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Culleny: The ‘makers and takers’

“The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

That is journalist Matt Taibbi’s (Rolling Stone July 9, 2009) take on one big bank, but what can be said of Goldman Sachs can fairly be said of any mega-bank operating today. Average people of the early 21st century are being sucked dry by “great vampire squids.”

For Big Bank management (as distinguished from that of your friendly neighborhood bank), each New Year is the dawn of new opportunities to jam their “blood funnel” into any delusion that hard work and “playing by the rules” (as the president often says) will lead to an equitable economy. The New Year resolution of Big Money never changes: it is to begin the year in such a way that, by its end, it has sucked as many people as dry as possible by legally bribing as many politicians as possible in order to realize as many billions in profit as possible — no matter what. This is what our campaign finance laws were written for. This is an easily foreseeable outcome of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling of 2010.

There’s nothing even vaguely altruistic or socially conscious in Big Money’s intentions. The planet, its beings — human and nonhuman — its resources and its future are all just fertilizer for its cash crop. Banks like Goldman Sachs, and Wall Street in general, with the help of their governmental wings in Washington and state legislatures, perpetrated the great collapse of 1929 and did it again in 2008. These were catastrophes brought about not by “welfare queens” or people on food stamps, but by esteemed financiers with an over-weening sense of privilege and entitlement, without shame, selling things like junk mortgage derivatives to speculators.

There are good guys and bad guys in America’s class system. There really are “makers” and “takers” — as Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and conservative minion of great vampire squids, points out. But, contrary to Ryan’s scenario, the “makers” are not those jetting from lush hideout to lush hideout dribbling dough. The makers are to be found among laborers who pull stuff from the ground, make stuff from it or grow stuff in it, while the takers are the ones who wring from that labor their enormous profit and (supposedly) sprinkle crumbs to those who actually sweated to produce it.

The Roman God Janus, from whom we get the name of our first month, is two-faced. Janus is depicted looking in two directions simultaneously; forward and backward. Peering into both the past and the future at once, he might be thought of as the god who sees history and, at the same time, its effects. In this he’s very unlike us, who may occasionally peer into history, but if we do, promptly and stupidly ignore it. Our ruling class especially loves to tune history out because history is not flattering to it. But it’s not flattering to commoners, either — we who, by the vote, distraction, or coerced acquiescence, sacrifice our collective power to the promises or threats of neo-noble vampire squids who suck it through blood funnels and run with it to offshore tax havens.

While we see in the news commoners being handcuffed and jailed for minor offenses, or pepper-sprayed away for simply protesting, the government can’t seem to manage to prosecute anyone for the fraud and theft of billions and billions that led to the bursting of the mortgage bubble blown by bankers and financiers in 2008.

As journalist Bill Moyers said earlier this year, “We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible.”

This is the status quo. Only massive citizen resistance can hope to overcome it. We have two parties, both corrupt, but one which has wholly and publicly laid its cards on the table.

“We are the party of the rich,” they say, “Government should serve the rich first, if anything’s left over, let it trickle down.”

Our oligarchs say this with every policy position, in every speech, with every action. There’s no subterfuge going on, either, other that of the “social issue” distractions they’ve been able to pump up and pull off to great advantage.

“Here we are,” they say. “Our hearts are on our sleeves, and what are you gonna do about it?”

That should be our big 2014 New Year question.

Culleny lives in Shelburne Falls, works in construction, is a singer/songwriter, and has done commentary for National Public Radio. His email address is jimculleny@comcast.net.

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