Big Capital Makes the Case for Socialism

J.P. Morgan and Bank of America just this week illustrated again the need for big, socialist government.

Sometimes government should be small, to allow individual creativity, and sometimes big, to achieve victory over society’s enemies. In just the last few days, two behemoths of capitalism–J.P. Morgan and Bank of America–have made the case, unintentionally, for government not just big but socialist. J.P. Morgan admitted that it was up to all the old Wall St. tricks that created the Financial Crisis of 2008 that stole homes out from under millions of Americans and left millions of others unemployed. Bank of America arrogantly refused stockholders’ calls for it to investigate itself to detect fraudulent foreclosure behavior. A well brought up five-year-old knows enough to think critically about his or her own behavior.

Everyone is of course now having fun at Jamie Dimon’s expense, not that he can’t afford it with his repulsive $25M a year salary, unfortunately eclipsing Bank of America’s sneering attitude toward both stockholders and customers, which may cause even more harm to U.S. society. Unfortunately, the critical rhetoric focuses on the obvious but superficial calls for regulation.

Regulation of the out-of-control financial piracy of Big Capital is a perhaps useful band-aid that may stem the loss of financial blood while we move the U.S. financial system to the hospital, but what the patient needs is either major surgery or to be put out of its misery. Americans need to have a real national debate about the terms of this restructuring but must take care to avoid wasting time; four years have already been wasted, and Romney clearly feels no embarrassment in defending the system that brought us the Financial Crisis, suggesting that he at least feels that enough Americans can be hoodwinked once again to get him into the
White House.

There is perhaps no harm in immediately instituting some obvious regulations:

  • no bank should be permitted to gamble with its own money;
  • derivatives should be regulated with total transparency if not banned entirely; 
  • the revolving door between financial institution management and government positions that facilitates capitalist pirates writing laws to cheat the American people should be slammed shut.

Beyond regulations, new laws would help.

  • Punishments should be made up close and personal for all officials of financial institutions that take government bailouts. All income beyond minimum wage levels obtained (one hardly dares say “earned”) for, say, the five years leading up to any receipt of government welfare or bailouts should be forfeited.
  • The tax code should immediately be reformed to ensure that income tax levels for workers are always lower than capital gains. It is a fundamental moral point that earned income should be taxed less harshly than unearned income: there is a reason it’s called “unearned,” folks!
But all this is just band-aids. The real issue that Americans should be discussing in this election year is how to put the American people back in the driver’s seat and put Big Finance in its place. Our individualist capitalism system may work great on Main Street, but on Wall Street it has become too big to tolerate. In a word, then, to what degree does the U.S. now need to replace capitalism with socialism?

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