"They loaded up the truck and moved to Bevelree--hills that is," so the song went. And despite the fact that the Clampetts were out of their rural element, somehow they always got the best of Mr. Drysdale, the slick big-city banker. This was a common theme in American pop culture at least since the rise of progressive politics in America in the 1890's--the notion that cities were full of corruption and greedy people, but it was the heartland of America that could always be counted on to uphold moral values and clean up the worst excesses of these metropolitan robber barons.
If only this notion were true.
As I see it, the truth is that the "heartland" people have for the most part been fooled and taken to the cleaners lock, stock and barrels by the real banker-schemers of American banking, investments and financial chicanery. At least two trillion dollars in retirement savings and housing values have gone up the chimney in the last four years and is not coming back k. It's so bad that, as President Obama pointed out in a recent interview for CBS, many of these Wall Street investors manipulate the laws so well through their shock troops in the lobbying sector that what they did was not technically illegal. That is, once the firewall between the investment banks and the regular commercial banks and mortgage industries was removed with the final repeal of the Glass-Stegall Act of 1933, sixty-six years after it was passed to prevent an economic calamity, Wall Street's major players indeed went on a spree, cashed in on their winnings and took the rest of us to the cleaners by the necessity of bailing them out.
O.K., a lot of you are saying this is old news. Yes it is. But what isn't old news--what is damn pertinent to people all over this nation and in Europe and other parts of the globe--is that these same high finance forces are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the establishment of new (i.e. restored ) regulations to keep it from happening again. A new Consumer Protection Agency has been established by an earlier Democratic-controlled Congress but now it faces being rendered powerless by the same people who put us all in an economic ditch.
These banksters want to keep us as many folks as ignorant as possible of what their rights are and of what is really going on when they sign on the dotted line for a line of credit or a home mortgage.
How fitting that today, when the powers of unregulated financial clout have driven us to the not-so pretty pass we see today--that one of West Coast's best editorial writers, Bill Varble of the Medford Mail Tribune, has drawn a paralell between the benign pop culture zaniness of the 1960's to the malignant aspects of unregulated consumer-capitalism of today. Here is the main thrust of his December 11 editorial:
"The CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau) is the brainchild of Harvard law Professor (and now Massachusetts Senate candidate) Elizabeth Warren, who was passed over to lead the agency because Republicans objected to her, and because Cordray, although a Democrat, was considered more politically palatable. But Republicans, who had said for months they would block any nomination to run the agency, say it should have no director at all. They say it should be run by an "oversight board." And they want to require it to seek congressional approval of its budget instead of being funded by the Federal Reserve, of which it is a part.
"Republicans denied they want to weaken the new agency or undermine its mission to protect Wall Street cronies.
"This notion we are against consumer protection, that we're trying to gut CFPB, is just silly," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the Senate's banking committee, declared with a straight face.
"What's silly is to insist a new agency to protect consumers be run by a five-person committee, and that you get to hold the purse strings, and then to suggest there's any other explanation than the obvious: When it comes down to consumers vs. Wall Street, you're looking out for the Street.
"Where does it go from here? Bet on Obama appointing Cordray to the post through a "recess appointment" when the Congress is not in session, probably in January, and Republicans howling that that's not fair, and off we'll go again.
"In the meantime, the CFPB is overseeing mortgages to prevent some of the abuses that led to the mortgage meltdown, one of its main duties. It is not, however, doing anything about issues such as payday loan abuses. And as Washington watchers know, no agency in town is going to be effective without capable, energetic leadership.
In the classic TV sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies," the money-hungry bank president, Mr. Drysdale, was always willing to jump through any hoops to toady up to the nouveau riche Clampetts. In real life, 99 percent of us are anonymous cyphers playing a zero-sum game with the colossus that is the financial industry."http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111211/NEWS/112110314/-1/news0104
'Caveat Emptor' is a slogan we can no longer afford. Regulations must be restored and consumers must have protections against under-handedness. To do otherwise, to let a second economic crisis befall us, would be the height of bumpkin-ness.
It remains to be seen if enough American voters have learned the lesson--that rich or poor, smart or just aware , it doesn't pay to be a Jed Clampett.