Top Senate Democrat: Bankers 'Own'
the US Congress
by Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com
May 1, 2009
Sen. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio
station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress
that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken: "And
the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking
crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful
lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."
The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial
crisis "own" the U.S. Congress -- according to one of
that institution's most powerful members -- demonstrates just
how extreme this institutional corruption is.
The ownership of the federal government
by banks and other large corporations is effectuated in literally
countless ways, none more effective than the endless and increasingly
sleazy overlap between government and corporate officials. Here
is just one random item this week announcing a couple of standard
Former Barney Frank staffer now top Goldman
Goldman Sachs' new top lobbyist was recently
the top staffer to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on the House Financial
Services Committee chaired by Frank. Michael Paese, a registered
lobbyist for the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association
since he left Frank's committee in September, will join Goldman
as director of government affairs, a role held last year by former
Tom Daschle intimate, Mark Patterson, now the chief of staff at
the Treasury Department. This is not Paese's first swing through
the Wall Street-Congress revolving door: he previously worked
at JP Morgan and Mercantile Bankshares, and in between served
as senior minority counsel at the Financial Services Committee.
So: Paese went from Chairman Frank's office
to be the top lobbyist at Goldman, and shortly before that, Goldman
dispatched Paese's predecessor, close Tom Daschle associate Mark
Patterson, to be Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner,
himself a protege of former Goldman CEO Robert Rubin and a virtually
wholly owned subsidiary of the banking industry. That's all part
of what Desmond Lachman -- American Enterprise Institute fellow,
former chief emerging market strategist at Salomon Smith Barney
and top IMF official (no socialist he) -- recently described as
"Goldman Sachs's seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury
Meanwhile, the above-linked Huffington
Post article which reported on Durbin's comments also notes Sen.
Evan Bayh's previously-reported central role on behalf of the
bankers in blocking legislation, hated by the banking industry,
to allow bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of mortgages so
that families can stay in their homes. Bayh is up for re-election
in 2010, and here -- according to the indispensable Open Secrets
site -- is Bayh's top donor:
Goldman is also the top donor to Bayh
over the course of his Congressional career, during which Bayh
has received more than $4 million from the finance, insurance
and real estate sectors:
In a totally unrelated coincidence --
after the Government, as Matt Taibbi put it, enacted "a bailout
program that has now figured three ways to funnel money to Goldman,
Sachs"-- this is what happened earlier this month:
Goldman reports $1.8 billion profit
Goldman Sachs reported a much stronger-than-expected
first-quarter profit Monday, bouncing back from its worst quarter
as a public company. . . .
In reporting its results a day earlier
than expected, New York-based Goldman said it earned $1.81 billion,
or $3.39 a share, for the quarter ended March 31. Analysts surveyed
by Thomson Financial were looking for a profit of $1.64 a share.
Goldman shares, which have surged more
than 70% during the past month, continued rising late Monday,
gaining about 4.7% for the day.
Nobody even tries to hide this any longer.
The only way they could make it more blatant is if they hung
a huge Goldman Sachs logo on the Capitol dome and then branded
it onto the foreheads of leading members of Congress and executive
Of course, ownership of the government
is not confined to Goldman or even to bankers generally; legislation
in virtually every area is written by the lobbyists dispatched
by the corporations that demand it, and its passage then ensured
by "representatives" whose pockets are stuffed with
money from those same corporations. Just as one example, as Jane
Hamsher reported about Bayh:
Bayh's little "lobbyist problem"
is considered by many to be what tanked his Vice Presidential
aspirations. His wife Susan earns about $837,000 a year serving
on seven corporate boards, among them Wellpoint, a health insurance
company for which Bayh helped secure a $24.7 million dollar grant.
She's on the board of ETrade, even as Bayh is on the Senate Finance
Bayh wants people to believe he's a "moderate"
who sits in the "center."
Center of K Street, maybe.
Meanwhile, the only citizen protests relating
to this mass robbery are driven by anger at the government for
treating bankers too harshly and unfairly -- one of the most classic
manifestations of what Taibbi, in a separate piece, so aptly calls
the "peasant mentality":
After all, the reason the winger crowd
can't find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this
country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It
never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses
of business interests and their political proteges in Washington
leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always
for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and
find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but
at each other. That's why even people like [Glenn] Beck's audience,
who I'd wager are mostly lower-income people, can't imagine themselves
protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are
the ones who fucked them over. . . .
Actual rich people can't ever be the target.
It's a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling
and bowing whenever the master's carriage rides by, then fuming
against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever
after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you're
a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now,
this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master
does, you're on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross
in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your
life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers
full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately
salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is
loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that's
what we've got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around
for a non-target to mis-punish . . . can't be mad at AIG, can't
be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be
the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those
bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking,
it's struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of
taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It's really weird stuff.
One might think it would be a big news
story for the second most-powerful member of the U.S. Senate to
baldly state that the Congress is "owned" by the bankers
who spawned the financial crisis and continue to dictate the government's
actions. But it won't be. The leading members of the media work
for the very corporations that benefit most from this process.
Establishment journalists are integral and well-rewarded members
of the same system and thus cannot and will not see it as inherently
corrupt (instead, as Newsweek's Evan Thomas said, their role,
as "members of the ruling class," is to "prop up
the existing order," "protect traditional institutions"
and "safeguard the status quo").
That Congress is fully owned and controlled
by a tiny sliver of narrow, oligarchical, deeply corrupted interests
is simultaneously so obvious yet so demonized (only Unserious
Shrill Fringe radicals, such as the IMF's former chief economist,
use that sort of language) that even Durbin's explicit admission
will be largely ignored. Even that extreme of a confession (Durbin
elaborated on it with Ed Schultz last night) hardly causes a ripple.