For most of us, the Wall Street housing bubble popped in 2008, with painful consequences.
But for those at the top of the nation’s too big to fail banks, the party keeps rocking, even though their institutions are still in trouble and wouldn’t even exist without taxpayers’ generosity.
Take for example that wild and crazy region known as Bank of Americaland, where dwells one of the country’s biggest and sickest banks.
It’s basically never recovered from the financial collapse, which, in Bank of America’s case included a nasty hangover induced by swallowing up the king of sleazy subprime lending, Countrywide, as well as fallen investment banking titan Merrill Lynch (labeled in 2009 by the Wall Street Journal the “$50 billion deal from Hell – no link).
Here’s how Bank of America has squandered its share of the bailout: engaging in a pattern of improper foreclosures on military families and spending millions in campaign contributions and lobbying to fight regulation of its business. Most recently, the bank imposed a new $60 annual debit card on its customers.
After all, the bank’s president, Brian Moynihan, insisted, Bank of America “has a right make a profit,” which occasionally will have to be guaranteed by U.S. taxpayers.
The company is doing so poorly that it’s going to have lay off 30,000 of its employees, some of whom will spend their waning days training their lower paid, outsourced replacements. But the company isn’t doing so poorly that it didn’t manage to tuck away $11 million to the ease of parting for two of its top executives.
After all, they’re executives of a floundering bank that’s made a series of poor business decisions. So they’re “entitled” to get even more money on top of their fat salaries.
Across the political spectrum, it’s become fashionable to belittle programs like Social Security and Medicaid as “entitlements,” turning that into a dirty word. But like so much about our current, out of touch with reality political debate, it’s completely upside down.
The way the debate has been framed by our political leaders and media, they’re only “entitlements” if they’re claimed by the 99 percent of Americans who have suffered in the collapse of the middle-class and economic meltdown.
We need a crackdown on “entitlements” all right, but on the real entitlements, the ones claimed by the top 1 percent, like those Bank of America lays claim to, scooping up millions for its executives while gouging its customers and buying our political system through lobbying and campaign contributions.
But Bank of America won’t give up these entitlements without a fight, because the bankers believe that these are the benefits they’ have a right to, along with their profits.