“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
—U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
Before moving on to some possible responses to the host of problems the financial sector has wrought, there is one more set of related issues to address. These concern what the rise of the financial sector has done to our governments, to our sense of certain places or functions as being “public”, and to our core notions of democracy.
Predatory Public Finance
First, it should come as no surprise that with local and state governments collecting billions of dollars from various tax streams, Wall Street was not going to leave this taxpayer money alone. Some of the most outrageous stories concern what happens when local governments—the ones we rely on to provide services like road maintenance, education, and policing—have had to turn to Wall Street for capital. Because of the Wall Street-induced recession, our municipal governments have suffered both a decline in tax receipts and an increase in social service spending. They have been battered by years of corporate fueled anti-government campaigning and they often lack the financial sophistication necessary to win negotiations with bankers. At times, Wall Street banks have employed methods, when dealing with our towns and cities, that are only a bit – and just sometimes – more nuanced that those the 19th Century Tammany Hall gangsters who used to rob New York City. In short, the mixing of the worlds of public service and high-finance has, as you might expect, been disastrous for the 99%.
It is probably most interesting to first review some of the flat-out robberies. Municipal bonds are a 3.7 trillion dollar industry in the U.S. To understand how big that is, the Gross National Product for the whole country was about 15 trillion dollars in 2012. So a smart thief should not be looking to steal a lot from every town or county bond offering. A little should do to make him very rich.
This is what some GE Capital traders figured out, namely how to rig the bidding for municipal investments. They ultimately went on trial and were convicted for it in U.S. v. Carolla.
Here’s what happened. GE Capital was competing with the likes of Bank of America and Chase to invest the money of various municipalities that were collecting revenue from the issuance of bonds meant to support new or renovated libraries, schools, roads, and such things. The towns did not immediately need the money coming in from the bonds, probably because whatever projects they were funding were not yet ready enough to necessitate major expenditures. So the towns retained middle-men to supposedly get “competitive” bids from financial firms to temporarily invest the money.
Remember, the towns wanted to get high interest rates on this money, because they were investing it, and so they wanted the competing firms to bid up the interest rate. Unfortunately, the GE Capital guys and their colleagues in these supposedly competitive auctions figured out that if they tipped one another off about the bids (i.e. engaged in bid-rigging), then the interest rates they ultimately needed to offer to get their hands on the municipalities’ money would come in a bit lower each time. But over ten plus years, that still really adds up even after you take into account having to grease the middle-men with some of the “savings”.
Exactly how much skimming this all added up to is either too big or too complicated to fully calculate, because we still don’t know, for sure. But some of the banks’ settlements to resolve the resulting claims have veered towards the high nine-figures, which gives you a sense of the proportions. As you can see, it is a kind of subtle thievery. That is, you don’t have to break into any vaults, but the extra money you end up with is just as green, and it comes just as much out of the pockets of taxpayers as if it was robbed from the county safe at gunpoint.
If you prefer an example of more old fashioned skullduggery, consider, too, the tale of how JP Morgan recently milked corrupt Jefferson County Alabama administrators to such an extent that the entire county government ended up in bankruptcy.
In the late 1990s, Jefferson County was required to do some infrastructure work that should have cost about $250 million, but after the work got going and construction firm pay-offs of municipal officials started flowing, the county went wild trying to build and repair more stuff. Where better to go for funding than Wall Street? The bank of choice here was JP Morgan, and this deal got so good for it that at one point JP Morgan actually paid Goldman Sachs $3 million to stay the heck out of Jefferson County and let it continue to serve as the sole financier of this money-laundering pay-off scam extraordinaire.
It all came crashing down for the really crooked-town officials, but not so much for JP Morgan, which paid a mere $25 million fine and handed-over another $50 million to help workers displaced as a result of the County’s financial collapse.
These are not the only stories of this kind, but rather than recite one horror story after another, let’s think a little more about the less extreme examples, just to get a better sense of how widespread the problem of Wall Street’s relationship with local governments is. Let’s look at Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia school district is the eighth-largest in the country, with a $2.3 billion operating budget for 242 schools serving 150,000 children, over 80% of whom are poor. Beginning in 2003, the district (and the city of Philadelphia itself) turned to big financial players like Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs to try getting some certainty on their growing debt obligations.
The parties entered into a series of “interest rate swaps”, which means they basically agreed to pay one another’s debt. Philadelphia school district agreed to pay the fixed-rate obligations the banks held, and, in exchange, the banks agreed to pay the floating-rate obligations of the schools. Philadelphia’s intent was presumably to make budgeting more predictable and possibly to save some money. Accounts of the motivation differ, however, because things went very wrong.
As interest rates plunged after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis (and have remained at historically low levels ever since), the fixed rate payments Philadelphia owed on the debt it assumed did not fall (Philadelphia, you will recall, opted for the “certainty” of a fixed rate, rather than an adjustable rate).
Philadelphia’s tax-base and support from the State were cut because of the Recession, and the school district was in no position to keep paying interest on the swaps it was locked into way above market rates. These total “costs” have exceed $300 million based on the combined effect of the interest rate swings and the cancellation fees the municipalities incurred to avoid having to enter into still more such swaps under the terms of the now horrible-looking original deals.
While Philadelphia has recently sued many of these banks on the grounds that their manipulations of interest rates through LIBOR (see chapter 5) had a lot to do with these unfortunate “swings”, you might still say that this sounds nothing like the above examples: after all, the banks did not steal this money, they just tremendously benefited from the plunge of interest rates and may have also tremendously out-negotiated the municipal parties (which happens a lot in these cases).
But, we’d argue, think for a moment about what is going on now in Philadelphia.
The banks entered into these “great” deals before 2008. But in 2008, their other not-so-great deals (the ones related to mortgaged-back-securities) sent them into what was probably technical insolvency and almost collapsed the American economy. And that was what caused the interest rates to swing against Philly school kids: bad economies mean less demand for money and lower interest rates.
Yet in the midst of this, who gets bailed-out? In any sane society, you would say… the kids, of course. But that’s not what happened. As we know, the banks got the bail-out, funded, in part, by the tax dollars of the parents of the very same Philly school kids to whom the banks had shown no mercy.
These days governments need banks. Bankers know it and frequently use that advantage to make deals which, in retrospect (and probably often in advance, too), demonstrate the negotiating imbalance between them. Financial transactions involving governments are often complex. A bond sale, for instance, can involve a small legion of bankers and lawyers and take several steps to execute. This offers a maze of nooks and crannies into which fees can be tucked and costs hidden. Middlemen are often retained to arrange transactions, and, remarkably, they don’t owe the municipalities or taxpayers any fiduciary obligations in handling public monies. There are also many transactions, like the Philadelphia ones, which are intended to transfer risk (always for a fee) and risk is notoriously hard to quantify. So even when cases are not as obviously corrupt as in the earlier examples of auction-fixing and county-official-bribing bankers, we need to press the issue and not let the questioning and analysis just end there.
Philadelphia made a bad bet, just as a large percentage of the American public did when they bought houses during the Wall Street induced real estate bubble. But if we are going to teach our kids in Philly and other school systems about the democratic ideals of equal opportunity and civil rights, we also ought to be explaining to them the other dynamic of modern American civics, e.g. how interest rate swaps between cash-starved, financially naive municipalities and Wall Street banks are ubiquitous because they are necessary to maintain basic services, but they almost always end up unbalanced against the governmental party.
They should similarly learn that when things go terribly wrong, when massive market shifts result in real or potential collapses of basic public services like elementary school education, what this society’s civic considerations call for are not terribly consistent with the stated ideals of equal opportunity and civil rights . . . they call for the bailout of the banks.
Privatization and the Securitization of What Was Previously Public
Stealing from and getting the better of local governments is not all Wall Street is doing to undermine our civic institutions. Under the guise of bringing us the “efficiencies” that come with “running it like a business”, an ever-increasing part of the enterprises, spaces, and services that we traditionally have thought of as “public” are being taken over by corporations.
In any individual case, this can seem benign. For instance, the New Jersey town of Bayonne is facing a credit downgrade, so it enters into a deal with KKR’s “energy and infrastructure fund” to turn over management of its water system to the legendary private equity firm “in what bankers say may become a U.S. model.” 
New York City is looking to save some money on needed park-space, so it enters into an arrangement for a corporation to build a park in exchange for the City modifying the zoning rules that affect a different project the company has a stake in. The result is a privately owned “public” park (such as Zuccotti Park) made accessible to us only by virtue of the terms of the commercial agreement between its private proprietor and the City.
When these kinds of things happen, there is a problem. Something we all would otherwise hold in common, something with respect to which we would maintain rights as citizens rather than as customers, disappears. It is critical to remember that the rights we most value in our constitution are about, and only about, our relationship with a government. In the sphere of things “private”, the “Bill of Rights” has no bearing.
Even if a shopping mall is the center of our community, we have no right by virtue of our citizenship to enter it and express our views about things like the so-called War on Terror or the Bush Tax Cuts, just as we have no right under the First Amendment to tell our boss we think he is a bigot or a lecher.
Once spaces and functions are privatized, our rights with respect to them get defined by leases, bills of sale, and other commercial agreements that turn them over to private parties—because the Constitution has precious little to say about the terms on which we serve as customers of companies performing once-public functions.
So when you hear a Congressman reading the full text of the U.S. Constitution to open a Congressional session, remember (and be careful): there is more than one way to erode the Constitution. The hard way is to go right at it and change what it says or means, but the easier way is to pretend you love it (perhaps by reading it aloud in a public forum) but then shrink the only things to which it ever applied, e.g. our governments and the functions and spaces they provide.
Let’s assume for a moment that we don’t buy into the bull that such privatizing efforts bring wonderful “efficiencies” to formerly lackadaisically performed government services. What, we might then ask, does any of this have to do with the financial system, which is, after all, what this book is all about? The answer is: quite a lot.
Recall the basic argument from Chapter 3 regarding the mechanics of the fractional-reserve banking system. If the financial system is, at its core, the mechanism by which our money is made, we learned that two basic ingredients have to be present to make it work “well”. First, banks need to lend, and then they need to have at least some of those loans get paid back with interest earned from borrowers’ successful creation of things of real value.
Second, the financial system’s securitization of some of the new enterprises—either through the issuance of shares in them or the extension of credit based on their perceived “value”—snaps “new money” into the nation’s money supply (broadly construed). Given this, the financial system avoids the tail-chasing death spiral of having to extend new loans just to endlessly pay interest on the old ones—which, by the way, is the hallmark of a Ponzi Scheme.
But for the second part of the cycle to work (let’s call it the securitization part), it turns out that loans don’t actually need to be used to create “new” businesses. They can just as well be made to individuals to capture, in the present, substantially all of their future earning capacity. For example, this is what happens when credit cards, student loans, or mortgages indebt us and are packaged into tradable bundles of things like mortgage backed securities, “MBSs”, and student loan asset backed securities, “SLABSs”.
In addition, loans can fund the purchase of existing public functions, which however valuable to society when they were public, were not contributing to the above-referenced money-creation cycle.
For example, the American public school system—whatever you may think about its quality relative to some foreign ones—is a thing of real value in our country. Without it, we certainly would not have one of the world’s highest literacy rates nor would pretty much the whole population know enough basic math to “break a twenty”.
But prior to the advent of charter schools and the massive use of corporate service providers to develop and prepare kids for “achievement” tests, the public school system did not play a real role in money creation. Sure, teachers and janitors got paid for their services, but this did not create money, it was just a means by which existing money could circulate.
Once a school district, like that of Chicago or New York City, decides to let private entities run previously public schools, all of this changes. Suddenly, the process described in “What Banks Do” regarding the 3Musketeers woodcutting operation is (sort of) at work, only instead of something really new being created from the loans, credit is being extended just so that private businesses can displace public operations.
For example, if the sort of company that administers charter schools, known as an “Educational Management Organization” (“EMO”), takes over the back-office support for a charter school that has attracted 1,000 kids from a public one Rahm Emanual or Michael Bloomberg recently shut down as “failing”, then regardless of whether the kids get a better education at XYZ charter school, one thing is for sure: the monetizable value of the EMO will rise. This is going to affect the value of some 1%er’s holdings, which means he will have more “money” available to pay interest on a loan that might be supporting a different one of his various financial ventures.
So, regardless of what is happening in the much-debated contest of educational test scores in Chicago and New York, one thing will be certain: the shift from public to private schooling will matter to the financial system and it will provide the “securitizing fodder” that is so necessary in the second part of the money-creation cycle to keep the system from too quickly reverting into pure Ponzi-like dynamics.
In other words, as far as the financial system is concerned, cannibalizing us and our existing public institutions, regardless of whether they were previously working well, is actually just as good a money-making strategy (and takes much less imagination) as funding something new that has societal value.
Given this, it should come as no surprise that the extraordinary rise we have seen in the size of the financial sector over the past 25 years has been contemporaneous with a similar rate of increase in the extent to which things we previously held in common have been privatized and securitized. Without the plundering of our previously public enterprises, it’s safe to say that the financial system could not have experienced—nor continue to experience—its meteoric growth.
For example, while we have become accustomed to thinking of our medical system as private compared to that of Europe or Canada, as recently as the 1970s most hospitals were non-profit or public institutions. But the largest for-profit hospital company, Hospital Corporation of America (“HCA”), was only founded in 1968 (by, among others, Dr. Thomas F. Frist, the father of later U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist), and experienced its exponential growth in]the 1970s and 1980s as it acquiring hundreds of American hospitals, at one point owning 255 facilities and managing another 208.
To give you a sense of how much freshly securitized “value” this added to the monetary base, consider that the company was re-acquired by Thomas J. Frist in 1988 for $5.3 billion and in 2006 was purchased by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (“KKR”), Bain Capital, and Merrill Lynch for a total of $31.6 billion, all despite having been mired throughout the 90s and early 2000s in a series of criminal cases that resulted in, among other things, the company admitting to fraudulently billing Medicare and other health programs by inflating the seriousness of diagnoses and giving doctors partnerships in the business as a kickback for referring patients to HCA. Wall Street has recently been looking for the next big, previously public, enterprise to cannibalize. The push has been relentless and thus too varied to entirely capture here, but consider the following two notable ongoing examples.
K-12 Education. Sometimes we just have to thank the 1% for telling it like it is. In a 2007 article about the privatization of K-12 education, Harpers Magazine profiled Nations Bank Montgomery Securities, whose prospectus (according to the magazine’s summary) explained that:
[T]he education industry represents, in our opinion, the final frontier of a number of sectors once under public control that have either voluntarily “opened” or “been forced to open” up to private enterprise. The education industry, the bank concluded, represents the largest market opportunity since health care services were privatized during the 1970s. While college education can offer “attractive investment returns, the larger developing opportunity is in K-12. EMOs [… are] the Big Enchilada.” 
Until recently, the need to maintain charter schools’ (thin) veneer of “good works” meant that most were registered as non-profits. Almost all of them, however, are administered, in whole or in part, by these for-profit EMOs, a name Wall Street apparently coined with uncharacteristic appropriateness to (dismally) recall the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) that led the 1970s charge to health care privatization based on a model of skimping on care.
EMOs are often not the public face of charter schools, but they hold contracts to do all, or substantially all, of the actual work of running a school, from leasing space, to paying teachers, to managing the operation in its entirety. With Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and the mayors of the nation’s two biggest (traditionally Democratic) cities, New York and Chicago, now solidly in the charter school camp, EMOs, and charter-schools more generally, are moving fast to exceed even the robust predictions of the 2007 Nations Bank prospectus. As of 2011, there were 5,400 charter schools in the U.S. educating about 1.7 million students, with the market growing by over 14% a year.
Securitization of this new-found “value” has come slower, perhaps because the country has not been so quick to embrace the entanglement of stock-tickers and kids’ math grades. In addition, the nation’s once leading EMO, Edison Learning (founded as “Edison Schools” by Presidents Regan’s and Bush I’s Assistant Secretary for Education), fell on its face after it went public. At one point, it was trading at a mere 14 cents per share after the NASDAQ charged that it had over-stated its earnings by as much as 41 percent.
But no worries, other forms of securitization are rapidly evolving to fill the gap. In 2011, Canyon Capital Realty Advisors—a $20 billion real estate fund which had previously partnered with Magic Johnson to fund a so called urban-improvement project in Brooklyn which used shell entities and cheap labor—partnered with Andre Agassi to establish a charter school investment fund, the goals of which are charmingly described as:
Provid[ing] investors with current income and capital appreciation by responding to the growing demand for quality charter school facilities in the nation’s burgeoning urban centers and by capturing the opportunities arising out of the current dislocation in the real estate market.
And don’t forget about the other important source of K-12 education privatization, the one happening in public schools themselves. Over the past 15 years the insane rise in the “need” to test our kids, as pushed by the Bush II “No Child Left Behind Act” and other laws, has utterly changed what children actually do when they come to class in the morning. The development of virtually all of this testing and ingenuous technologies to prepare kids for the (same) testing does not come from our school boards or governments, but rather from corporate giants like McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin.
Private Prisons. The privatization of prisons in the United States might go all the way back to 1868 when, after the Civil War, southern farmers and businessmen turned to convict-leasing because they needed a replacement work-force for their freed slaves. However, it took the 1980s to really get this business revving.
The U.S. prison population exploded in the 80s due to, among other things, the “War on Drugs” and, soon enough, the first true U.S. corporate-run prisons went on-line in 1984 when the Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”) took over facilities in Tennessee and Texas.
CCA and its competitors have dramatically expanded since then. Today, about 8% of the total US prison population is housed in privately operated state prisons, mainly in Southern and Western states (although there are private federal facilities too). 
Securitization of this “value” has required another stroke of corporate good luck to get moving, namely 9/11 and the resulting mass increase in the detention of immigrants. Since those attacks, CCA stock has gone from a meager $4.75 a share to its price as of this writing of $33.37, a tidy 702% increase. The company now has a total market value of $3.86 billion. GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Securities) began publicly trading in February of 2002, and its stock has similarly risen from about $5.40 a share to its current price of $33.00 a share, with a market capitalization of $2.36 billion.
This means that in the last 13 years or so, these two companies alone have added around $6 billion of newly securitized “value” to our monetary base by displacing pre-existing public institutions and actively lobbying to increase the national rates of incarceration (see the discussion below regarding ALEC). Both companies are now actually shamelessly classified for tax purposes as “Real Estate Investment Trusts”. Yes, they no longer even pretend to be working towards the rehabilitation of criminals, they just provide “real estate” services to tens of thousands of “customers” who are involuntary residing in their depressing facilities. ##[cite Christopher Petrella podcast]
The above stories demonstrate, once again, that to keep the money-making engines primed, it turns out that 1%ers don’t have to extend loans to innovators set on improving people’s lives. Instead, they can just give it to people set on encroaching into once-public spaces.
The Financialization of Politics and De-Politicization of Finance
Money and Politics
As you would expect, all of this plundering of public functions does not happen without corporate lobbyists who pressure and pay our legislators to adopt policies that undermine public functions. Once the cannibalizing industries are in place, the early revenue they generate can be used to pay corporate lobbyists to push for further legislative changes to grow these “fresh” markets, such as stiffer criminal penalties to benefit private prison owners, and the dictatorial powers given to mayoral-appointed heads of school systems for them to close-down struggling inner-city public schools. As a result, our nation’s politics become financialized.
Money has long been part of the diet of American politics, but with the job of a Congressmen increasingly over the last 25 years entailing fund-raising rather than legislating, the issue reached a point of such severity in 2002 that our federal government (shockingly, perhaps, in retrospect) actually did something about it by passing the McCain Feingold campaign finance law. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United striking down key parts of that law has become the symbol of the present era of utterly financialized politics, in a way similar to how the court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education became the symbol of the (far prouder) civil rights era. In Citizen’s United, the Supreme Court nauseatingly concluded that spending money on political propaganda is on par for constitutional purposes with acts of actual political engagement, in part because corporations are treated for such purposes as “persons” entitled to the same constitutional protections as us human sorts of “persons”. The result has been the formation of Super PACs extravagantly funded by the 1% of the 1% through their personal and corporate treasuries, all for the purpose of propping up their ever-beholden favorite candidates.
Political financialization has also been dramatically revealed in the workings of the corporate-supported American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”), which, functioning under the guise of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, has crafted cookie-cutter bills for adoption by sympathetic (and well wined-and-dined) member-legislators.
The bills rolling off of ALEC’s conveyor belts are skillfully crafted to benefit the bottom lines of its corporate sponsors such as gun manufactures (e.g. the “Stand Your Ground” laws), the energy-sector (the Koch brothers are huge supporters), and the previously discussed private prison operators and EMOs. ALEC similarly drafted Wisconsin’s law that gutted public-sector collective-bargaining rights, and Michigan’s law preventing unions from including provisions in their contracts that dis-incentivize workers from enjoying union representational services for free, i.e. “Right to Work” legislation.
Just as financialized politics happens when the 99% lack the financial means to compete with this kind of “political engagement”, it happens too when the staggering increases in the amounts of personal debt the system has laid upon the necks of ordinary Americans works to psychologically and socially isolate and disempower them.
There seems to be a surprising scarcity of well-publicized research on the correlation between personal indebtedness and activities like voter participation and civic engagement, but it probably does not take an advanced degree in sociology or psychiatry to figure out that heavily indebted people are frequently depressed and socially isolated, and these traits don’t make any of us a model public citizen.
The contributors to this book have had enough experience with heavily indebted folks (who are included among our ranks) to know that they are frequently socially isolated and often too busy dealing with their own personal miseries to “waste time” thinking about how their predicament might be generalized to the larger society.
In addition, desperation can make people unreliable co-workers when they are pressed by bosses not to unionize. Terrific recent studies by academics like Daniel Dorling, Kate Picket, and Richard Wilkinson have explained the tight correlations between economic inequality and a wide array of personal and social ills, ranging from worse health (among both the well-off and not), higher crime rates, and general morbidity.
Given this, it is not much of a leap to see that when the financial system uses the 99% as the fodder for its securitization efforts, this not only “makes money” for the 1%, but also commences a negative feed-back loop, the result of which is to sap the 99% of their will to fight back.
What is also under-discussed but critical to the dynamics of the current state of affairs, is the extent to which the inverse of financialized politics is also true: issues concerning how our money is made, cycles through the system, and ultimately flows back to us (or not), have become divorced from politics.
Back in the day, populist champions like Andrew Jackson (who no doubt had plenty of faults too) and William Jennings Bryan achieved wide support expressly campaigning on issues like the merits of having a national bank and the extent to which alternate currencies should, or should not, be permitted to proliferate.
It should thus strike us as intensely odd that, although we are told by pundits that historical levels of discord between the major parties undermine democratic institutions, the fact is that on the issue that might matter most—money—a Martian who knows nothing else about us, but who reviews the pedigrees, policies, and identities of the people at our financial controls, would be hard-pressed not to conclude that it was visiting a single-party autocracy.
The likes of Lawrence Summers, Tim Geithner, Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Ben Bernanke, Jack Lew, and other Wall Street revolving-door wizards and friends have been manning the financial ship for at least 25 years. Their push for free trade agreements, suppression of financial regulations, bail-out of banks, and use of the Federal Reserve solely to manage bank credit (as opposed to facilitating full employment, which its charter also permits, has not varied one bit depending on which of the two (supposedly) competing parties has held the presidency.
Come to think of it, it is hard not to get suspicious that all the public acrimony between the political parties might be best explained as a shared preference for government to be dysfunctional so that we are all pushed ever further towards the “private solutions” about which they seem to be in such accord.
We are not suggesting here that all feuding in Congress is strictly for show or that all of the points about which legislators disagree are unimportant. We are suggesting, however, that sometimes participants in a complex system (think of ant colonies or birds flying in a V-formation) find ways of acting in a manner that furthers the system’s logic and true purposes, even if the individual actors are barely cognizant of the real meaning of the roles they play.
And as a last warning of things to come that might really sound conspiratorial (but it’s true, we swear), beware of the tremendously under-publicized Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (“TPP”). It’s a free trade deal that has been in the works for a long time and is allegedly still under negotiation.
The Obama administration has veiled TPP in secrecy, hoping to submit it to Congress on a “Fast Track” basis that would only allow legislators an up-or-down vote, and apparently (from what little the 99% can glean so far) stands to more fully than ever prohibit national legislation that interferes with the flow of capital across international borders or otherwise impedes corporations’ efforts to seize profit-making opportunities with such cross-border investments. Andrew Jackson would be turning over in his grave.
Finally, please realize that none of this uniformity of main stream opinion on the rules governing finance and money is possible without our own unjustified acquiescence to it.
The 1%’s demands that finance be treated as natural science and thus left for the sole consideration of specialists with “successful” investment banking pedigrees (i.e. they made a crap-load of money on Wall Street) or advanced degrees in falsely scientific-sounding fields like “Quantum Finance”.
If you take nothing else from this book, let it be this: that’s bull. Money, throughout history, has always been intensely political. Remember, the same people who want you to treat finance as hard science utterly failed to predict the 2007 collapse! Putting them on a pedestal is like hailing the guys who, before Einstein thought light travelled through an undetected medium called “The Ether” – guys whose “theories” led to demonstrably false conclusions.
Perhaps even worse, the makers of the present apolitical culture surrounding finance want you to believe that they have learned objective laws regarding the creation and dynamics of money, like those regarding gravity, quantum mechanics, or other sub-specialties of the physical sciences. They have not. Money is neither created nor flows naturally, but does so according to the rules and contours that we (the people) establish for it.
 Matt Taibbi, “Looting Main Stream”, Rolling Stone, March 31, 2010, (www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/looting-main-street-20100331).
 “Hospital Corporation of America”, Wikepedia.
 Jonathan Kozol “The Big Enchilada” Harpers’ Magazine, August 2007.
 “EdisonLearning”, Wikepedia.
 “Private Prison”, Wikipedia; see also Bernard Harcourt, “The Illusion of Free Markets, Laissez faire and Mass Incarceration”, University of Chicago Law School Podcast Lecture Series, May 11, 2011; see also “About Private Prisons” Texas Prison Bind’ness, March 21, 2007 (www.texasprisonbidness.org/about-private-prisons).