Crocodile Tears on Wall Street

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* By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship t r u t h o u t *

With all due respect, we can only wish those Tea Party activists who gathered in Washington and other cities this week weren’t so single-minded about just who’s responsible for all their troubles, real and imagined. They’re up in arms, so to speak, against Big Government, especially the Obama administration.

If they thought this through, they’d be joining forces with other grassroots Americans who in the coming weeks will be demonstrating in Washington and other cities against High Finance, taking on Wall Street and the country’s biggest banks.

The original Tea Party, remember, wasn’t directed just against the British redcoats. Colonial patriots also took aim at the East India Company. That was the joint-stock enterprise originally chartered by the first Queen Elizabeth. Over the years, the government granted them special rights and privileges, which the owners turned into a monopoly over trade, including tea. It may seem a bit of a stretch from tea to credit default swaps, but the principle is the same: when enormous private wealth goes unchecked, regular folks get hurt – badly. That’s what happened in 2008 when the monied interests led us up the garden path to the great collapse.

So the Tea Party crowd should be demanding accountability from Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and scores of hedge funds and private equity firms that constitute what we loosely call Wall Street.

But are the culprits taking responsibility for devastating the lives of millions of ordinary Americans? Don’t kid yourself. If you’ve been watching them appear before congressional committees and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission – the independent inquiry that’s supposed to find out what really happened – you’ve no doubt been reaching for the Pepto-Bismol.

Here’s Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary and director of Citigroup, testifying last week. “Almost all of us involved in the financial system, including financial firms, regulators, ratings agencies, analysts and commentators missed the powerful combination of forces at work and the serious possibility of a massive crisis,” he said. “We all bear responsibility for not recognizing this, and I deeply regret that.”

Okay, maybe you didn’t have a crystal ball. But what about good, old-fashioned business sense? How could you make so much money and not know the score? “You are talking about a level of granularity no board will ever have,” Rubin claimed. Citi paid you $120 million as a senior advisor and rainmaker and you’re not responsible for knowing what’s happening below you? You didn’t bother to assess the risk you were peddling to clients?

Read more at t r u t h o u t

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