Don’t Feed the Beast. Skip “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

In order not to glorify the type of no-holds-barred greed behavior that trashed the U.S. economy and still drives the big banks to jerk around their customers, maybe it would be a good idea to give the film The Wolf of Wall Street a miss.

The movie tells the story of the true story of “the outlandish rise and non-stop pleasure-hunting descent of Jordan Belfort, the New York stockbroker who, along with his merry band of brokers, makes a gargantuan fortune by defrauding investors out of millions.”

In an open letter Christina McDowell, the daughter of an associate of the actual “wolf,” has some pretty strong words for the movie’s director Martin (Marty) Scoresese and its star, Leonardo (Leo) diCaprio:

“Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.

“And yet you’re glorifying it — you who call yourselves liberals. You were honored for career excellence and for your cultural influence by The Kennedy Center, Marty. You drive a Honda hybrid, Leo. Did you think about the cultural message you’d be sending when you decided to make this film? You have successfully aligned yourself with an accomplished criminal, a guy who still hasn’t made full restitution to his victims, exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior.”

Big surprise, self-styled wolf Jordan Belfort hasn’t made good on his debts. And he’s touring the country as a motivational speaker. For those of us who have suffered at the hands of our banks and mortgage servicers in the aftermath of the financial crash, I’m pretty sure I know what someone like Belfort would motivate me to do. (With or without weapons.)

Hence my decision not to see the movie and never to attend any event at which Belfort might be speaking.

“Wake me up when someone goes to jail.”

The headline is a quote from investigative journalist Matt Taibbi, who has written some of the best articles on Wall Street fraud and greed and the mortgage/financial debacle. He’s writing about yet another bogus investigation into the unbridled greed and blatant fraud that brought the economy to its knees back in 2008.

Despite the hue and cry of millions of foreclosed homeowners and more than a few excellent journalists, there’s been nothing like real justice for what the big banks and Wall Street did to cause so much grief. And, aided and abetted by Congress (with a few notable exceptions), the Justice and Treasury departments, the President and the colluding “regulators,” the greed-crazed financial execs are winding up to take another whack at the economy.

How? By going on doing exactly what they were doing pre-2008, only now with even more arrogance and sense of entitlement, secure in the knowledge that they’ll get richer and get away with it again.

“These banks are not getting smaller; they’re getting larger. There are now more too-big-to-fail institutions than there were prior to the 2008 crisis.” 
~
Gretchen Morgenson, Why Banks Are Still Too Big To Fail

 The “too big to fail” myth is still alive and well five years after the first domino, Lehman, fell and seems to be accompanied by an overwhelming belief that the perpetrators are also too big to jail. That’s a very dangerous situation. Overthrowing countries dangerous.

And it’s not going to get reined in any time soon, not as long as our political leaders are so cozy with Wall Street and the big banks.

“When JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon testified before the Senate Banking Committee earlier this year about the “London Whale” scandal, only two of the senators facing him had not received campaign contributions from his bank. Dimon was also called “Obama’s Favorite Banker” for a while.”
~
From Seven Things You Wanted to Know About Prosecuting Wall Street

Still holding out hope that somewhere, someone is investigating the facts behind your predatory mortgage loan or any of the fast-and-loose dealings that brought on the crisis? Sorry to say, the statute of limitations for some of the infractions is about to expire.

And that special task force on the mortgage crisis that President Obama announced in his January 2012 State of the Union speech? Well, without funds and staff, NY AG Eric Schniederman didn’t have much of a chance to

“…hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many homeowners.”
~ Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union

I predicted at the time that it was just another of Obama’s false promises to beleaguered homeowners. Very disappointing that I was right.

What would revive our economy and our faith in the nation where we live? Easy. If you’re of a “certain age,” you probably said it every morning of your grade-school days:

“Liberty and justice for all.”

In the meantime, you can stop supporting the companies that are getting away with fraud by simply removing your patronage. Move your accounts to a community-oriented local or regional bank or credit union and go on about your business as if the big banks simply don’t exist.

I only want to hear about the banksters in one context: Wake me when someone goes to jail.

Neither Obama nor Romney Will Take on the Big Banks

I keep telling people it doesn’t matter anymore who wins the presidential election because the powerful people in government – federal and state – take billions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street, corporate CEOs and the banking lobby.

And they don’t care that your mortgage banker lured you into foreclosure and then took your house. Really. They don’t.

Sure, there may be a few legislators who try to serve the interests of the average citizen. But their efforts disappear in the landslide of greed and ego and power that runs this country now.

I know it feels good to imagine that an Obama second term would make a difference. That he would just be a good, ethical man with no more offices to run for so he could afford to thumb his nose at the banksters. That he would send the Justice Department out to actually prosecute the people who brought down the U.S. economy. That all those programs supposedly created to help homeowners ward off the foreclosure feeding frenzy would suddenly gain new life, with clear-cut guidance on who qualifies, a fair review process that doesn’t take years and use up several reams of paper, and meaningful punishment for banks that lie to and cheat borrowers.

I’m sorry, but if you’re not looking out your window right now at a whole herd of flying pigs, I just don’t think your wish is going to come true.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s what former Wall Street exec. and veteran journalist Nomi Prins has to say. Warning: it’s not pretty, but it is well-reasoned and clearly stated.

“Washington coddles and subsidizes the biggest banks – not to encourage lending, not to encourage saving, and not to better the country, but to contain harsh truths about how badly banks played, and are still playing, the nation.”

Read the full piece, Before the Election was Over, Wall Street won. Then weep.

2011’s Defining Issue; 2012’s Most Important Fight

Intelligent analysis from Robert Reich, commentator on NPR’s Marketplace.

“Wall Street got bailed out,
but homeowners caught in the fierce downdraft caused by the Street’s excesses have got almost nothing.”

No kidding.

“Government is doing less of the things most of us want it to do — providing good public schools and affordable access to college, improving our roads and bridges and water systems, and maintaining safety nets to catch average people who fall — and more of the things big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy want it to do.”

That’s not what we pay taxes for, is it?
Certainly not what we have in mind when we elect people to represent our communities in Congress.

“If we want to get our democracy back
we’ve got to get big money out of politics.”

Amen.