When Banks Ain't Banks

Subtitle: Irony, Government and the consequence of certain sexual activities that might influence politics.

This article is NSFW.

Something startled me recently. The other day I finally realized that I have been paying more and more attention to advertising. Not on TV, mind you. I don’t watch TV anymore. Instead, for more than two years, I’ve been watching nothing but podcasts and various other internet channels. It’s where I get my news and info about everything (because the Internets should also be synonymous with pick & choose). On top of that, over the past two years I’ve read a lot of books about the financial crisis. To me, this crisis was caused by a culmination of a few obvious factors: 1. a greed-mongering society; 2. combine that with a country that has an attention span of old man with full-blown dementia… And so, the advertisement that twisted my thoughts is from American Express. You know, that old cupcake of an American Corpo institution that you never leave home without. Or was that Diners Club? Nomatter. Since the Amex ad played several times during the podcast I was listening to (and since I was raised by that attention span deficit society) it took a while for me to finally catch-on to what it was saying. Here’s my catch-on reaction:

Wait. That’s an American Express ad for a new online retail banking service. Wait. American Express can’t be a retail bank. Oh, yes. Of course it can. Remember the Bush/Paulson TARP plan? Remember what a Bank Holding Company is as established by the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956? Wait. There’s something wrong here. Indeed, this is America, there is something tragically wrong when a loan shark institution like Amex can also be your friendly Internets neighborhood bank. On the other hand, I reckon that’s the progress the world must pay for to have the likes of fail upwards America running the show.

Afraid yet? Me either. So. Here a bit of worst-history to sweeten your doom. The Banking Act of 1933 (not the one of ’56 mentioned above) established what was considered to be a safe-guard against irresponsible bankers who had so easily caused the great depression of 1929. Out of this act came FDIC and Glass-Steagal. The first is a government backed insurance agency that most people are familiar with because of those big stickers on bank doors and drive-thru windows that complete the lie that your money is safe. Glass-Steagal was part of that same government trying to establish a wall between the irresponsible bankers and the common folk that were supposed to be holders of savings accounts, i.e. retail banks were separated from investment banks so that when banks fail, as is the case in 1929, depositors weren’t just left with shirts on their backs. Fairly easy to understand, eh? Wait. Hold a sec.

The Banking Act of 1933 worked fairly well up until 1999–even though there were a lot of banking acts in-between. One particular act stands out with gusto. I like to call it The Great Blowjob Act. This act was sponsored by a woman who doesn’t swallow in a hallway of The White House. But one more thing (or two) on acts before getting into blowjobs. Other than the FDIC, the most important part of The Banking Act of 1933 was Glass-Steagal. This act–post Blowjob Act–was repealed by the Gramm Leach Bliley Act of 1999. Got the chronology? Got the Acts?

Ok. The repeal of Glass-Steagal is probably the single most important banking act to occur since… Nomatter. It was fought over for years between conservatives (both Democrats and Republicans) and non-conservatives (mostly Democrats). With his questionable White House hallway behavior, the one Democrat that could maintain a non-conservative stance in the government regarding this very important law that would shape the near future, Clinton fell for the The Blowjob Act and then proceeded to brilliantly lie about it before a grand jury, subsequently compromising the only power he had to do one last worthwhile thing before his presidency ended. Literally caught in the act, he did not veto the bill that would allow 1929 to happen all over again. And that says a lot for two people getting it on in a hallway, she on her knees and he standing above as the commander and chief. I mean, other than running the free world and determining the financial future of countless useless-eaters, the image of Clinton blowing his goo on a blue dresses–an act among consenting adults, I might add–is a nice one. And since I’m being as honest as I can be here, the same image but with Hillary is nice, too. I mean, come on, the guy went from being a hick from Arkansas to the White House. There should be a door in that house to allow anyone in that wants to give… (See note at the end for more on blowjobs.)

Bill Clinton signed the Gramm Leach Bliley Act. With that, we have yet another government irony of epic proportions. From 1933 till 1999 banks were regulated so that they would, at least, separate securities and investments from simpleton depositors. This was a time in your consumer history where the only way for people to spend was if they used money they had on hand, of which there was none. The problem during that period was that the economy was at a stand still, it was stalled in post WW2 apathy. Since the men running the show were typically closeted conservatives, men who couldn’t imagine anything even if imagination pills were used to spike their highballs, there was nothing to be done. Of course, there was also the burden of things like the 1973 oil crisis, which practically choked the economy. But then something akin to a sucker-punch happened. Enter the era of political trickery, sodden ideology, the second face (as in two-face) of American’t conservatism. By 1982 Ronald Reagan and his beautiful lie of Reaganomics had arrived. For you see, the trickery that this man of a particular kind of imagination came up with was simple. It was basically this: let them eat cake… on credit. And with that, the floodgates opened wide. There was a way for rampent consumption to circumvent silly economic things like money supply, since at the time consumer credit wasn’t prevalent.

What Americans failed to realize every time they charged something or took an equity loan only to take on more debt was that banks, particularly the master-minds of Wall Street, were concocting limitless ways of manipulating outrageous profits from money that just wasn’t there. What was there, though, was an American population blinded by materialism and a willingness to live a life of debt, even though no one believed that that debt was directly connected to anything real. Hence America put a mediocre actor that played with Monkeys in his films and probably had Alzheimer’s since the age of 29 in the White House. Oh, the American way of life manifest in all things fictional and happy and shinny: ka-ching, baby, and put some mouse ears on that dream. Of course, if anyone thought that things were bad because of the flood doors opened up by Reagan, wait till the election year of 2000 rolls around.

Reaganomics lived on through presidents, that’s no secret. Then came Clinton who didn’t change things much but what he did change was enough to prevent most Americans from being able to wrap their limited attention spans around it. He would let consumers and the market do as they please but at the same time he would reduce the burden of debt of the government. Why conservatives who want small government don’t praise him for doing this is the best example yet proving how so many voters vote with bigotry and ignorance as their compass. Comparatively speaking, the amount of debt the US Government had when Clinton was finished with his second term, should go down in history as a miracle–especially compared to the free-for-all unleashed by Reaganomics. Yet, at best, such a miracle always seems to be nothing more than a footnote. Yeah, I reckon Americans are more obsessed with Clinton’s Blowjob Act, blue dresses and how much his wife was going to tolerate–or join–such behavior.

My guess is–and that’s really all this worst-post is, dear worst-reader–Bill Clinton, by giving in to the conservative politicians that were in the pockets of Wall Street, was a desperate man during the last year or two of his presidency. At the least, all he wanted was to find a way to save his House-impeached ass. And find a way Mr. Teflon did. Bill Clinton got away Scott-free with a Senate acquittal of a House impeachment for lying about his love of fellatio by interns, country-bumbkin cuties and potential centerfold playmates. And he did so by doing something that even the devil would think is an exaggeration above and beyond selling your soul.

Morally self-righteous and sexually repressed Americans had a political gabfest hating Bill Clinton–no matter what he had achieved. Practically speaking, he had done a pretty good job running a very corrupt government. Remember, presidents don’t make laws. The only thing presidents can do is veto a law. The rest is up to congress. The laws being made during the Clinton years were, especially those regarding the economy, all based on the lie that was Reaganomics. Obviously, Clinton had no friends among law makers. I’d like to think that, in some cases, he held out as long as he could and fought against reactionary law makers, but, in the end, again, the Pres. doesn’t make laws. And so, as only Clinton could, he faced up to the crazy, batshit, conservative congress–even while they were trying to crucify him. At times such persecution makes me wonder if Clinton signed Gramm Leach Bliley out of spite. Or, maybe, by the time it hit his desk, he just said: ah fuck it, if these dumb-ass voters keep voting in nutbag repubs to congress, what the hell am I supposed to do about nutbag laws! In the end, when everyone in the country could finally say fellatio at the dinner table, for which we should all be thankful, Billy-boy was left hangin’ naked and oiled–just the way he probably likes it. I mean, talk about leaving a man out in the cold–not that being in the cold would prevent him from having a raging hard-on the size of Florida.

But let me get back to epic government irony (and eventually to American Express’ advert that caught my eye). Enter Turdblossom Bush and his version of American fail upwardness. Bush, obviously, represented a culture that is obsessed with the past. He is his father’s son. He is, also, the embodiment of the baby-boomer generation that was incapable of understanding the tech boom (dot com boom). IMHO, dear worst-reader, it was the tech boom that could have carried the US economy into the future–which, it just so happens, was what The Great Blowjob Act president was all for. Instead, with Bush, that future would ride on war and oil just like the past. Way to go America. And so. Unable to fully liquidate the government surplus he inherited from Clinton, Bush received the greatest gift any president could wish for.

Bush’s gift came in the form of a green light to spend unabashedly to fight a new fictional enemy that would replace the one his generation and his kind was reared on. Ironically, the thing that ultimately brought down Soviet Communism wasn’t a better military or even a stronger economy. It was the fact that the Soviets could not take on the same amount of debt the US could. Literally, the Soviet Union crashed because the loan sharks didn’t give it enough credit. Try to get debt burdened Americans to think about that irony!

Ok. Obviously. 9-11 gave the paranoid and angst-filled boomer generation that Bush represented a new enemy that allowed it to continue with its addiction to debt in the form of massive government and military expansion, including fighting hellaciously expensive wars against people that barely have anything at all to fight with. Also, let’s not forget that a completely new bureaucratic government apparatus, establishment by the Patriot Act, executed by homeland security, needs to be financed. Of course, you are told that these acts are about protecting you. Here. I’ve got some great land just south of Key West to sell you…

Subsequently all this new law making was also a front to steal from and manipulate the American tax payer to be suppliers of endless debt. Bush and his cronies lapped it up–for they are the ones that don’t let the blue dress get stained. Bush saw to it that the government spent the entire surplus given him by his predecessor as though there was something inherently wrong with such a surplus. Since Bush probably gave more blow jobs than he received–has everyone forgotten that macho, chauvinistic, patriarchal America elected a blue-blood, silver-plate born, failed oil man and a Princeton (male!) cheerleader to the countries highest office?–it is only natural that he also provide the venue from which the largest redistribution of wealth in American history could take place. The redistribution included taking what remained of middle class wealth (most of which was already lost to consume-to-survive) and shifting it to the 1% so they don’t have to pay for the impending crash that feels as though it has to rival 1929.

I, for one, will never forget listening to Bush tell debt-choked Americans, enthralled with fear of a fictional terrorist act, to go shopping. What Bush was really saying was this: In order to maintain your measly middle-class lives and prop up the consume-to-survive bubble that keeps my family and my political base richer, when you go shopping, you measly suckers, make sure you don’t pay in cash. And just like The Dude in The Big Lebowski, America obliged.

Enter the last irony. Enter the crash. During Bill Clinton’s final days in office I cannot imagine what he was going through. I mean, this guy had faced the greatest of the great when it comes to American political bigotry, hypocrisy and downright ugliness. It was as though the American (political) Right was hell-bent on, hell, I don’t know, providing some payback for what “liberals” did to Nixon? The commission set up and paid for with taxpayer money to prosecute Bill Clinton for a minor personal transgression couldn’t have been full of more self-righteousness and fake morality. But, as the saying goes, they ripped Clinton a new one. Yet. Luckily. Almost a decade later, Clinton appears at the Democratic national convention and gives what might just be one of the greatest election speeches that’s ever been given. Ironically, a few months prior at the Republican national convention, Turdblossom is no where to be seen or heard and look at the pack of idiots that the angst-filled-boomers have given America as presidential candidates.

So. What was Turblossom Bush going through during his final days in office? Not only had he trained-wrecked the United States with his idiotic war on terror and government expansion, but he also was facing an economic meltdown comparable only to the intellect he projected to the world. And what did he do when facing the next great depression? He pulled all his cronies together and set up what could become the systematic bail out of history’s ultimate failed economy. With that, the repeal of certain laws over the years, laws that were intended to protect people from run-amok bankers, could come full circle. Since 1999 we now live once again in the days that would lead up to 1929. Hence, American Express, a credit card company, a financial services company, a lone shark, etc., can now take your savings, your pay, and according to the Gramm Leach Bliley Act, use that money to prop up all the toxic debt of voodoo economics.

I digress.

The really sad reality here is that it’s not just American Express that caught my eye with a recent online advertisement. TARP has done the same for basically all banks, whether retail or investment. Obviously, and in hind sight, I’m not sure Bush had an alternative to TARP. Subsequently Obama couldn’t just shut the plan down. The mega-problem is, these “banks” have now all merged to become bank-zillas and they are facilitators–not originators–of America’s financial turmoil. And so, all your savings, all your 401ks, your stocks portfolios, the value of your homes, etc., all wealth in America that is actually earned by work (as opposed to being inherited or capital gained), is nothing more than fodder to prop up a toxic, doomed economy and an already failed banking system. Wow. 1929 welcomes you to your future.



Rant on.



PS Here a little bit from a Wiki entry about American Express and it’s conversion to TARP bank that I thought of when I first realized what commercial I was watching:

“On November 10, 2008, during the financial crisis of 2008, Amex won Federal Reserve System approval to convert to a bank holding company, making it eligible for government help under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).”

PSS This is not a post where Tommi expresses his political affiliation. I could give a hoot about political parties. But the political process, that brilliant process encoded in the constitution of the United States… Now that means something to me!

Note. Here a bit more irony regarding White House blowjobs. Anybody remember the Jeff Gannon scandal from the Bush administration? I think it’s just as cute as buttons on puppies that during the Clinton years blowjobs were girl on guy but the ones given during Bush’s regime were guy on guy. Jeff Gannon was a $200/night gay prostitute when he was not softballing conservative-agenda questions posing as a White House correspondent for a press agency unbeknownst to anyone. Obviously sexually repressed conservative America has a long way to go before it comes to terms with all the closets its hiding in.