Banks have created all the dollars that exist. Even dollars created at the direction of the federal government actually come into being when banks increase the numbers in checking accounts.
This gives the banks enormous financial power, and as we all know, power corrupts - especially when multiplied by a profit motive.
Although the federal government also is powerful and corrupted, it does not suffer from a profit motive, the world's most corrupting influence.
The above-referenced link, "The end of private banking" (written in 2012) ends with the following, prophetic words:
(Banks) cannot be trusted to work in the best interests of the public. Their motive is profits, not service to the public.
Their misdeeds have caused the recession, damage to the economy and the growing gap between those people with high income (1%) and the rest (99%).
Congressional conservatives will not supervise the bank's insatiable thirst for profits, which motivates all bank activities. Damage control by the federal government has become an increasing need.
All bank problems boil down to the profit motive. Rather than breaking up the TBTF banks into smaller, (hopefully) more controllable pieces, we should eliminate their fundamental problem, the profit motive.
And, what better way to eliminate the profit motive, than to put banks under total government control, i.e. ownership?
All of the above came to mind when I read an article in Time Magazine. Here are a few excerpts:
For the enemies of big banks, it was a dream come true. John Stumpf, the CEO of what until recently had been the most valuable bank in the world, Wells Fargo, sat alone under the bright lights of a Senate hearing on Sept. 20, meekly receiving a three-hour public flogging - from industry-friendly Republicans, no less.
Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, who is up for re-election, called the bank's behavior "unbelievable" and "deeply disturbing."
The committee's GOP chair, Richard Shelby of Alabama, broke out Watergate language: What did Stumpf know, and when did he know it?
The outrage was real.
Actually, the outrage was phony - a bit of Broadway showmanship to calm the public. If the outrage were real, laws would be passed and Stumpf would be on his way to prison.
Soon, the GOP will be back to cutting supervision of the TBTF banks, in return for nice, juicy bribes . . . er, ah . . . campaign contributions and promises of lucrative employment later.
On Sept. 8, government officials revealed that Wells had opened more than 2 million bank and credit-card accounts for customers without their permission from 2011 through 2015, resulting in $2.6 million in unwarranted fees for tens of thousands of unsuspecting clients.
If you pass one bad check, you will go to jail. When Stumpf supervises the opening of 2 million fake accounts, he receives a bonus.
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren offered her opinion to a visibly uncomfortable Stumpf: "The only way that Wall Street will change is if executives face jail time when they preside over massive frauds."
Yes, the fines mean nothing. They are pocket change to the banks, and have zero impact on bank management - virtually an invitation to future corruption. ("Steal millions, and we'll fine the bank and give you a tongue-lashing.")
Stumpf had built the bank's much admired success on a business strategy that fostered such fraud. "Cross-selling," or pushing account holders to open new accounts with Wells, was his pride and joy.
Stumpf touted his company's success with the tactic. The value of Stumpf's personal holdings jumped by $200 million.
The man made an extra $200 million based on criminality. Give me one reason why he would want to be honest in the future.
Regional bosses set daily quotas for tellers and personal bankers, requiring them to stay late and work weekends or risk being fired.
In a criminal enterprise, the least criminal (or heaven forbid, honest) workers will be punished.
Wells' management learned of the problem in 2011, but when the city of Los Angeles raised concerns in 2013, Wells said it didn't give customers any accounts or services they didn't need.
Stumpf was being paid an extra $200 million to do what? Claim ignorance of complaints? Claim ignorance of malfeasance? What exactly was he being paid to do, if not to condone criminality?
In the world of private banking, the Sergeant Schultz defense ("I know nothing; I see nothing") not only works, but is rewarded handsomely.
Over time, Wells fired some 5,300 employees and claimed to be rooting out the problem. "This type of activity has no place in our culture," Stumpf testified.
But the cross-selling push continued until the day of the settlement in early September.
Worse, even as talks were under way, Stumpf and the bank's board gave a lavish retirement package to the executive in charge of community banking, Carrie Tolstedt, who walked away with $124.6 million in stock and options.
Employees were fired for doing exactly what their bosses told them to do. The little guys always are expendable. Foot soldiers die so generals can receive promotions.
The Justice Department has reportedly issued subpoenas and begun a criminal probe.
U.S. federal prosecutors are vying for the right to go after the bank, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is weighing penalties for managers.
Criminal probe? Hah! No executives will go to jail. At most, some mid-level chumps will be fined and fired. The top dogs will receive the Carrie Tolstedt bonus treatment.
Democratic staffers on the Hill have discussed the unlikely prospect that special powers could be triggered, allowing regulators to break up Wells.
It won't happen, but even if it did, it would mean nothing. The result would be smaller, even more crooked banks, rule by additional crooked executives.
And by the way, no "special powers" are needed. The RICO statutes provide ample power and punishments for members of criminal enterprises, which the big, privately-owned banks have proven to be.
Meanwhile, GOP staffers and their allies at other banks are as angry at Wells as anyone.
They say the revelations, coming amid the current populist atmosphere, have at least temporarily derailed efforts to roll back the Dodd-Frank act, which imposed new oversight rules on Wall Street.
Yes, the GOP thinks the rules are too strict, and are angry at Stumpf, not for stealing from the public, but for getting caught.
As for rolling back bad behavior there, says Richard Cordray, head of the powerful but politically embattled Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which imposed $100 million of the federal fine on Wells, "it's a big project to change the culture at the banks."
Fines mean nothing. They are treated as a cost of doing business. The only way - the ONLY way - to change the culture is jail the top executives.
Unfortunately, that will require a President and a Congress who actually care more about protecting the public than about protecting the banksters.
GOP attempts to cut Dodd-Frank are not a good omen.
If money is the root of evil, the profit motive is the path to the root of evil. Federal ownership of banks eliminates the profit motive.
There is no consumer value provided by private ownership of banks. None.
Crooked bankers should be fired and jailed. Their replacements should be federal employees, paid a reasonable salary, based not on any measure of profitability, but rather on providing efficient, honest service to the American public.
Banks, being the primary creators of America's sovereign currency, should be federal agencies, not private money troughs for the bankster pigs.
And the criminals should be jailed.
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