Monday, April 27, 2009

Week of 04/27/2009

Let’s All Play The Same Game
– by David Matthews 2

Imagine a huge game of musical chairs going on, complete with referees to supposedly make sure that the game is played fairly. The rules, of course, are simple. Everyone circles a row of chairs, and when the music stops everyone scrambles for a chair, and the people who can’t find a chair are eliminated. Then when the music starts up again the refs pull out at least one chair and game continues.

Now let’s suppose that among the competitors are a group of men and women who all wear identical green shirts and they’re allowed to play by a different set of rules than the others. If one of them are left standing when the music stops, they’re allowed to rip someone else out of their chairs and take their place. Sometimes the refs will hand them a chair that was previously removed just so one of them wouldn’t be eliminated. The other players would complain, but their cries would fall on deaf ears. The refs would simply refer the complaints to the green-shirts, who would then side with their own group.

Finally, though, it gets to the point where there aren’t enough chairs and it becomes obvious that some green-shirt players would have to be eliminated. The refs decide to then introduce some more chairs. But rather than put the chairs directly into the circle, they instead would hand them to the green-shirt players, who would hold on to them through the game. Some of them would even carry two or three chairs in their hands and still take the available chairs if they’re near them. Sure they say they will “eventually” put those extra chairs into the game, but not right now. No, they just want to make sure that they’re safe first.

Does that sound like the kind of game that you would want to take part in? Well certainly if you can be one of the green-shirt people, but what it you can’t? What if you had to compete against those green-shirts? Would you want to? I don’t think too many of us would be willing to do it knowing that the game was intentionally rigged in their favor.

What if you had no choice in the matter?

Well guess what? That is PRECISELY the kind of situation that millions of Americans are in right now! They are stuck playing an eternal game of musical chairs, trying very hard just to stay in the game, and having to compete against a group of players that adhere to a completely different set of rules, and whom are favored to win by the officials.

The green-shirt players? The ones that are able to make and change the rules on a whim with the blessing of the referees? Well those are the perfect symbols for our banking institutions. Green for greed, but also green for money.

And there is no doubt in the world that the banking institutions are heavily favored by the refs in this game… specifically the government. Sure they’re supposed to be impartial, but we have long known that they are nothing more than political whores, selling out their favors to whomever pays their bills, and the banks DO have a lot of money to play with, don’t they?

The arrogant passive-aggressive stance that banks have with their very customers has been well known and well-documented. It has been the subject of many movies and TV shows, and it’s NOT in a good way. They CLAIM to be performing a public service, which is about as accurate as calling a homeless person an “urban outdoorsman”. They do THEMSELVES a service, and it’s with as much money from the general public as they can get as long as they can make a profit from it.

The problems with the banks - be it concerning mortgages or credit cards - in one that has been brewing and bubbling for years. These problems didn’t just manifest themselves overnight. In fact the massive foreclosures and the extent of its effect on the financial institutions was something that was predicted for years.

And yet the banks… did nothing.

And the government, which promised to oversee the banks to make sure that the economic devastations of 1929 did not happen again… also did nothing.

Or at least they did nothing to stop it from becoming a problem. It was only AFTER the scope of the damage started becoming apparent, after the critics were proven right, did the government recognize there was a problem that needed to be addressed.

And what did our supposedly “impartial” referees do? They handed out TRILLIONS of dollars to the banks, supposedly on the promise that they would free up the lines of credit that were frozen because of fear and the burdens of the foreclosures.

And what did the banks do with this money? Nothing. They held on to it. Or they used it to pay bonuses for their executives. Or they used it to pay other banks.

Free up lines of credit? Oh no, no, no, no. In fact they have TIGHTENED their lines of credit even more. They have used this opportunity to re-write the rules to which they loan money to others, either through mortgages or credit cards. They have made life worse for the very Americans that are footing the bill for their recovery! And they are doing it deliberately.

Pay back the bailout money? Yeah, they’re starting to do that… but only because they are finding out that the federal government is doing to them what they have been doing to their “valued customers”. Namely the government started changing the terms of their agreement.

Of course the banks are able to meet with President Obama, which is somewhat timely since he just came back from shaking hands with dictators like Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. Castro, Chavez, credit card lenders… a political trifecta! They can meet with the president and tell him want he wants to hear. They can meet with Congress and tell them what they want to hear. They can make all sorts of promises… subject to revision, of course. But when it comes to their so-called “valued customers”, good luck even getting them to listen to you. They just want to pay the tab, no matter what it is, subject to THEIR revisions, even if it drives you into bankruptcy, and, oh yeah, thanks for the bailout.

Let’s get brutally honest here… these so-called “lending institutions” have LONG needed a comeuppance, and that can only come FROM the so-called “refs” in this situation.

For starters, if the banks don’t like having the terms of THEIR loans revised, then they shouldn’t be doing it to their so-called “valued customers” in the first place. I think it’s hilarious to see the looks of shock and panic sweep bank executives when they are told that the trillions they got may now have strings to them. Karma can be such a bitch.

Basically what the banks got last year was the equivalent to me showing up at their offices and telling them that they are going to give me fifty-thousand dollars, and then later on finding out that I spent it all on a two-week bender in Las Vegas, with no expectation of ever repaying the money. If they wouldn’t stand for that kind of arrangement, why should they expect us to sit back and tolerate them doing the same?

The bailout that the banks got in October SHOULD have served as their opportunity to show their gratitude and their willingness to work with the taxpayers, the very customers that are having to foot the bill for their bailout. Instead, they declared it to be “business as usual”, and even when their CEOs were in Washington saying that they “got the new reality”, they were busy dictating the terms of that “new reality”.

The lenders need to be reined in, and it takes more than just empty promises and pledges subject to revisions. It takes new rules, hard rules, and rules that must be applied in all parts of the country. We are dealing with a business that goes beyond state borders. That means that the days of shopping for the lending state with the least amount of regulatory restrictions and using it to impose them on all their customers nationwide are over with. What the lenders have done by doing this is they have created THEIR OWN nationalized system. If this kind of tactic is wrong in regards to certain other businesses, then it should equally be wrong here.

And we need those new rules YESTERDAY. Not in 2010 after the lenders have thoroughly capitalized on the situation and fleeced their customers with as many redefinitions and fees and restrictions as possible.

We also need these new rules to be championed by people who are TRULY on the side of the American people. The Democrats and Republicans that sat back and watched these banks create the mess that we are all in right now need to be removed from their cushy positions of power. They need to hang their heads in shame and step down from their positions in those committees.

What the lenders have done over the years is they have created a modern-day serfdom. They have essentially created a system whereby millions of Americans are convinced to sell themselves into serfdom. And it’s done with teaser rates and pre-screened notices and offers of new monitoring and insurance services. And while some people are able to avoid the traps, others have had little choice but to put themselves further and further under their control. While it is unrealistic for that to end anytime soon, there does need to be a light at the end of that dark tunnel; a way for people who need that additional support to work out of it instead of being enslaved by it.

The lenders and their “clients” need to be playing the same game and under the same rules. That is the only “new reality” that will allow this financial system to survive and thrive without all-out revolt.

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