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I have a friend I talk politics with occasionally. I’ll call him Dan. He told me the other day that our country is run by an invisible government of bankers and other rich people. Obama and Reagan, and presumably most other politicians, are their puppets.

Taxing Financial Speculation

Why Isn’t Everyone in Favor of  Taxing Financial Speculation?—Robert Reich

Dan is a good businessman. He owns my favorite diner, fighting off the big boys in our small town, billion-dollar corporations that have surrounded him with industrial food products. Dan loves my articles about politics and tells me every time I go there.

So was that crazy talk from Dan?

Other people do offer crazy theories about who is really in charge. No amount of evidence or logic could dissuade those who claim that the U.S., or maybe the world, is run by Jews or the Illuminati or the Trilateral Commission or liberal fascists. They don’t like facts that contradict their pet beliefs, formed out of paranoia and prejudice. Their wacko ideas are encouraged by politicians and media pundits who see an advantage in slyly promoting the irrational passions of their most extreme followers.

But Dan’s theory is backed up by lots of evidence, and I’m not saying that so I’ll get better service the next time I go out for breakfast. I get great service anyway.

The power of giant global banks over our daily lives is enormous. We don’t think about how much power when we use their credit cards every day. We only hear about their ability to manipulate entire economies when they screw up and get caught. Big European banks manipulated world currency trading for their own profit. Big American banks played risky games with millions of our homes and caused a recession when millions of people lost their jobs.

Gigantic sums of money flowed up the economic pyramid to them and their friends, a small part of which was paid in fines, and the leaders of the corporations are right where they were before.

The differences between the policies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are enormous, but both the conservative Reagan and the liberal Obama allowed the giant banks to run the American economy in their own interests.

The influence of banks and other giant corporations on the political process has never been greater. Their armies of lobbyists influence, and sometimes even write legislation that is supposed to regulate their activities. They escape any personal responsibility for illegal actions, even when they are caught red-handed. Now the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has removed the limits from their contributions to political campaigns.

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I don’t think this makes our politicians puppets of the bankers. American politicians are independent actors. But they are remarkably dependent on rich contributors for their electoral success, and while in office they share the lifestyle of first-class travel, sumptuous meals and luxurious perks. Even if they can’t get rich in office, after their political careers, they join the economic elite.

The differences between the policies of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are enormous, but both the conservative Reagan and the liberal Obama allowed the giant banks to run the American economy in their own interests. Neither one made big bankers who broke the laws, thereby taking money illegally out of Americans’ pockets, pay personal penalties.

Our system of taxation that allows rich people to pay a much lower rate on money they earn by investing, not working, while wage-earners pay a higher rate, was set up and supported by Republicans and Democrats.

Politicians aren’t puppets, but they are the friends of the rich, not the poor and, lately, not the middle class.

I could be picky about what Dan said. I think he made a complex situation too simple, seeing politics only in black and white. Don’t we all do that in conversation?


He’s not any crazier than the rest of us. Allowing our democracy to be hijacked by the wealthiest Americans, watching the gains from our economy trickle up, and then voting for the same people over and over again, expecting some different result. Isn’t that the definition of crazy?

In fact, Dan has drawn the logical conclusion. He likes Bernie Sanders. Sanders is obviously not in the pocket of big bankers or big anybodies. He doesn’t go around giving million-dollar speeches in front of the economic elite, stroking their impression that they are the most important Americans. He has been uncompromising in his efforts to rein in the power of billionaires and give it back to ordinary Americans, and he promises to continue that as senator or president. Neither Hillary Clinton nor certainly any of the dozens of Republicans running for president have said anything like that.

Annoyed at the way our economy is steeply tilted toward the rich, but planning to vote for the same old candidates? So who’s crazy?

steve hochstadt

Steve Hockstadt
Taking Back Our Lives