The unemployment numbers are out, and the Labor Department reports that 9.7% of our fellow Americans remain unemployed. Before we get too excited about the drop, we should note 20,000 jobs were lost, leaving 6.3 million out of work for six months or more. Worse, estimates at underemployment are approaching 20%.
In a rare moment of Washington synergy, just yesterday two of the people who caused these catastrophic numbers appeared on Capitol Hill before the Banking Committee. If these bankers hadn't gambled with our savings, bought up toxic mortgages, and lobbied like hell for deregulation, 4.7 million people would still be at work. Their greedy and reckless behavior caused this financial crisis that has cost Americans millions of lost jobs, billions in tax-payer funded bailouts and trillions of lost retirement savings.
But from the way they're acting, you'd never know it.
How can these bankers justify awarding themselves bonuses that rival the budgets of some small countries? How can they justify spending millions of dollars on thousands of lobbyists to block any type of reform? It's shocking, and more than a slap in the face to those millions of unemployed Americans.
Paul Volcker, the former Fed Chairmen who testified on Tuesday as the first part of these hearings, got it right that the banks are out of control and must be reined in. And he issued a warning:
"I tell you sure as I am sitting here, that if banking institutions are protected by the taxpayer and they are given free rein to speculate, I may not live long enough to see the crisis, but my soul is going to come back and haunt you [when it happens]."
Maybe this will get through; maybe the Senate is afraid of ghosts. If not, let's hope they're afraid of people's anger. Because the bankers aren't fooling the American people, who are making the connection between joblessness and needed financial reform. And we know that bankers are fighting tooth and nail to block it. Americans for Financial Reform and its 200 national and state coalition partners are pushing back, but there is always more that can be done.
We know they will never learn and certainly never reform themselves on their own. We have to organize, and force them to.
But the question is, will the bankers fool the Senators (again)? Even as millions are unemployed, the Senate is still dragging its feet. If we organize, we can force them to rein in the banks. Even if they aren't afraid of ghosts - they should be afraid of us.