Monday, October 31, 2011

Thomas Friedman
, in The New York Times this Sunday:

"This gets to the core of why all the anti-Wall Street groups around the globe are resonating. I was in Tahrir Square in Cairo for the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and one of the most striking things to me about that demonstration was how apolitical it was. When I talked to Egyptians, it was clear that what animated their protest, first and foremost, was not a quest for democracy — although that was surely a huge factor. It was a quest for “justice.” Many Egyptians were convinced that they lived in a deeply unjust society where the game had been rigged by the Mubarak family and its crony capitalists. Egypt shows what happens when a country adopts free-market capitalism without developing real rule of law and institutions.

But, then, what happened to us? Our financial industry has grown so large and rich it has corrupted our real institutions through political donations."

He says Congress is a forum for "legalized bribery".

I don't disagree with him. The system is rigged. Those at the very top always seem to land on their feet no matter what they have done to the company that they worked for (and the economy as a whole). If they are fired, CEO's at large firms are given a "golden parachute" so big they don't ever have to work again. The people at Zuccotti Park are protesting against a rigged system. They know something is wrong when the only ones who are being asked to do the sacrificing in this country are the very people who can afford it the least. Public employees are told they have to contribute more towards their health care and their pensions yet the very banks that are not have wiped them out during the free fall on Wall Street are not required to make restitution. Teachers and police officers are being laid off in states across the nation to balance town budgets. College tuition costs are rising. And yet the top 1% of this nation's earners are not asked to share the burdens.

Mr. Friedman offers several good proposals. Yes, Washington must break the bigger banks up. And derivatives should be traded on transparent markets.

I don't believe there will be any significant changes unless we take the money out of politics and that won't happen unless we change the composition of justices on the Supreme Court (who could then overturn Citizens United) or we amend the constitution to ban campaign donations.

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