as currency, bonds, stocks and commodities. Alterations in the values of fixed assets affect the value of derivatives that often take the form of contracts between two or more parties.
One of the most infamous derivatives in the era of the financial collapse of 2007-2010 was described as a “mortgaged-backed security”. On the surface these packages of debt-infused “investments” might seem easy enough for the layman to understand; but they are not, even for mathematically inclined. The value of these products is affected by unpredictable shifts in interest rates, liar loans extended to homebuyers who were financially unable to make regular mortgage payments and significant gyrations in the value of real estate.
To the applause of corporate crooks and bootlicking political hacks, President Bill “Blow Job” Clinton, Limousine Liberal Lap Poodle for Corporate Oligarchs and the Banking Mafia, laughs it up as he signs the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act on November 12 1999 - The Infamous Financial Services “Modernization” Act. This was the first door opened to “anything goes” financial parasitism and theft on a massive scale and the 2007-09 global financial meltdown and multi-trillion bailouts of corporate criminals.
Ersatz Securities, Economic Hocus-Pocus and Investments of Mass Destruction
Mortgage-backed securities were just one type of a huge assortment of derivatives invented by the mathematical minions hired by the lords of finance during the reckless atmosphere of clandestine, deregulated and unregulated dealings between various players in the capitalist casino. Derivatives could involve contracts formalizing gambles between rivals betting on the outcome of vainglorious dreams of controlling the future. An array of derivative ploys was concocted around transactions often placed behind the veil of esoteric classifications such as “collateralized debt obligations” or “credit default swaps.”
The variables in derivative speculation might include competing national security agendas involving, for instance, pipeline constructions, regime change, weapons development and sales, false flags, terror events or money laundering. Since derivative bets involve confidential transactions with secretive outcomes, they can be derived from all sorts of criteria. For example, derivatives can involve all manner of computerized calculations that in some cases are constructed much like game theory and computer war game situations.
The complexity and toxicity of derivatives increased when the American Insurance Group (AIG) began selling insurance protection against all sides in derivative speculations from suffering too severely from being on the losing side of risky transactions.
The derivative craze, sometimes involving extreme risk gambles being made by parties unable to cover potential losses overwhelmed the scale of the general workings of the economy - an economy that works for whom one might ask?. The “real economy”, if such a conception is meaningful at all, ostensibly exists to facilitate exchanges of goods, services, debt obligations, wages and so on that supply the basic needs for human survival with hopefully some allowance for art, hobbies, education, recreation, travel and cultural or intellectual engagement, just to cite a few.
The Swiss-based Bank of International Settlements calculated in 2008 that the size of the all outstanding forms of derivative products had a monetary value of a staggering $1.14 quadrillion. A quadrillion is a thousand trillion as a trillion is a thousand billion, rendering a million dollars mere chump change. By comparison, in 2008 the estimated value of all the real estate in the world was estimated to be $75 trillion.
As the enticements of derivative betting preoccupied the leading directors of Wall Street institutions, their more traditional way of dealing with one another began to deteriorate. It was in this atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust and exploitation during late 2007 that the Repo Market became problematic just as it was indicating similar signs of deterioration in the fourth quarter of 2019.
In both instances the level of mistrust and cynicism between those in charge of financial institutions began to increase because they all had good reason to believe that their banking cohorts and competitors were financially strapped and overextended. All had reason to believe their counterparts were over-margined and stressed by too much speculative activity enabled by all sorts of experiments that including various forms of esoteric derivative dealing.
In December of 2007 as in the autumn of 2019, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was forced to enter the scene to prevent the financial liquidity plumbing on Wall Street from becoming plugged up. The New York Federal Reserve intervened to keep the mammon cycles flowing by invoking its power to create new money with the interest offloaded onto tax payers.
George W Bush proclaimed “this sucker is going down” as the financial crisis and subsequent debacle unfolded in 2008 and 2009 as the Federal Reserve and the privately-owned New York Federal Reserve Bank stepped up to bail out many financial institutions that had become insolvent and nearing bankruptcy. During the process, precedents and patterns were established that were duplicated with some minor modifications in 2020 during the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. The stock market and the wealthy financial gurus had to be bailed out once again, but little or nothing for working people and small businesses? Like the people whose homes were foreclosed on in 2008-09 by the venomous banks, they were on their own and thousands lost their homes.
One of the insidious innovations that took place in 2008 was the decision by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to hire a large private Wall Street financial monster, Black Rock, to facilitate and fast track the huge taxpayer funded bailouts. These transfers of hundreds of billions of dollars created out of a vacuum (“Money for Nothing” as the Dire Straits song said) went through three specially created companies that had been re-introduced and replicated as Special Purpose Vehicles in the course of the money for nothing payouts to banks and corporations in 2020.
Black Rock handed out $30 billion to the bankrupt Bear Stearns which was the amount from New York Federal Reserve covering the outstanding debt held by Bear Stearns. This was a condition negotiated behind closed doors to clear the way for the purchase of the old Wall Street institution by JP Morgan Chase. So Black Rock was a vehicle for payouts to companies that had purchased “mortgage-backed securities” before these derivative products turned viral and toxic.
Black Rock was also to pay off the “multi-sector collateralized debt obligations.” Among these bailouts were payoffs to the counter-parties of the insurance giant AIG. As noted, AIG had devised an insurance product to be sold to those gambling banks engaged in derivative gambles. When the bottom fell out of markets, AIG lacked the means to pay off the large number of insurance claims it incurred. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York then stepped in to bail out the counterparties of AIG, many of them deemed to be “too big to fail”, the infamous ruse they expected most credulous sheeple to accept without question.
Among the counterparties of AIG was the gigantic parasitic blood sucking leech Goldman Sachs. It received of $13 billion from the Federal Reserve. Other bailouts to AIG’s counterparties were $12 billion to Deutsche Bank, $6.8 billion to Merrill Lynch, $5 billion to Switzerland’s UBS, $7.9 billion to Barclays, and $5.2 billion to Bank of America. Some of these banks received additional funds from other parts of the overall bailout scams. Many dozens of other counterparties to AIG also received payouts in 2008-2009. Among them were the Canada’s Bank of Montreal and the UK’s Bank of Scotland.
The entire amount of the bailouts was subsequently calculated to be a whopping $29 trillion! The largest portion of this massive mind bending sum went to providing support for US financial institutions and the many foreign banks with which they conducted business. Much of this money went to the firms that were shareholders in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or partners of the big Wall Street firms. Citigroup, the recipient of the largest amount, received about $2.5 trillion in the disgusting federal bailouts. Merrill Lynch received $2 trillion. Pass the vomit bag please.
The Federal Reserve Bank was established by Congressional statute in 1913 with headquarters in Washington DC. The Central Bank was composed of twelve constituent regional banks. Each one of these regional banks is owned by private banks. The Bank of Canada was set up in 1935 to serve the public good and finance mega projects like the St. Lawrence Seaway and Trans Canada Highway. But that agreement was soon contaminated and abandoned as it has been transmogrified into a vehicle for facilitating the financial shenanigans of Canada’s mafia chartered banks. A class action suit against the Bank of Canada was launched for abandoning its original charter as a people’s bank but the Canadian government will not hear the case. The government of Canada, rather than using the bank of Canada to create money for public projects, now borrows money from the private banks, which is a national scandal and gargantuan swindle most people do not know about.
On an even more depressing note, with the Western bias, war mongering, Russian hatred and hypocrisy regarding the war in Ukraine dominating all news, we hear nothing of the desperation and plight of impoverished and homeless people in Canada, a country that is sending weapons to the Ukraine to kill Russians while pretending to be a “democracy”. But this constitutional monarchy and vassal state of the imperialist police state USA always finds money to extend largesse to our big polluting resource extraction outfits, the wealthy elites that own this disgraceful country and to increase military expenditures on multi-billion dollar killing machines, then send to vile theocracies like Saudi Arabia or the current war in Ukraine for the purpose of killing bad guy Russians, even banning artists and musicians from touring the country. Then we have nauseating news about some unhinged red neck gun crazy Canadian mercenary sniper who has gone to the Ukraine to satisfy his blood lust. Not one word of criticism is uttered in our pathetic patriotic flag waving corporatist media outlets; not one. 
The private ownership of the banks that are the proprietors of the Bank of Canada and Federal Reserve System has been highly contentious and systematically corrupted from inception. The creation of the Federal Reserve continues to be perceived by many of its critics as an unjustifiable blank check for private finance, a virtual free ride of corporate welfare and giveaway whereby the US and Canadian governments cede to private financial corporations and banks unfettered profit making and even the ability to issue its own currency and to direct monetary policy like the setting of interest rates. Then lend that money to anyone, including the government which is scandalous at best. And you wonder how banks earn billions of dollars every quarter; it’s no secret and to add to the insult they set up offshore tax havens for their wealthy clients with $10 million or more on deposit. The Bank of Canada was once a government owned entity that was designed to serve the public good and underwrote the financing of many early utility projects. But should not the banks also be utilities? 
Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade explain the controversial Federal Reserve structure as follows:
“While the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. is deemed an “independent federal agency,” with its Chair and Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the 12 regional Fed banks are private corporations owned by the member banks in their region. The settled law under John L. Lewis v. the United States confirms: Each Federal Reserve Bank is a separate corporation owned by commercial banks in its region.”
In the case of the New York Federal Reserve, which is located in the Wall Street neighborhood of Manhattan, its largest shareowners are behemoth multinational mafia banks such as J P Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
There was no genuine effort after the financial debacle of 2007-2010 to correct the main structural problems and weaknesses of the Wall Street-based US financial sector. The lame duck Dodd-Frank Bill signed into law by US President Barrack Obama in 2010 did make some cosmetic changes but changed nothing; it’s Business as Usual. But the main features of the regulatory seizure that has taken place with the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act remained with only minor ineffective alterations as the framework for high risk betting in derivatives was held in place. But why should these speculators worry when the nanny state is always there to wipe their noses and bail them out with billions of $ when they screw up.
In the recent edition of the The Atlantic, Frank Partnoy outlined a gloomy assessment of the continuity leading from the events of 2007-2010 to the current situation (February of 2022) of a massive manipulated market bubble that is waiting for a black swan event to set off a meltdown. This current situation draws a strange contrast between the two year lockdown and shattered quality of the economy and the pumped up over-valued stock market, the future value of which will, if the past is any measure, prove to be unsustainable. Partnoy writes,
“It is a distasteful fact that the present situation is so dire in part because the banks fell right back into bad behavior after the last crash - taking too many risks, hiding debt in complex instruments and off-balance-sheet entities, and generally exploiting loopholes in laws intended to rein in their greed. Sparing them for a second time this century will be that much harder”.
Wall Street Thieves in Paradise
The frauds and swindles of Wall Street banks and other financial institutions have continued after the future earnings of US taxpayers returned them to solvency after 2010. The record of infamy is comparable to that of the weapons and pharmaceutical industry which are also enabled to make massive profits by government largesse.
The criminal behavior is relevant to the overlapping crises that are underway in both the public health and financial sectors. In 2012 the crime spree in the financial sector began with astounding revelations about the role of many major banks in the LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate. The LIBOR rates create the basis of interest rates involved in the borrowing and lending of money in the international arena. When the scandal broke there were 35 different LIBOR rates involving various types of currency and various time frames for loans between banks. The rates were calculated every day based on information forwarded from 16 different banks to a panel on London. The reporting banks included Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, and Deutsche Bank. Moreover, the influence of the LIBOR rate extended beyond banks to affect the price of credit in many categories of financial transaction.
The emergence of information that the banks were working together to manipulate the interest rate created the basis for a huge economic scandal and scam. Fines extending from hundreds of millions into more than a billion dollars were placed on each of the offending banks; but these fines are miniscule and simply the cost of doing business that are eligible for tax write-offs. . But in this instance and many others to follow, criminality was attached to the financial entities but not to top executives responsible for the decisions that put their corporations on the wrong side of the law. They are supplied with “get out of jail free” cards.
One of the factors in the banking frauds comprising the LIBOR scandal was the temptation to improve the opportunity and probability for financial gains in derivative bets. The biggest failure of the federal response to the financial meltdown of 2007-210 was that little was done to curb the excesses of transactions in the realm of derivatives. Derivatives involved a form of gambling that exists in a kind of 1960s Outer Limit or Twilight Zone episode. This twilight zone/outer limit fill a space somewhere between the realm of the real economy and the realm of a simulacrum - notional value. Notional values find expression in unrealized speculation about what might or might not come to fruition; what might or might not happen; who might win and who might lose in derivative speculations. Did you get that? Get it, got it; good.
The addiction of Wall Street firms to derivatives speculation (aka gambling) remains unchecked to this day complete with bailouts and get out of jail free passes. The bankers’ continuing fixation with unregulated gambling, often with other people’s money, is deeply menacing for the future of the global economy, indeed for the future of everyone else left trying to scrape out a living on a planet of diminishing decent paying jobs and benefits. Wage slavery with Skip the Dishes, Door Dash or Uber Driver anyone?
According to the Office of the Controller of Currency, in 2019 JP Morgan Chase had $59 trillion in derivative bets. In July of 2020 it emerged that Citigroup held $62 trillion in derivative contracts, about $30 trillion more than it held before it was bailed out in 2008. In 2019 Goldman Sachs held $47 trillion and Bank of America held $20.4 trillion in derivate bets. A big part of the scandal embodied in these figures is embedded in the reality that all of these banks carry their most risky derivative bets in units of their corporate networks that are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This corporate welfare sham played a significant part in deepening the ongoing crisis engendered by the ongoing financial debacle that began in 2007.
One of the most redeeming feature of the Dodd-Frank Act as originally conceived was a provision preventing financial institutions from keeping their derivative portfolios in banks whose deposits and depositors were backed up by federal deposit insurance.
Citigroup led the push in Congress in 2014 to allow Wall Street institutions to revert back to a more deregulated and perilous economic environment. The notoriously inept decisions and actions of Citigroup had played a significant role in the lead up to the financial debacle of 2007 to 2010. Since 2016 Citigroup has become once again the biggest risk taker by loading itself up with more derivative speculations than any other financial institution in the world. When this global $1.25 quadrillion dollar derivatives market explodes in our collective faces, it will be all over for capitalism – or will it? I leave the reader to figure out what is meant by one quadrillion dollars.
Many thought the Great Depression and several other lesser global collapses of markets would put the last nail in the coffin of capitalism. Some clowns argue that it’s the flexibility and adaptability of capitalism to anything that has allowed its evil continuance by returning derivative speculations to the protections of federal financial backstops, taxpayers are once again forced to assume responsibility for the most outlandish risks of Wall Street’s zero sum high rollers and shell gamers. It is taxpayers who are the backers of the federal government when it comes to their commitment to compensate banks for losses, even when these losses come about from derivative bets.
How much more Wall Street risk and public debt can be loaded onto taxpayers and even onto generations of taxpayers not yet born into our overpopulated messed up immoral demented FUBAR world? How is national debt to be understood when it plunders working people to guarantee and augment the wealth of the most privileged branches of society? Despite its 30 plus trillion dollar federal debt, the US is still considered the richest country in the world, although the distribution of that wealth is shocking. One-tenth of one percent have more wealth that the bottom 90%. Why should those most responsible for creating the most excessive risks to the financial wellbeing of our societies be protected from bearing the consequences of the very risks they themselves created? And if they are aware of these scandalous facts, why are there not millions of people rioting in the street with pitch forks and pillories?
Along with Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase stands out among a group of financial sector degenerates and bandits most deeply involved in sketchy activities that extend deep into the realm of blatant criminality. In a simmering scandal six of JP Morgan Chase’s traders have been accused of breaking laws in conducting the bank’s futures trading in the value of precious metals. They have been accused of violating the RICO statute, a law meant for people suspected of being part of organized crime. In the charges pressed by the Justice Department on JP Morgan Chase’s traders it is alleged that they “conducted the affairs of the [minerals] desk through a pattern of racketeering activity, specifically, wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud.”
In 2012 JP Morgan Chase faced a $1 billion fine for its role in the “London Whale” series of derivative bets described as follows by the Chair of the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation. Senator Carl Levin explained, “Our findings open a window into the hidden world of high stakes derivatives trading by big banks. It exposes a derivatives trading culture at JPMorgan that piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”
Traders at Goldman Sachs appear to have been part of the Wall Street crime spree. The gigantic squid tentacles of corruption in the Goldman Sachs case apparently extend deep into the US Justice Department. The case involves allegations of embezzlement, money laundering and missing billions. These manifestations of malfeasance all spin out of a scandal-prone Malaysian sovereign wealth fund administered by Goldman Sachs. A big part of the scandal reported in Wall Street on Parade in July of 2020 involves the fact that the Justice Department’s prosecutors seem to be dragging their feet in this possible criminal felony case against Goldman Sachs. The prosecutors, including the US Attorney-General, William Barr, worked previously for the law firm, Kirkland and Ellis. Kirkland and Ellis was retained to defend Goldman Sachs in this matter. But these shockers are common everyday occurrences in the “market”.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens express dismay at the failure of US officialdom to hold Wall Street institutions accountable for the crime spree of some of its biggest firms. They write, “Congress and the executive branch of the government seem determined to protect Wall Street criminals, which simply assures their proliferation.” Even racketeering charges against officials at JP Morgan Chase, where the slime bag Jamie Dimon presides as CEO, failed to receive any attention from the deceitful cockroach bootlickers that today dominate corporate media. The star reporters of Wall Street on Parade write, “Crime and fraud are so de rigueur at the bank led by Dimon that not one major newspaper ran the headline of the racketeering charge on the front page or anywhere else in the paper.
While federal charges that JP Morgan Chase’s Wall Street operation engaged in criminal racketeering was not of interest to the lickspittle corporate press. Jamie Dimon’s surprise visit in early June to a Chase branch in Mt. Kisco New York aroused considerable media attention as Dimon was photographed with staff wearing a mask and taking the knee. Yes, this parasite took a knee. By participating in this ritual Dimon signaled that his Wall Street operation is in league with the Black Lives Matter and virulent cancel culture dominated by the Democratic Party in the US and Liberal Party in Canada.
In an article on July of 2020 marking ten years since the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the Martens duo conclude, “So here we are today, watching the Fed conduct another secret multi-trillion dollar bailout of Wall Street while the voices of Congress and mainstream media are nowhere to be heard.” Read this:
[1a] An obvious question immediately arises; do free markets really exist? I will address this question later in the paper but a few important points need to be pointed out. First, markets are created and promoted by capitalist states. Every market is enabled by a codified system of laws, rules, taxes and regulations about what can and can’t be done, what can be bought and sold and how. These regulatory mechanisms are formulated and approved by ideologically driven members of parliament and governmental bureaucrats, applied by functionary drones and protected by means of police, courts, prisons and the military if needed. Depending on the times in which a law is conceived, politicians can legislate in favour of the rich, the poor (rarely if ever) or anywhere in between. Class struggle sets the tone and as history has so clearly shown, the police, courts and prisons exist to serve and protect capital, private property, financial institutions, corporate oligarchs and entrenched wealth. The golden rule prevails: Those with the gold make the rules. The notion of a meritocracy is a worn out myth.  Markets are systematically shaped and manipulated by capitalist governments to serve capitalist and almost invariably at the expense of labour. Tax incentives are handed out and when the system fails as it does every few years, the “too big to fail” mafia banks, financial vultures and corporations whom made bad bets in the capitalist casino are bailed out by the taxpayers. In this sense it is an oligarchy, resembling a “democracy” in form only with the corporatist sock puppet talking heads in parliament.
In a letter to Thomas Jefferson John Adams described banking as “an infinity of successive felonious larcenies.” Of course since 1819 when the letter was written, banking has far surpassed the “larcenies” referred to by Adams. When one considers toxic “investments”, financial rip-offs such as usurious interest rates on credit cards, outrageous stock market trading fees for a mouse click, derivatives, credit default swaps, subprime mortgages, collaterized debt obligations, hidden fees and clandestine charges, overdraft and automated teller, and fines for both newly printed and returned checks seem to confirm this. The list of financial weapons of mass destruction swindles is endless. I have personally been involved in four class action suits against Canadian banks during the past two decades. Wall Street and Bay Street are “industries” whereby, to cite just one example, high-frequency trading – a form of transaction where trades are conducted between computers in a nanosecond scale to algorithms designed to exploit minuscule fluctuations in prices – is good business and arbitrage (exploiting a price difference for quick profit by buying a stock in one market and then quickly selling it in another where its price is higher) is considered respectable. One class action suit was primarily about “skimming” on currency conversions when a stock trade was executed. TD Waterhouse was robbing their clients of millions on this scam. I had the opportunity to speak on the phone with the plaintiff lawyer. It was very shocking and “educational”; I’ll spare you the ugly details.
[1b] Islam, Christianity and Judaism are all fundamentalist monotheisms that are consistent with the generally accepted conception and definition of religion as unquestioning belief in and worship of a superhuman power, especially a personal God or gods, as well as in dogmas, practices and the inerrant authenticity of sacred books. I think it can be cogently argued that capitalism entails multiple parallels with monotheistic religion, it’s faith in the market gods, the deified gurus, the invisible hand of the market and other magical thinking often manifested in a long list of arcane quasi-scientific hypotheses and mathematical formulae and practices such as the efficient market hypothesis, analysis of stock charts combined with a rigid cynical belief in original sin and its concomitant understanding of human nature as inherently selfish. A key question one ought to ask with any human construct, ideology or endeavor such as capitalism is: cui bono? Who benefits? Walter Benjamin attempted to argue in this manner here.
Modernized Western religious dogma, especially Christianity, has embraced the prosperity capitalist god as most Christians have utter contempt for any brand of socialism. This has not always been the case as the examples of the long forgotten and abandoned social gospel movement embraced by Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas and Tommy Douglas can attest. Christianity today has more in common with capitalism than it does their traditional God Yahweh and his god man son Jesus. As Karl Marx wrote, “Capitalism has developed as a parasite of Christianity in the West … until it reached the point where Christianity’s history is essentially that of its parasite – that is to say, of capitalism.” Before him, in his forty-year study of fetishism (an obsessive and irrational devotion to a particular idea or object) Marx had expanded his category of the fetish to include almost every component of capitalism, describing “the complete mystification of the capitalist mode of production” to produce “an enchanted, perverted, topsy-turvy world” where things are personified and “production relations become entities” in “this religion of everyday life”. This is the really amoral and perilous all consuming exploitation of the planet, not unlike that expressed in Genesis. Moreover, the belief in some divine plan is one way of denying that humans are responsible for inventing it. If you’ve ever listened to the neo-liberal capitalist doctrine zealots on any business/stock market TV channel for more than five minutes, you’ll perhaps understand this argument. When one of their gods such as the omnipotent Federal Reserve Chairman speaks it sound all too much like a sermon from the mount. As Powell, devoid of any and all ethical constraints, declared during the covid-19 rampage as the markets were tanking, “We’ll do whatever it takes” - to save the stock markets - but no mention of doing anything to save you from the covid-19 plague. Unconditional faith in anything, whether it’s the markets or other gods, is the quintessence of immorality and idiocy.
 The great economist (there are precious few) John Maynard Keynes knew all about the stock markets and its mystical gyrations of the invisible hand. During the Great Depression Keynes was queried about the future of the stock markets for the long run. His reply was “in the long run, we are all dead”. Economics has been described correctly as the “dismal science”. But not only is economics not very scientific, it is often warmed up for bogus credibility by being marinated with mathematical mysticism and algorithmic drivel. In short most economists are full of shit and stock market pickers are crystal ball readers are total frauds. Rather than listening to the advice of these clowns, take a freshman college course in probability theory and statistics and then move on to Bayes Theorem and the Monty Hall Problem for a little recreation and probably a brain cramp. After spending this valuable time, you will never buy another lottery ticket or pay attention to a stock market forecaster; nor will you ever enter a casino whether brick and mortar or in cyberspace.
 Vaoufakis explains what he means by late capitalism, referred to by him as techno-feudalism:
The current form of capitalist mutation since at least the 1980s counter-revolution is generally referred to as neo-liberalism. We once referred to our current mutation of neo-fascist neo-liberal techno-tyranny as “capitalism” (or the silly sanitized euphemism “free enterprise”) that once prevailed. But capitalism was never free or enterprising but rather a rigged game grounded in monstrous inequality, colonialism, war and slavery right from the start – a deeply immoral and systemically corrupt spectacle. Capitalism has always been an exploitive degenerate exercise of extracting profits before all else and then offloading collateral damage to the public. Some refer to this depravity as “privatizing profit and socializing loses”. But some people persist in perpetrating long standing myths and false narratives about this “worst of all possible worlds”.
There was a time during the post World War II era, primarily out of fear by the 20th century masters of mankind of the impoverished unwashed masses revolting and inciting a revolution, when a human face was temporarily put on the ugly capitalist gorgon. Real just concessions to workers such as high marginal tax rates for the big corporations and wealthy elites of 90% or more, the legalization of flourishing trade unions, decent wages and benefits in the form of health care and pensions were reluctantly implemented. In other words a reformist trend arose whereby capitalism emerged with (almost) a human face – but only a temporary emergency strategy by big business elites until a counterrevolutionary moment arose in which, to use an old adage, all wealth and money was “returned to its rightful owners.” Thank you “trickle down” scammers Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney, Bush, Harper et al. Now throughout the world we see a rerun of the ugly specter of (been there, done that) fascism, a vile tyrannical ideology for which capitalists have embraced anytime a serious from the left emerged.
There was even a brief era when checks and balances on capitalist predation and crimes were implemented and some capitalist criminals were not only prosecuted, but served jail time, albeit in a penthouse suite prison. Bernie Maddoff was likely the last one, his mistake being bilking the rich! To understand anything that happens in a capitalist world, simple “follow the money”, money being the real religion of humankind.
 In addition to the corporate media’s patriotic idiocy and promotional hatred of all things Russian, there is startling and depressing ignorance of history from the Russian Revolution, the Civil War, World War II and the Cold War aftermath with its anti-communist insanity. It was the Red Army that defeated fascism in the Second World War following the bloody battles of Stalingrad when the course of the war turned around when the German Sixth Army of 600,000 finally gave up and surrendered. But the Russians paid a huge price with the country starved and turned into a wasteland, death counts estimated at 30,000,000 with millions more Russians traumatized and maimed for life. Leningrad, which has since the collapse of the Soviet Union been renamed back to its monarchist/Tsarist roots as St. Petersburg, was under Nazi siege for 900 days (Read Harrison Salisbury’s The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad) Anyone interested in the devastation, including the traumatisation of the populace, in the USSR in the aftermath of WW II might watch the 2019 Russian movie my wife and I enjoyed a few nights ago called Beanpole which takes place in Leningrad graphically depicting the shocking destruction of not only the countryside and cities but the psychological impact on its stoical starving yet courageous people. The movie was inspired by The Unwomanly Face of War, the 1985 oral history of Soviet women’s wartime experiences by Svetlana Alexievich. Feminism was at the forefront in this flick as the Bolsheviks granted equal rights to women with men long before the women’s movement that arose in the late 1960s and 70s in the so-called civilized West. Many Russian women fought on the front lines against the Nazis and some were even fighter pilots. Here is a passage from a review by the Guardian:
This is a story of people for whom the horror of war has not ended, for whom peace is the horror of war by other means. When the patients gamely try to entertain little Pashka by imitating a dog, and Pashka does not recognise it, one patient shrugs and asks how the boy would have seen a dog when they have all been eaten. The hospital itself is a time-honoured symbol for the madhouse – or infirmary, or mortuary – that is the nation’s soul. One patient, when presented to a grand lady visitor (who is to play a chilling role later in the movie) behaves strangely, offensively and then blood begins to seep through his white pyjama jacket. What has happened is that his stitches have ripped, a commonplace occurrence which nonetheless has an uncanny effect here: as if the pain and violence he has experienced – along with everyone else – is supernaturally rising to the surface: the return of the repressed. Beanpole is moving, disturbing, overwhelming.
But with the capitalist shock doctrine imposed on the former USSR in the 1990s and conservative theocrats and bigoted plutocrats eventually owning and controlling Russia, including the Russian Orthodox Church supporter, chief oligarch, former KGB officer, rabid anti-communist and history revisionist Vladimir Putin, women’s rights in Russia for the past 30 years have been in many cases reversed.
Women are still fighting for their rights in Canada and elsewhere. Watch the trailer:
 One of the best arguments I’ve read for nationalizing banks is by philosopher Scott Remer.
We Must Nationalize the Banks
By Scott Remer, July 25, 2021
As we struggle to emerge from the COVID pandemic, it’s hard to imagine fending off our economic malaise without addressing the elephant in the room: Wall Street. The 2008 financial crisis destroyed 40% of the world’s wealth in less than a year. Almost no one has gone to prison for the white-collar crime Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs perpetrated. Wall Street apologists have spent thousands of hours on talk shows and millions of dollars in courts downplaying their behavior – but the banks crashed our economy, and they will do so again as long as they remain underregulated. Though it’s been over a decade, American political and economic life won’t be put on a solid footing until we achieve closure by redressing Wall Street’s 2008 offenses. The safest thing for our economic future is nationalizing the banking industry.
John Adams presciently described banking as “an infinity of successive felonious larcenies.” Hidden charges, overdraft and ATM fees, and fines for returned checks seem to confirm this. Wall Street is an “industry” where high-frequency trading – a form of transaction where trades are conducted between computers on a nanosecond scale according to algorithms designed to exploit minuscule fluctuations in prices – is good business and arbitrage (exploiting a price difference for quick profit by buying a stock in one market and then quickly selling it in another where its price is higher) is respectable.
One day in 2013, I was sitting on a NYC-bound train, talking politics with friends. I lamented how Wall Street had paralyzed the economy and hijacked our politics. As we disembarked, a Wall Streeter who’d overheard me said furiously that he worked hard in a tough environment and deserved everything he earned. I’ll concede that a trader’s eighty-hour workweek is stressful. I applaud the man’s work ethic. What I won’t concede is that he is blameless and deserves what he makes. Fluctuations in stock prices don’t reflect economic fundamentals. Making trades based on random noise shouldn’t be rewarded with immense sums, even if a trader works eighty hours a week doing it. As Teddy Roosevelt wrote over a century ago, “No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered – not gambling in stocks, but service rendered.”
Big banks commit crimes. Economist Joseph Stiglitz writes in his book The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do about Them: “[T]he banks and others in the financial sector have a long-established proclivity for exploitation – for taking advantage of others, whether it’s in the form of market manipulation, insider trading, abusive credit card practices, monopolistic anticompetitive practices, discriminatory and predatory lending…the list is endless.” Consider JP Morgan Chase’s misdemeanors and crimes, which include (but aren’t limited to) Bank Secrecy Act and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations; knowingly executing fictitious trades; money laundering for drug cartels; disobedience of sanctions against Cuba, Iran, and Sudan; foreclosure, mortgage, and credit card abuse and fraud; illegally increasing overdraft penalties; manipulating electricity and municipal bond markets; conducting fraudulent derivative sales; and potentially obstructing justice. In his book The Divide, Matt Taibbi details the fees that banks have paid for their malfeasance. In 2011, Chase paid $211 million for rigging municipal bond bids. It also shelled out $27 million for overcharging active-duty soldiers on their mortgages. JPMorgan Chase has spent billions on associated legal fees.
Also consider Bank of America, which was hit with $29 billion in settlements from 2009 to 2012. It paid $600 million for shoddy loans that it fobbed off on the elderly and other unsuspecting folks, $20 million for illegal foreclosures on soldiers’ mortgages, $3 billion for fraud it committed against the government, and $410 million for fake overdraft charges. HSBC was implicated in a money laundering scandal in which, it was discovered, and its managers decided it would be a good idea to launder $800 million for drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico. This paragon of business excellence aided and abetted groups linked with Middle Eastern terrorism and the Russian mob. It has conducted transactions for parties in Iran, North Korea, and Sudan. Taibbi charges it with consorting with “mass murderers, human traffickers, and embezzlers.” Yet there have been no criminal charges, just fines that amount to a slap on the wrist.
Bankers played with the global interest rate (LIBOR) and rigged currency exchange rates. Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and the Royal Bank of Scotland admitted that they were guilty of rigging markets and violating antitrust laws. They paid $5.6 billion in fines. A Barclays vice president wrote (all typos left unedited): “markup is making sure you make the right decision on price . . . which is whats the worst price i can put on this where the customers decision to trade with me or give me future business doesn’t change . . . if you aint cheating, you aint trying.” Amazingly, one banker wrote to another: “mate yur getting bloody good at this libor game . . . think of me when yur on yur yacht in monaco wont yu.” As Taibbi records, another trader – this one with better spelling and punctuation – sent a message to the Barclays LIBOR reporter thanking him for his help: “Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I’m opening a bottle of Bollinger [champagne].”
The 2008 crisis was the product of bad business practices fueled by greed and irresponsibility: risky financial instruments (derivatives, especially collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps), bad mortgages, and lenient capital requirements that let investment bankers assume lots of debt. “Collateralized debt obligations” and “credit default swaps” sound innocent. What these terms conceal is that Wall Street con men tossed different loans with varying degrees of risk (especially subprime mortgage loans) into a blender, divvied up the resulting mixture, and pawned these debt bundles off onto unsuspecting buyers.
The shadow banking system, a dizzying array of financial innovations with no deposit insurance or oversight from the Fed, mushroomed in the decade before the crisis. Although institutions participating in the shadow banking system were demonstrably undercapitalized, the shadow banking system’s global holdings ballooned in value, going from $26 trillion in 2002 to $62 trillion in 2007, as no less than Alan Greenspan admits in his book The Map and the Territory. Since many of the securities that flourished in the shadows were designed to fail (Goldman Sachs underwrote mortgage-backed securities even as it bet against those same securities, as social critic Douglas Rushkoff observes in Life Inc.), it’s hardly a surprise that the system came crashing down.
The most egregious offender in the 2008 fiasco was Lehman Brothers, the outfit that, as Matt Taibbi writes in The Divide, “ran up a $700 billion tab engaging in almost indescribably reckless and antisocial behaviors, borrowing on a grand scale to create and sell products so dangerous that they very nearly collapsed the world economy in 2008.” But on Wall Street, no one’s hands are clean, as Taibbi’s reportage reveals. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Ally GMAC, and JPMorgan Chase have all paid billions of dollars in fines for defective home loans – effectively a concession of guilt in a world where the Department of Justice is too scared to take them to court on criminal charges. In the lead-up to the crisis, up to 83% of loans from some Washington Mutual regional offices were deemed fraudulent by its own internal investigators – yet it didn’t take corrective action. Citigroup paid $158 billion in fines for fraud and misleading the government because it certified thousands of questionable loans as safe for federal protection. Similarly, between 2002 and 2010, Wells Fargo certified nearly 6,320 home loans that internal investigations had judged “seriously deficient.” Goldman Sachs underwrote many billions of dollars in toxic subprime mortgages.
Risky lending practices and speculation were a consequence of banksters not having skin in the game. Prior to the crash, the banks were extraordinarily overleveraged. Before its collapse, Bear Stearns’ ratio of debts to assets reached 33 to 1, as journalist Timothy Noah notes in his book The Great Divergence. That’s not as bad as firms like AIG, which journalist Robert Kuttner noted often “borrowed $50 for every $1 of their own capital.” Workers at AIG and Bear Stearns knew that they wouldn’t be held personally liable and felt licensed to be aggressive. As Noah reports in The Great Divergence, Peter Felsenthal, a bond trader, once told the author of a book about Wall Street the following: “You have all of the upside when things go well. If you do poorly, you don’t owe anybody money, so you might as well take as much risk as possible.” Speculation’s lifeblood is borrowed money, and its goal is to make a ‘quick killing.’ That’s why, as Kuttner writes, “A popular expression on Wall Street during the last financial bubble was ‘IBGYBG,’ which stood for ‘I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone’ – meaning, ‘Let’s do this deal before the rubes figure out the game, then quickly cash in and get out before it collapses.’”
Once everything went south, the banks came up with another tactic to thumb their noses at the law. Instead of reviewing mortgage documents properly and doing due diligence, over a dozen banks decided it’d be acceptable to commit foreclosure fraud by robo-signing (rubber-stamping foreclosure documents). The result is that millions of people were unceremoniously tossed into the streets without proof that they had defaulted. The banks didn’t care whether people could pay back their loans. But ordinary people paid the price.
Famed financial reporter Michael Lewis blames the outsourcing of morality to algorithms, writing, “The dystopia often imagined in the world of artificial intelligence—in which computers somehow take on a life of their own and come to rule mankind—has actually happened in the world of finance. The giant Wall Street firms have taken on lives of their own, beyond human control. The people flow into and out of them but have only incidental effect on their direction and behavior. The firms may not be intent on evil; they aren’t intent on anything except short-term profits: they’re insensible. If anyone attempted to seize control of one of these strange machines and impose upon them a clear moral direction, the machine would hit its own button and he would be ejected.”
Kevin Roose, in Young Money, his investigation of Wall Street, sounds a similar note: “What Wall Street was, I heard over and over again, was completely amoral. It had no regard for whether a given deal represented a net good or a net loss for humanity. All that mattered was the revenue. If a bank could make ten billion dollars by spreading malaria vaccines throughout Africa, it would do it in a heartbeat. And if a bank could make ten billion dollars by spreading malaria itself? Well, the idea might at least be floated.”
Financialization of the economy has destabilized our economic system and increased income and wealth inequality. It hasn’t even benefited many financial sector workers. In his book Merchant, Soldier, Sage, historian David Priestland describes how banks’ lust for short-term profits creates instability and a culture where even finance workers are considered disposable: “During booms, they would rush into flourishing sectors, increasing their staffs and scattering massive bonuses like so much confetti; during bad times, they would make a very rapid exit, drawing in their horns and laying off their employees. There is very little long-term planning or investment in this business plan, nor much concern for one’s staff beyond their short-term ability to turn a fast buck.” Wall Street’s pressurized environment takes a toll on mental health. When the market was at its peak, 23% of brokers and traders at Wall Street’s seven largest firms were depressed. That’s over three times the national average.
Interns aren’t immune from the pressure. Epitomizing Wall Street’s brutal work environment, Goldman Sachs now limits its interns to working 17 hours a day after a Bank of America intern died in 2013 because he worked for 72 hours straight. Given the way Wall Street treats its own, it’s hardly shocking that the finance industry has been terrible for society. In his book The Looting of America, Les Leopold focuses on the effect financialization has had on economic inequality. He points out that, if wages had risen with productivity since the 1970s, America’s average real hourly compensation would be $41 per hour instead of $25 per hour. The remainder was stolen by the investment class. Wall Street’s share of total domestic profits skyrocketed during the age of conservative economics, leaping from 15% in the early 1980s to 41% by the early 2000s, with the result that, nowadays, it’s not uncommon for Wall Street execs to make $500,000 a week.
Wall Street caused the Great Recession, incurring an immense human cost. Families were evicted. Many people lost their 401(k)s and have been forced to work long into what were supposed to be their golden years. Over a decade later, there are still millions of people without jobs and with little hope. The banks got bailed out. The bankers living high on the hog are unapologetic about the pain and suffering they have caused. As Kevin Roose relates in lurid detail in Young Money, executives from Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Bear Stearns laughed about the crisis and about bilking the taxpayers at a private Kappa Beta Phi banquet. And even during the worst of the crisis, the banks didn’t stop disbursing bonuses.
Some people suffer from the misconception that white-collar crimes like speculation are victimless. This is untrue. Hunger, poverty, and unemployment are real results of Wall Street engorgement. A white-collar criminal should be held just as accountable as a mugger who physically harms someone. As conservative economist Edmund Phelps writes in his book Mass Flourishing, “The banking industry betrayed the very concept of a modern economy by betting on enormous piles of assets without exercising the vision and judgment essential to the well functioning of the economy.”
Our response to the 2008 crisis tests the rule of law. Bankers shouldn’t be permitted to play by a different set of rules. The Secretary of Justice should never have to say – as Eric Holder did during the Obama years – “It does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute – if you do bring a criminal charge – it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”
Regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act were put in place during the Great Depression. They made the financial system safer. But they didn’t tackle the root of the problem. Financiers corrupted financial regulators and undermined those protections until they had repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and other financial protections. They then were free to practice financial alchemy. The banks assumed monstrous proportions, proportions which weren’t diminished much by the crisis: as early as March 2012, the five biggest American banks’ debts came to $8 trillion combined. Attempts to reform the banking industry, most notably via the Dodd-Frank Act, were watered down by an army of well-paid lawyers and lobbyists.
Not all bankers are morally bankrupt. Some fight for decency. Their voices, regrettably, are drowned out. Greed and casual disregard for average people and the environment are embedded into the structures of Wall Street. We need to make it impossible for banks to do the wrong thing. We should heed Reuters financial reporter Felix Salmon, who writes, “[B]anks shouldn’t be obscenely profitable: they’re intermediaries, and in an efficient economy their profits should be quite easily competed away. When bank profits are high, that’s a sign that the bank in question is extracting rents from the economy, rather than helping it to grow.” Creativity’s place is in an art classroom, not Wall Street boardrooms. Financial innovation is bad: boring is best.
Big banks should be broken up. As Australian economist John Quiggin argues, “Publicly guaranteed banks should be banned from engaging in all but the most basic financial transactions, such as issuing loans and bonds and accepting deposits. In particular, banks should be prohibited from doing any business with institutions engaged in speculative finance such as trade in derivatives. Such institutions should be required to raise all their funds directly from investors, on a ‘buyer beware’ basis, and should never be bailed out, directly or indirectly, when they get into trouble.”
But even if a firewall separates banks’ trading/investment, savings, and ordinary commercial lending divisions as in the post-New Deal days, and even if banks which take money from depositors are forbidden from gambling that money, and even if banks are required to have much higher capital reserves, history demonstrates that the public won’t be truly safe as long as Wall Street is privately owned. After banks are broken up, they will slowly regroup. As they regain strength, they will become powerful enough to manipulate regulators and the cycle of boom and bust will resume. If the public must bail banks out in crises, why shouldn’t we own them in good times?
The big banks should be nationalized and run as social utilities. It’s not merely a question of protecting ourselves economically. It’s also a question of democracy. In a democratic society, our savings should be under democratic control. We need collective decision-making about resource allocation and economic goals. This means a publicly controlled finance industry which can channel money directly to socially beneficial purposes.
The Bank of North Dakota has a long history of serving the people. We should take it as a national model. As Bernie Sanders has suggested, we could also create a postal savings bank administered through the Post Office. Deposits would go to government securities, which could be used to fund long-overdue repairs to bridges, roads, and public transit systems. A postal savings bank would give the 23% of the American population that is “unbanked” or “under-banked,” with limited or no access to basic banking services, a safe place to store their savings.
Such changes won’t happen overnight. In the interim, the Left can aim for less sweeping reforms to curb Wall Street’s power, reforms that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders advocated in 2016 and 2020: a financial transactions tax and a currency trading tax. We can also tackle payday lending by capping interest rates. But these measures are ultimately half-measures. Only nationalization will guarantee that banking is stable, safe, and fair.
 First, let me admit that I don’t deny the importance of dedication and hard work. But many people that are poor or unsuccessful in life according to our socially dominant capitalist principles work just as hard, if not harder, than people with lucrative careers. We’re all in some way creatures of chance and circumstance, despite the huge advantage of the genetic lottery that gives some a 90 meter head start in the 100 meter dash of life.
Wealthy and other so-called successful people invariably tout the dubious hypothesis of meritocracy since it justifies their elevated status as being justified by some mystical cosmic justice - perhaps God’s will. It gives them the license to self-congratulate without suffering the unease of being born into a wealthy family or to contemplate the possibility that the capitalist system which gave them their success is undemocratic and unjust – a rigged game - and therefore their socio-economic status is a fraud and to confront the truth - that success and failure are culturally and politically manufactured. What is generally known as the just world hypothesis, the tendency to assume that people receive their just deserts, is a powerful and comforting illusion. If someone is treated poorly, there’s always the temptation to assume that they have done something to merit their mistreatment. This tendency has deep roots: even victims often blame themselves for their victimhood. The seduction of self-flagellation keeps the system in place: oppressed groups misidentify the sources of their oppression, locating inadequacies within, and this encourages their quiescence and acquiescence to the injustice of their lot.