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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

by Philip J. Rappa
It only took Wall Street and K-Street nine years to destroy our financial institutions and our credibility abroad.
There is no need to be a forensic pathologist to understand the cause of death of America’s financial institutions and our credibility abroad. The only thing required is a familiarity with our history.

Over the past twenty-nine years, beginning with the 96th Congress and concluding with the 106th, there has been a systematic concerted effort by our elected officials to unravel the remaining vestiges of our institutions that represented our sovereignty as a nation. If we just round up these usual suspects, based on reasonable suspicion we can begin to delineate more then just probable cause, but most importantly the direct cause of our misfortune.

Following the stock market crash of 1929, laws were enacted to prevent another debacle: The Glass-Steagall Act and the creation of the FDIC—both officially named the Banking Act of 1935. These laws set in motion the apparatus separating commercial banks from investment banks; this arrangement worked for sixty-four years.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) included banking reforms, some of which were designed to control speculation. Some provisions, such as Regulation Q, allowed The Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates in savings accounts. In 1980, congress in all its wisdom repealed the FDIC reforms by enacting the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act.

Then on November 12, 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act, which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. One of the effects of the repeal was to allow commercial and investment banks to consolidate. From that moment in time it only took Wall Street and K-Street nine years to destroy our financial institutions and our credibility abroad.

The only noteworthy fact that is prologue to this disaster is that each generation preceding us has had its own financial calamity ushered in by unencumbered and unbridled capitalism. Each time profit trumped public interest. The agents of our despair have treated their oath of office as if it were an antiquated notion, giving their allegiance as well as aid and comfort to the free market, while the working man became little more then an expendable asset.

Each generation had its own brand of corporate and government corruption and cronyism and an understanding of the collusion between the government, industry, military and the bankers. Even to a casual observer a pattern seems to emerge. Humanity has struggled for centuries to unshackle themselves from the subjugation of kings, popes, empires and raw capitalism.

In one generation we have idly watched as these same elected officials dismantled our nation’s industries, sending them, our jobs and our technology to foreign shores to be made on the cheap. America’s labor force has been disemboweled, placed on a pyre fueled by vapors of a gossamer web that once epitomized America’s “Promise”: that of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been shredded by an unregulated corporate free-market fanaticism.

The “Promise," once the tapestry of this nation’s domestic social contract, which was won by the blood, sweat and tears of those who came before us, has been shredded by an unregulated corporate free-market fanaticism. We on Main Street shall be left to pay the piper due to the treasonous actions of our elected officials and our own individual participation in this Ponzi scheme.

Philip J. Rappa is a writer, producer, director, humanitarian and former investor. Visit his website.

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This story was published on September 24, 2008.