According to Wikipedia, “Bank robbery is the crime of stealing from a bank during opening hours.” Let me try a new definition: “Robbery is theft from the people during opening and closing hours.” Yes, banks are quite capable of committing crimes, and often do, as bullies motivated by greed. Banks, in case you missed it, were the primary culprits in fomenting our economic downturn in 2008, the worst America has faced since the Great Depression and likely to continue for several years. In the process, they’ve been able to pull off nearly a trillion dollars in bail out money to cover their profligate scheming and spending, passing their debts on to the citizenry; another two trillion has been spent in trying to re-right the economy. What is more, along with behemoth corporations, banks are kingpins in a concerted effort to dismantle government regulation, giving them a freer hand in accumulating profit.
The banking sector is grateful for our help, screwing us at every turn in efforts to extract still more from the masses they’ve victimized, moving with alacrity in foreclosing on money that shouldn’t have been loaned, often for houses no longer worth their original loan amounts, and doing so without properly reviewing delinquent mortgages (i.e., robo signings). With regard to bank issued credit cards, despite government efforts to safeguard consumers from excessive interest escalation, the banks have found other ways to accumulate capital, imposing charges, for example, on using tellers rather than ATMs and fees on checking accounts below a designated amount. Take Bank of America, for example. It had originally opted to charge debit card users $5 monthly. Public outrage, however, curtailed its implementation. Look for the banks to move more quietly to introduce other charges. You name it, they’ve got a gimmick, proving it’s easier to catch a greased pig than a banker in his Mercedes.
Although our government rightly views consumer spending as a key catalyst to stimulating the economy, banks have made it difficult for many to borrow money, especially for mortgage loans, requiring up to 20% down payment. Obviously, this leaves out many young people and middle class wage earners. Home construction, along with the auto and aircraft industry, is a key component of the American economy. Currently, banks are sitting on a mound of money while looking for better investment returns elsewhere. You and I don’t figure into the equation.
Make no mistake about it: both Wall Street and the banks created the bubbles that got us here, resulting in millions without work and depleted federal and state coffers. It’s gotten so bad that many cash-strapped states are now resorting to selling off their infrastructure such as highways to raise revenue and avoid upkeep outlays. Ultimately this represents an impetus yet again in the dismantling of government, transferring the people’s assets to the private domain. It’s among a speculator’s greatest dreams, and don’t think for a moment that Wall Street and the banks don’t have their eyes on it.
Bank manipulation, or fraud, isn’t anything new. Take for instance, the banking scandals of the 1980s involving many savings and loan institutions. Insiders would falsify the books, making a failing bank appear healthy. Ultimately, the failing bank burdened the federal treasury with making good on consumer deposits up to $100,000 under USFDC guarantees. That means you and I paid the bill for their malfeasance. Hey! Sounds a lot like those recent bailouts. It continues to be difficult, however, for the courts to prosecute since the statutes require proof of intent to deceive.
Fortunately, we have a few watchdogs looking out for our interests, though scarcely enough, given the systemic problem of banking kleptomaniacs. Last week, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley sued five of the nation’s largest banks, alleging illegal foreclosures and deceptive mortgage servicing.
This suit seeks accountability against the banks for both cutting corners and also rushing to foreclose on homeowners without following the rule of law. There is no question that the deceptive and unlawful behavior by Wall Street and the large banks played a central role in causing this economic crisis. We believe they are not too big to have to obey the law.
The suit names Well Fargo, Bank of America, J. P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and GMAC.
The Tea Party has it all wrong. We don’t need less government. We need more.