Not so long ago, John S. Reed, the former CEO of Citibank, as it was known before the merger with Sanford Weill's Travelers Group, commented on Bill Moyers' Journal that Weill said to him, "We'll be rich". Mr. Reed, now teaching at MIT, said he never particularly wanted to be rich; he just wanted to run a good bank, which in fact Citibank was. It was the kind of greed exhibited by Sanford Weill that led to the persistent lobbying by banks, their representatives, their allies in and out of government, all of which resulted in the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the exclusion of Credit Default Swaps from CFTC controls, against the advice of then head Brooksley Born, and together with some other shenanigans caused our financial disaster. Then they had the audacity (and political clout) to ask for and get a bailout.
What's the result? Now Citi wants $20 a month to maintain a checking account; Wells Fargo wants $15. One can avoid these exorbitant charges by keeping a deposit equal to between two and three times the median income in the U.S. Bank fees for all kinds of services have gone through the roof, in part because they couldn't kick their gambling habits, and our government became a facilitator.
The funds extended to the banks, the cost of the wars, the doldrums economy, have together forced our country into a relationship with China, which economists have described as akin to that of Greece with Germany. After almost four years of a government that was supposed to free us from the ill-conceived policies of the previous administration, hardly anything has changed.
True, we are out of Iraq but that has little to do with this administration's wishes or policy; the fact is Mr. Maliki did it a favor and kicked us out. No such luck in Afghanistan, where Mr. Karzai still needs us to survive. No doubt the Taliban are preparing their Spring offensive, as they do each year, and no doubt Kabul will get its share of carnage.
On April 12, the Pakistan parliament showed a rare spirit of unity. The government and opposition voted together to condemn U.S. drone attacks. Hugely unpopular and killing an inordinate number of civilians, generally women and children — what can one expect when bombing family residences?– they have cost us the support of their general public. Moreover, the vaunted success of these attacks does not manifest itself in any significant weakening of the insurgents. They believe they are winning, and we want to leave.
Under any reading of international law, the drone attacks are illegal. We are bombing a country, Pakistan, with which we are not in armed conflict, in violation of the U.N. charter. It also violates our own Constitution, though we have been doing that for a while, including in Libya, where the unique claim was made that because U.S. troops were not on the ground, the constitutional requirement of a Congressional vote and declaration of war was not necessary. One can imagine this reading tied to the hundreds of ICBMs loaded with multiple nuclear warheads each capable of destroying a metropolis.
"Your master is not dead Pancho; he has gone to a better world where only truth prevails." Man of La Mancha. So why should any of the above be a surprise.
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