As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.
The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.
"But wait a minute," you say to them. "No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what's left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?"
But before you even finish saying that, they're rolling their eyes, because You Don't Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they're on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.
Matt Taibbi can never be accused of moderation of language, but strip it down and it doesn't sound any better. The people who spent billions making sure that their complex financial transactions stayed out of the cross hairs of federal regulators, are now receiving trillions for their failing companies from the federal government in the form of shadowy and unaccountable loans and payments, at the behest of men who ostensibly work for the government but once hobnobbed with these captains of finance. In response, they patronize and condescend to anyone foolish enough to second guess their methods, insist that they are integral to the recovery process, celebrate when the government agrees to hand over more money, and bitch and moan about "misdirected" public anger over all of this. An optimist might be inclined to think that the Obama administration is on top of all this, like they say they are. A cynic might just be inclined to believe Taibbi's version, that we're all suckers and in the end the rogues on Wall Street who caused this mess will still be in charge, still raking in millions, while people like you and me are looking for jobs. These days, it's very hard not to be a cynic.