Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
October 3, 2014
Mr. President: Did you happen to listen This American Life last Friday? It is unlikely
you are not familiar with it, but it is a program sourced at WBEZ Chicago Public Radio
and disseminated nationwide.
Hearing it, one became immediately mindful of the oligarchic nature of our
democracy. Carmen Segurra a New York Fed Examiner began to secretly record her
meetings when she became frustrated with the manner in which the Examiners
supervised the big players -- the sample broadcast illustrated a shady deal by
Goldman-Sachs skirting the limits of the law. It involved holding a Spanish bank's
(Banco Santander) loans so as not to trigger a demand on the bank for more capital
by the Spanish regulators. The service which clearly defeated the purpose of bank
regulation (although in Spain) netted Goldman a handsome fee.
Not only was there no question of the deal not going through, but the deference of
the examiners and the arrogance of the bankers was palpable. It is also quite likely a
small bank would have been warned off by the power of Fed Examiners; not so
Goldman-Sachs who ran roughshod over them after a wimpy one-sentence comment
by the lead examiner at the meeting called to discuss the deal. Banco Santander was
clearly more worried about the nature of the deal and wanted prior Fed approval. For
Goldman this meant merely a terse email informing the examiners the deal had been
concluded. Is this what regulatory capture is about?
There is also a segment where Ms. Segurra is evaluated by her supervisor. Judged
highly competent professionally, she is, nevertheless, informed (somewhat awkwardly)
by him that there have been complaints ... that she needs to show "more humility" ...
that she has a tendency to "break eggs" ... that if she wants to be successful, she will
have to be more of a "team player". Who is exerting the pressure? We are not told.
Are the higher-ups at the New York Fed too chummy with the management at the
too-big-to-fail banks. We can only assess the evidence and come to our own
If the President of our country can say, yes, we had a financial disaster but no law
was broken, then logically the law must be changed to avert a future crisis. Surely the
public purse cannot keep picking up the tab for bankers' losses each time their legally
permitted recklessness lands them in virtual bankruptcy, while they continue to reap
profits in the good years. The gambling by commercial banks threatens the economy
as a whole, and it has to stop. The obvious way to do it is Glass-Steagall, but it would
certainly hit those multimillion dollar bonuses. Anyhow, who listens to the public these
All of the above is small potatoes when we consider the earth itself is coming to grief.
Nero sings while Rome burns ... . George Monbiot writing in the Guardian reminds us
that over fifty percent of vertebrates have become extinct in the last forty years. The
country of Tuvalu in the Pacific faces the prospect of being swallowed completely by
the rising sea, as does The Maldives in the Indian Ocean.
As Mr. Monbiot observes, the current economic model of GDP growth is
unsustainable when climate change is causing such havoc, and this precious earth is
losing the ability to right itself. Needless to say, the growth is clearly devoted to the
appetites of the very rich -- 93 percent of growth in income going to the top one
percent in our country.