I wish I'd been paying closer attention to this, because now I have a whole lot of questions that weren't there before I read Matt Taibbi's latest story for Rolling Stone: "How Goldman Sachs took over Washington by engineering every major market manipulation since the Great Depression."
But first, the "good" news:
WASHINGTON -- Landmark legislation to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions was approved by the House of Representatives in a close vote late Friday, securing a hard-fought victory for a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's agenda.
After months of negotiations, the Democratic-controlled House has narrowly passed sweeping legislation calling for the nation's first-ever limits on pollution linked to global warming. Stephen Power explains the bill's implications.
The 1,200 page bill—formally known as the "American Clean Energy and Security Act"—will reach into almost every corner of the U.S. economy. By putting a price on emissions of common gases, such as carbon dioxide, the bill would affect the way electricity is generated, how homes and offices are designed, how foreign trade is conducted and how much Americans pay to drive or to heat their homes.
Talking about how very deeply Goldman Sachs is embedded in the investors that will profit from cap-and-trade, Taibbi says:
Well, you might say, who cares? If cap-and-trade succeeds, won't we all be saved from the catastrophe of global warming? Maybe - but cap-and-trade, as envisioned by Goldman, is really just a carbon tax so that private interests collect the revenues. Instead of simply imposing a fixed government levy on carbon pollution and forcing unclean energy producers to pay for the mess they make, cap-and-trade will allow a small tribe of greedy-as-hell Wall Street swine to turn yet another commodities market into a private tax-collection scheme. This is worse than the bailout: It allows the bank to seize taxpayer money before it's even collected.
"If it's going to be a tax, I would prefer that Washington set the tax and collect it," says Michael Masters, the hedge-fund director who spoke out against oil-futures speculation. "But we're saying that Wall Street can set the tax, and Wall Street can collect the tax. That's the last thing in the world I want. It's just asinine."
Cap-and-trade is going to happen. [Ed. note - this was published yesterday.] Or, if it doesn't, something like it will. The moral is the same for all the other bubbles that Goldman helped create, from 1929 to 2009. In almost every case, the very same bank that behaved recklessly for years, weighing down the system with toxic loans and predatory debt, and accomplishing nothing but massive bonuses for a few bosses, has been rewarded with mountains of virtually free money and government guarantees - while the actual victims in this mess, ordinary taxpayers, are the ones paying for it.
It's not always easy to accept the reality of what we now routinely allow these people to get away with; there's a kind of collective denial that kicks in when a country goes through what America has gone through lately, when a people lose as much prestige and status as we have in the past few years. You can't really register the fact that you're no longer a citizen of a thriving first-world democracy, that you're no longer above getting robbed in broad daylight, because like an amputee, you still sort of feel things that are no longer there.
But this is it. This is the world we live in now. And in this world, some of us have to play by the rules, while others get a note from the principal excusing them from homework until the end of time, plus 10 billion free dollars in a paper bag to buy lunch. It's a gangster state, running on gangster economics, and even prices can't be trusted anymore; there are hidden taxes in every buck you pay. And maybe we can't stop it, but we should at least know where it's all going.
RS hasn't put it online but really, I strongly recommend buying the issue to support this kind of journalism.
You can read some comments on the piece here, here and here.
Oh, and you can read a related Taibbi piece here.