Monday, February 01, 2016

How a Rolling Stone journalist and a Senator from Vermont are exposing the corruption in high finance

One of my favorite writers of late is Matt Taibbi. I admire him for his writing style, his ability to take complex financial crimes, like what we saw in the meltdown of 2008, and make them understandable. I also like the fact that he's been covering financial crimes and corruption for years and rely upon him as a source of information on the subject. He's written about the lack of prosecutions in the aftermath of the meltdown of 2008, the LIBOR scandal, and the endemic securities fraud on the part of the bankers that led up to the meltdown.

So it is a pleasant surprise to learn that Matt Taibbi has been working with Bernie Sanders to take on Wall Street. In 2013, they held and recorded a workshop together on the subject in Vermont. You can find that video here on YouTube. It is great to see two champions of economic justice working together, as journalist and Senator.

This isn't a recent connection. Matt didn't just see the rise of Bernie Sanders and start to support him and his work. Matt Taibbi has known Bernie Sanders for more than ten years. They have been collaborating together to better help the public understand the systemic economic corruption in this country and I have to say, they're doing a great job of it.

Last year, after Bernie Sanders made his announcement to run for president, Taibbi began writing articles at Rolling Stone to make the case for Sanders as president. Here's a good example from November of 2015. His praise of Sanders is authentic as someone who knows him and has worked with him.

Bernie has been working on the problem of financial corruption for longer than most people know. In this video from 2000, Bernie Sanders is questioning the Chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, Alan Greenspan. I was surprised to to learn that he was using the term, "Too Big To Fail" even then, before it came into popular use by 2008. Even then, he could see the potential for catastrophic collapse of the economy due to the concentration of power in the largest banks.

The beginning of corruption in this country starts with big money in politics. The big money is a way for the wealthy to buy protection from the government. Protection from who? The rest of us. In that workshop in Vermont, they pointed out that where Bush hired from Goldman Sachs, Obama hired from Citigroup. They clearly showed that while there were differences between the two major parties, they were essentially the same when it came to banking. Both parties benefit from the political contributions made by the biggest banks.

Sanders is the only candidate that I know of that speaks often and regularly about big money in politics. He has eschewed SuperPACs preferring instead, to finance his campaign from small contributions - millions of them - to build a grassroots campaign for president. Which means that if he's not spending a third of his time trying to get big money like the other guys, he must be busy doing something else. Like writing legislation to save the middle class.

Sanders and Taibbi have also pointed out that the first Bush president put hundreds of people in jail for the savings and loan scandal of the 80s. That was a much smaller event than the meltdown of 2008. Yet, there was only one prosecution for the crimes that led up to the collapse of the biggest banks in 2008. Sanders is in favor of the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to limit the size of the banks and regulate shadow banking. He wants to break up the big banks to reduce their influence on the economy. Clinton? Not so much. The Republicans? They aren't even on the map.

When I look at the candidates running for president, none of them are quite as candid as Sanders is about the state of the economy, the corruption in it and what to do about it. Knowing that Matt Taibbi and Sanders are working together further confirms in my mind that Sanders not only understands the economy better than the other candidates, but that he is willing to speak his mind about it, in no uncertain terms. That is what I expect in a president.
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