Throw the Money Changers Out of the Temple
Wall Street profits are an obscene affront to Scripture, as Robert Scheer details in an interview with Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now!”
Partial rush transcript from Democracy Now!:
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the latest on the economy. A pair of new government reports released this week paint a startling picture of where the country is, more than a year after the economic meltdown. On Tuesday, the New York Comptroller’s Office said Wall Street profits are set to exceed the record set three years ago. The four largest firms—Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase—took in $22.5 billion in profits through September. The top six banks set aside $112 billion for salaries and bonuses over the same period. In a recent interview, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, defended the bank’s massive profits, saying Goldman is, quote, “doing God’s work.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture has revealed that far more people are going hungry in the United States than previously thought. The Department estimates 50 million Americans, including a quarter of all children, struggled to get enough to eat last year. The number of children who live in households in which food at times was scarce last year stands at 17 million, an increase of four million children in just a year.
Our next guest has been closely following the impact and causes of the economic meltdown. Robert Scheer, editor at Truthdig.com, author of many books, including The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America. His latest column is called “Where Is the Community Organizer We Elected?” He joins me here in Burbank, California.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Robert Scheer. OK, just talk about these figures, from hunger to Goldman Sachs.
ROBERT SCHEER: Well, first of all, I mean, the whole thing about the profit of Wall Street that makes it particularly obscene is that we gave them that money. Your previous guest talked about how China is carrying $800 billion of our debt. We’re running up a $1.4 trillion deficit. And what happened was, we threw a lot of money at Wall Street. In particular, in relation to Goldman, we had this buyout of AIG, $180 billion. We’ve guaranteed the toxic assets of these enterprises. And that money, in a really truly shameful way, was passed on directly to the very companies that you mentioned that are giving themselves profits. So there’s something—yes, I’ll use the word “obscene.”
It’s also interesting that he should say he’s “doing God’s work,” Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs. And my goodness, if Scripture is clear on anything, it’s condemnation of those who take advantage of the poor. You know, after all, Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. Scripture is devastating in its condemnation of usury, the immorality of usury. And yet, in your promo, you mentioned Chris Dodd is trying to get a bill passed that would cap interest rates. You know, where is the Christian right? Where are the Christians? Where are the Jews, for that matter? Or the Muslims? At least the Muslims, in their religious practice, don’t believe in interest as a principle, but the idea that we’re jacking up credit cards to 30, 35—this is loan sharking. And we can’t even get a bill passed through Congress that would cap interest payments.
The other thing is, their rationalization is they’re somehow saving the economy. It’s the old blackmail thing. They ruined the economy; they got the legislation, the radical deregulation they wanted, that permitted them to become too big to fail—Citigroup and these companies; and then they turn around and say, “If you don’t throw all this money at us, the economy is going to go into the Great Depression.” But they haven’t solved the main problems. Mortgage foreclosures this month are higher than they’ve been in ten months. We have the commercial housing market exploding, you know, apartment building rentals exploding, going into mortgages. And so, you know, they are not dealing with the fundamentals. What has happened is an incredibly expensive band-aid was put on this. And these people don’t even have—they’re not even embarrassed.
And the reason I wrote that column is they’ve also captured the President. And, you know, I voted for this president. I even contributed money that I didn’t have to his campaign. You know, I still feel great that he’s the President. You know, I’m biased. I like the guy, you know. I like everything about him.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet you ask, where’s the community-organizer-in-chief?
ROBERT SCHEER: I am appalled. This is not a minor criticism. I think the guy is betraying—betraying—his own presidency, the promise of his presidency, because he has taken these thieves—and I use the word advisedly. You know, I think people like Lawrence Summers, who pay themselves—you know, maybe he’s not legally a thief, but, you know, a guy who pays himself, or gets paid from hedge funds and other people, $15 million in ’08, while he’s advising Obama about the economy. And he’s the guy who, more than anyone else, when he was Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration, pushed through the radical deregulation that allowed these businesses to get in all this trouble and refused to regulate derivatives and all that sort of thing. And then these guys are made the head of the—what? They’re going to save us now?