Bill Moyers Essay: Wall Street’s Secret Weapon: Congress

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Why haven’t any big bankers been prosecuted for their role in the housing crisis that led to the Great Recession?

These finance executives took part in “scandals that violate the most basic ethical norms,” as the head of the IMF Christine Lagarde put it last month, including illegal foreclosures, money laundering and the fixing of interest rate benchmarks. In fact, banking CEOs not only avoided prosecution but got average pay rises of 10 percent last year, taking home, on average, $13 million in compensation.

These “gentlemen” are among the leaders of the industry’s efforts to repeal, or water down, some of the tougher rules and regulations enacted in the Dodd-Frank legislation that was passed to prevent another crash. As usual, they’re swelling their ranks with the very people who helped to write that bill. More than two dozen federal officials have pushed through the revolving door to the private sector they once sought to regulate.

And then there are the lapdogs in Congress willfully collaborating with the financial industry. As the Center for Public Integrity put it recently, they are “Wall Street’s secret weapon,” a handful of representatives at the beck and call of the banks, eager to do their bidding. Jeb Hensarling is their head honcho. The Republican from Texas chairs the House Financial Services Committee, which functions for Wall Street like one of those no-tell motels with the neon sign. Hensarling makes no bones as to where his loyalties lie. “Occasionally we have been accused of trying to undermine aspects of Dodd-Frank,” he said recently, adding, with a chuckle, “I hope we’re guilty of it.” Guilty as charged, Congressman. And it tells us all we need to know about our bought and paid for government that you think it’s funny.

This essay is part of the show Too Big to Fail and Getting Bigger. Watch now »

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  • Anonymous

    Financial collapse does not help banks. (Scratches head)

  • allen

    To find out why none of these people have gone to jail and what the solution to the problem is read about Government Sanctioned Racketeering.

  • Pablo G. Baldazo

    Financial collapse affected different banks in varied fashion but many of their CEOs received massive financial benefits. Can we sue banks because of the collapse because they caused it?

  • Texsbill Gran

    reed my 10 part series titled “Unimportant” on twtr & fb…DEMOCRACY means MAJORITY of people help determine government policies via representation…most people help shape & steer the government…i’ve personally had a front row seat to the wealthiest gaining even greater wealth and power; began studying economics 1978, the same time the Wealthy Culture began it’s ascent…usa is not a DEMOCRACY – it is a subverted, twisted form of CAPITALISM…the impact and effects of economic changes takes years, even decades, to be felt…so the current younger generation will have an overall lower quality of life than we do now…S-L-O-W yet continual decline in our standards-of-living is ongoing and deepening.

  • Barry Epstein

    Paradoxically, it did. Rich financiers got even richer, and when the dust settled, they owned millions of houses and businesses, and the amalgamated banks were even bigger and richer than ever before.

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t you heard? Holder and Obama are opposed to jail time for what they term “non-violent” offenders, and they are actively seeking to free up people that just “got caught up dealing 0.5KG of Cocaine”.

    Besides, haven’t you been following the news? This past week alone there were two massive $50B+ deals for US companies doing reverse buy outs of overseas companies to be able to re-incorporate abroad. Go ahead, try to raise their taxes and be even more antagonistic to CEOs. Lets see how fast these companies will re-incorporate in Ireland and other more friendly shores.

    You NEED these CEOs to feel welcome in the US. You will NOT like the results, if they don’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1515013413 Jim Shannon

    CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$ own Congress which has clearly declared ALL of them including themselves to be “Above the Law”! Malignant Narcissists rule Americans and there is nothing “we the people” can do to stop them from destroying everyone and everything!

  • Anonymous

    Big business owns enough leaders in congress to continue picking pockets, paying fines, while not having to admit guilt and ensuring us they are going to make changes. And they do, they invent a new way to pick pockets and continue to fill the pockets of our congressional leaders while growing their influence, wealth, and power. Sweet deal!

  • commoncents

    I think the problem is that the choices we wind up with are usually already bought to some degree. There are exceptions to everything of course, but the pickings are slim. I am certainly choosing to exercise my protest vote next time around, although some call it a waste.

  • Anonymous

    If incumbents didn’t get reelected; there would be an earthquake in Washington – but that is not what happens.

  • Anonymous

    Moyers talks about “Congress willfully collaborating with the financial industry” – he didn’t see fit to include the President in his accusation for some reason. That omission was the point that I was making in my post. If voters want to make sure that things stay the same; then they just have to keep reelecting the same people and that is what the voters continue to do. The voters reelected the President and about 90% of the incumbents who ran for reelection in Congress. Voters whine about Congress; but when the election comes they reelect the same people just like they reelected the President. Why should any incumbent take complaints seriously when they continue to get reelected by the voters?

  • GregoryC

    You can thank gerrymandering for that outcome, where politicians redraw districts choosing voters, rather than voters choosing which politician wins a district race.

  • GregoryC

    You can thank gerrymandering for that outcome, where politicians redraw districts choosing voters, rather than voters choosing which politician wins a district race.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1515013413 Jim Shannon

    @ walstir…..Thanks for proving my point! We do in fact continue to elect the politicians that are ALL owned by the CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$! Fact is they are ALL above the law and Observed Reality proves there is in fact NOTHING we can do to stop the corruption of government!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1515013413 Jim Shannon

    You are 100% correct, corruption of government by CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$ does in fact happen ALL the time! The clear failure to prosecute the fraudsters and your link are proof of systemic financial corruption, the price of which is ALWAYS paid by the consumer!

  • Anonymous

    Regarding gerrymandering – there are straightforward methods of setting the boundaries of voting districts using a formal mathematical model such as the shortest splitline algorithm described here:
    http://rangevoting.org/SplitLR.html
    The real issue here is that neither party wants a method that doesn’t provide an opportunity for their own party to secure a potential partisan advantage. See:
    “The 10 Most Gerrymandered Districts In America”
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/qsahmed/the-10-most-gerrymandered-districts-in-america-dh45
    According to this article, the most gerrymandered district in America is North Carolina’s 12th congressional district which elected Democrat Mel Watt (who resigned to become head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency). The Representatives from all the surrounding districts are Republicans. In all likelihood, some of the other examples advantage the Republicans instead of the Democrats.

    The Founders very carefully designed a system where who forms the government is not determined by some sort of nationwide popular vote and the American system has never been based on a simplistic “the majority always wins” process. Every state gets two Senators regardless of how large or small the population of the various states. The number of Representatives per state is only roughly proportional to the state population. A party getting 100% of the vote in one district and 49% in the remaining districts would only win the one district and lose all the rest despite having an overall majority – because they are only the first choice in a single district. How votes are distributed is designed to be just as important that how many votes a candidate gets.

  • Anonymous

    Nothing? – stop reelecting the same people when they run for reelection.

  • John de Clef Piñeiro, Esq.

    It is said that a fish rots from the head, and that observation is so obviously apt to describe what has become of our elected chambermaids to the corporate elite.

    It seems that our electing representatives throws them into a gladiatorial pit that then compels them to act in despicable ways just to survive from election to election. Surely, we can – and must – do better than this.

  • NotARedneck

    “According to this article, the most gerrymandered district in America is
    North Carolina’s 12th congressional district which elected Democrat Mel
    Watt”

    That’s because, in most states, the RepubliCONs would like to put all Democrat voters in one district. They’d do it house by house, if this weren’t so difficult.

  • HopeWFaith

    Certainly agree with you. We can, and we must do better than this.

  • HopeWFaith

    Public funding of all political campaigns. VERY strong Rules on Limits of Contributions. Automatic registration of all people turning 18, to vote if they choose to. No exceptions. A place to start.

  • manuvet66

    Mr. Moyers said it best when stating, ‘our bought and paid government.’ With the revolving door for federal officials now working as ‘corporate whores,’ will continue the work of the Wall Street money barons and continue with their lock on government and further erode any confidence of the people on a representative government-that should be working for the better interests of us all. Originally, the tea party had the right idea, in the beginning-until the movement was taken over by the very same forces that want to keep us complacent and even convincing many, in the ranks, that’s it’s best to attempt to fix the country’s problems by diverting from the original targets-TBTF banks and corrupted government officials. Even Obama has been a total failure when, it came to corralling the perps that started it all-Wall Street and financial regulators. Nope, there’s no trusting congress to correct its ways, other than to join the movement in getting money out of the political process by amending the constitution to disallow the fusion of corporate money-’cause we know very well the SCOTUS are also in on the scheme.

  • Anonymous

    Instead the voters reelected Obama.

  • Anonymous

    “For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing,
    do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government
    looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years
    of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the
    breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair!
    Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with
    its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

    For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling
    its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.
    We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly,
    speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war
    profiteering.

    They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage
    to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is
    just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never
    before in all our history have these forces been so united against one
    candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and
    I welcome their hatred.

    I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of
    selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it
    said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.”

    This is a quote from FDR. We have a worthy heir to FDR today – Senator Elizabeth Warren. Let us all stand with her.

  • David

    The banks siphoned billions of dollars out of the citizenry, the ethanol lobby has you paying $6 for meat, and washing machines cost $1,000 dollars. And the go along media keeps reporting that the economy is on the upswing. With what?

  • Denver Catboy

    Whenever I hear ‘Both sides do it’ in regards to American Politics, I always start thinking either “republican plant”, “agitator”, or “well meaning but uninformed citizen” (a distant third, honestly). It always seems that we keep hearing this whole ‘both sides do it’ as a method of peeling off Democratic voters. Then we couple it with ‘life ain’t fair’ and ‘he who wins the most doesn’t always win, it’s all about position’. Definitely adds up to me to ‘republican plant’. To top it all off, something from the 1990s, nearly 20 years ago (I didn’t understand it in the 90s, when I was in my 20s, and I still don’t understand it today, when I’m in my 40s…)

    Here’s something interesting to think about as well. In 1993, when the 12th was created, there were 7 Democrats (plus the one new one), and 4 Republicans. 2 years later, this strategy went horribly wrong: 4 Democrats lost their jobs, A Republican was replaced with “One of the most conservative Republicans in the House”, who stayed on until the last election. This marked the first time since Reconstruction (if my eyeballing is right) that the GOP held a majority of seats in North Carolina. If the Democrat’s strategy was to make an insurmountable hold, the strategy blew up in their face bigtime.Your goal shouldn’t be to amass an insurmountable lead in one district by gathering votes. You do that to your _opposition_. If you have five districts that are 50% your side and 50% their side, and one district that’s 80% their side and 20% your side, what you do is you take as many of their voters from the 50/50 side-districts as you can, lump them into the 80/20 district, giving that district an even more lopsided margin, but giving you guaranteed (if close) victories in the other 4. Democrats win a crushing 85% of the vote in one district, but Republicans win 55% in 4 more? That’s a win for Republicans.

    The original United States was founded on the concept that there would be no political parties, and that representatives would be elected based on their positions, not their party. With the failing of that concept (pretty early on, my quick history research suggests that we had political parties within 2 years of the founding of the US, much to President Washington’s frustration), it became all to easy for manipulative political parties to achieve what is happening now. Perhaps if we revisited our government, we might come up with alternatives like instant runoffs, proportional representation, or something similar. But that’s a different conversation…