Chapter 19. The View from Here

Standing absolutely still in the center of the casino, I looked for a lucky table on which to begin.

Mario Puzo, Fools Die

December 21, 2009.

What have we learned in this season of banks robbing people? Have we learned too little? Or is it just the opposite? Did we learn more than we ever wanted to know? Have we become what New York Times writer and author Thomas Friedman calls "suboptimal," a country with leadership unable or unwilling to respond in smart ways to financial crises?

What we know for sure is that the biggest scheme devised by Wall Street to rob you of your money might have succeeded had it not been for the sheer audacity of a determined band of focused, angry, and financially literate bloggers and motivated state regulators. Wall Street clearly believed it had the upper hand; it almost always does. Left unchallenged, the banks and brokerages would have walked away with our "free money." And not just chump change. Unchallenged, the banks would have expropriated $336 billion dollars—2 percent of the United States' GDP—enough to create millions of jobs and keep people in their homes. Too bad the only well-being Wall Street cares about is its own.

Will this greedier-than-thou culture ever change? Washington is attempting to craft regulatory reform. Unfortunately, this effort has become a supermajority political game. The Democrats are proposing new financial safeguards. With exceptions, most Republicans are resisting change as the party of "no." ...

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