A Plea to President Obama: Don't Bankrupt America
Dear President Obama,
I'm getting a sinking feeling. Watching your appointees' latest bank bailout makes me wonder if all your administration's good work on health care, education, and jobs will be swept away by the extraordinary giveaway of trillions in taxpayer money to a group of powerful Wall Street operatives, who appear willing to bankrupt our country to continue building their wealth and power.
Could this be happening on the watch of someone who, like yourself, came to Washington with the promise of personal integrity and a concern for the common good?
From outside the Beltway it looks pretty clear: Your financial team's identification with Wall Street corporations is compromising their ability to advise you on what can save our country. Please listen to some of today's most astute independent analysts:
Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University economist:
"Two weeks ago, I posted an article showing how the Geithner-Summers banking plan could potentially and unnecessarily transfer hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth from taxpayers to banks. ... In fact, the situation is even potentially more disastrous than we wrote. Insiders can easily game the system created by Geithner and Summers to cost up to a trillion dollars or more to the taxpayers."
Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary:
"So you and I and other taxpayers have kept these hedge-fund honchos flush enough to be able to reap the bonanza that Geithner now wants to bestow on them for cleaning up the mess they and others on Wall Street made -- a bonanza to be financed by you and me and other taxpayers, who are taking on all the risk."
David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy, and board chair of YES! magazine:
"Wall Street will continue to play out its extortion racket so long as the public is willing to put up with the bailout-first, reform-later capitulation of the Federal Reserve and the FDIC. There must be a strong and immediate public demand to restructure first."
William Greider, writer for The Nation, formerly with The Washington Post, and author of some of today's best books on the economy:
"If Wall Street gets its way, the 'reforms' may further consolidate power and ratify a corporate state--a grotesque hybrid that combines the worst aspects of socialism and capitalism. The reform ideas announced by Geithner would plant the seeds by creating a 'systemic risk' regulator, presumably the Federal Reserve, to oversee the largest, most politically adept banks and financial firms that qualify as 'too big to fail.' Capitalism, with its inherent tendency toward monopoly, would have the means to monopolize democracy."
Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter:
"If we do not immediately halt our elite's rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. ... The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs."
And here's William Black, a regulator who takes bank regulation seriously, in an interview with Bill Moyers:
"We're hiding the losses, instead of trying to find out the real losses. ...Follow what works instead of what's failed. Start appointing people who have records of success, instead of records of failure. ... There are lots of things we can do. Even today, as late as it is. Even though they've had a terrible start to the administration. They could change, and they could change within weeks."It's not too late, Mr. President. We can still keep these corrupt financial institutions from bankrupting America. We need you to stand up to the Wall Street insiders in your own administration who might understand what boosts the profits of banks, but not what helps our economy. Please replace them with independent advisors, who haven't spent their careers working for investment banks, hedge funds, and the Federal Reserve.
We don't need to re-inflate the disastrous bubble casino and we don't need to pump more taxpayer dollars into the too-big-to-fail institutions that have caused this mess. Instead, it's time to take a long, cold look at these banks, which George Soros says are now "basically insolvent."
Nationalize them. Reorganize them. And decentralize them -- make sure none are too big to bring down our economy. And make sure we never again find ourselves in the bizarre circumstance of having the biggest failures -- the ones whose actions threaten to destroy the economy -- calling the shots in Washington. Instead, reorganize these banks so that all of them are linked into the real economies they should be serving, not undermining -- the locally rooted enterprises that provide the sustainable livelihoods we need.
Yes, we can! Mr President. And for the sake of our country, we must.
Sarah van Gelder
If you share these concerns, please: