For many years the "titans" of Wall Street could pretty much have their way with Congress. They -- and their huge campaign contributions -- had convinced the Republicans, and many of the Democrats -- that what was good for Wall Street, was good for the country.
Then came the financial collapse in September, 2008, and the sudden realization that the emperor of Wall Street didn't have any clothes. Turned out that the policies that allowed reckless Wall Street traders to run wild -- and gave a tiny number of Wall Streeters the ability to claim a bigger and bigger share of our national income -- weren't actually so smart for the rest of us.
Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration turned on Wall Street and -- from Wall Street's point of view -- had the "audacity" to pass legislation that reined in the recklessness that had cost eight million Americans their jobs.
Many among the Wall Street types -- who actually think of themselves as the "masters of the universe" -- were shocked. They -- and much of the conventional wisdom in Washington -- assumed that the Wall Street reform bill would be watered down into thin gruel by the massive army of lobbyists they sent to do battle on the Hill. Wall Street spent almost a half-billion dollars lobbying to stop Wall Street reform. But the bill actually got tougher and tougher as the battle went on.
That was because Progressives held political ground so high on the issue that even the most "moderate" members of Congress were terrified to stand up for the Wall Street elite.
But this November, the Wall Street Empire plans to strike back. According to Politico:
The vilification of bankers, what one bank lobbyist called the 'show trials' of congressional hearings and especially the outcome of financial regulatory reform has prompted an all-out effort to wrest Congress from Democratic control, several financial industry insiders told Politico."
Karen Klugh, spokeswoman for the American Financial Services Association, told Politico: "Our target ratio for the 2010 cycle is 80-20 Republicans..." She said this ratio, "reflects our deep concerns with the work of the 111th Congress." You betcha.
And the amount Wall Street is directly investing in campaigns is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. It is likely dwarfed by the massive secret contributions they have made to the various Republican attack groups. And you can bet they are encouraging their partners in the huge outsourcing deals -- on which they make billions -- to pony up as well through secret contributions to the Chamber of Commerce that can spend unlimited amounts to distort the records of their Democratic targets.
Many of those contributions, as ThinkProgress has documented, come from foreign corporations that profit from outsourcing of American jobs.
The thing that is especially galling about Wall Street's approach to politics is that it so brazenly plays upon the fears of the very people who are often the biggest victims of their greed.
It is no small irony that the very people whose recklessness caused so many everyday working class families to lose their jobs - who have systematically skimmed off a larger and larger portion of our national product and left smaller and smaller pieces of the pie for everyday Americans - are now stoking the anger caused by their own actions and directing it toward Democrats who have brought them to account.
In the Tea Party fantasy world everyday Americans are oppressed by bureaucrats with eyeshades who go to work on the Washington Metro. They are abetted by crunchy academics who spend their days dreaming up "social engineering" schemes in their offices at Yale or Harvard. And their oppressive regime is supported by liberal news anchors and the nihilistic denizens of Hollywood who spend their nights in hot tubs surrounded by Playboy Bunnies. That is the Tea Party version of class warfare; everyday Americans versus these "elites."
This is a very convenient mythology for Wall Street. It ignores the existence of the real "elites" in America. They aren't the bureaucrats who go to work on the Metro but rather the men and women who go to work in chauffeur-driven limousines, jet around the country in Gulfstream G-Vs, and make more on the first day of the year, before lunch, than a minimum wage worker makes all year long.
The gang on Wall Street wants normal Americans to forget that they -- and the top one percent of the population -- control 34.6% of net assets, compared to only 15% for the bottom 80%.
They want you to ignore that 42% of the financial wealth is controlled by the top 1% of the population, compared to only 7% controlled by the bottom 80% -- or that 62% of the business equity that controls corporations is in the hands of the top 1% compared to only 7% for the bottom 80%.
Remember all of the reckless speculation in financial securities that sunk the economy? Well 61% of financial securities are owned by the top 1% -- and just 2% by the bottom 80%.
And when it comes to income, the share going to the top 1% had grown from 12.8% in 1982 to 21.3% in 2006 while the percent going to the bottom 80% shrunk from 48.1% to 38.6%.
When you look at numbers like that, in broad strokes it's pretty obvious why the economy sunk into recession. The greed of the top 1% sucked the buying power out of the rest of the population who were needed as customers to keep levels of demand high enough so that investors found it profitable to expand employment, create jobs and generate more consumers to demand more goods and services. Their greed killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
Of course the latest example of the consequences of Wall Street's reckless greed is the mortgage foreclosure documentation disaster. Seems that they were in such a hurry to make more and more on their exotic mortgage-backed securities that they simply neglected to properly document the changes in ownership for the mortgages they packaged up and sold on financial markets.
Why would the brilliant graduates of some to the finest universities in America make such an obvious mistake? You have to assume it's because they figured that they would make their millions and pass the risk of their actions on the "the market" at large rather than take the time and expense to do it right.
Now that their actions have come to light they may once again threaten the stability of the financial system.
And let's remember that when you fall behind in your credit card payments, these same guys are the first to invoke every provision in the fine print of your credit card agreement so they can charge you a fortune in fees. But when it comes to transferring titles of mortgages correctly, turns out they couldn't be bothered. One more example of how Wall Street thinks it's exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of us.
Now, Wall Street is trying to harness the anger of ordinary people -- who are furious because of the economic disaster that Wall Street itself created -- to allow them to use the Republicans as a vessel to take back the control of Congress.
It's up to us to stop them. The plain fact is that there are more of us than there are of them. But if we don't vote, we don't count. Time for Progressives to get out of a defensive crouch and march -- along with everyone we know -- to the polls. As the MTV s slogan says: Vote again in 2010.
In most jurisdictions early voting has already begun. The time to vote is now.
I know a guy who trades on Wall Street, call him George, who is absolutely disdainful of ordinary Americans. He thinks that anyone who can't get rich, like he is, must be a chump. He's happy to exploit anyone and anything to make money for himself.
Don't let George make us all into chumps. Don't let Wall Street use the anger caused by the economic disaster that they themselves caused, to elect Republicans and take back control of Congress.
Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.