Today financial power is being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. In fact, the six biggest banks in the United States now possess assets equivalent to 60 percent of America's gross national product. Back in the 1990s that figure was less than 20 percent. These six banks - Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo - literally dictate what goes on in the U.S. banking industry. These entities are the poster children for "too big to fail", and they donate massive amounts of cash to the campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats to ensure that they will continue to receive favorable treatment. The vast majority of Americans have had a banking account, a credit card and/or a mortgage with one of these institutions at some point. If they acted in concert, these six banks could literally bring down the U.S. economy overnight if they wanted to. Together with the Federal Reserve, these six banks represent the real financial power in America. They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room that influences nearly every major financial deal that gets done and virtually every major political decision that gets made. As the last couple of years have demonstrated, top politicians from both parties (John McCain and Barack Obama for example) will instantly jump into action and start advocating that the U.S. government spend billions upon billions of dollars when the interests of these behemoths are threatened. The frightening thing is that the power of these megabanks is growing at a frightening pace. As dozens upon dozens of smaller U.S. banks are "allowed to fail", they either go out of existence or the Feds actually encourage these smaller banks to sell themselves to one of the big sharks. In either event, the banking power in the United States becomes further consolidated in the hands of the megabanks.
Bill Moyers recently interviewed Simon Johnson and James Kwak, the authors of a new book entitled 13 Bankers: The Wall St. Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown. During that interview Kwak described to Moyers just how explosive the growth of the power of these megabanks has been....
Bill Moyers: And you write that they control 60 percent of our gross national product?
James Kwak: They have assets equivalent to 60 percent of our gross national product. And to put this in perspective, in the mid-1990s, these six banks or their predecessors, since there have been a lot of mergers, had less than 20 percent. Their assets were less than 20 percent of the gross national product.
Does it alarm you that the banking elite have accumulated such a large amount of financial power?
It should. These institutions have the power to wreck entire economies. Just consider what happened in Greece lately. Now, it is being alleged that the megabanks are ripping off American cities with the same kinds of predatory deals that brought down the financial system in Greece.
And that is what these megabanks are.
They are predators.
In fact, a very revealing article in Rolling Stone described Goldman Sachs this way....
The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
Unfortunately, they may have actually been understating things a bit.
These megabanks have rigged the game so that the wealth of the nation is slowly transferred from us to themselves and to the international financial interests that control them.
They can make money if the markets are going up, and they can make money if the markets are going down.
For example, in a newly released email from the height of the housing crash, the CEO of Goldman Sachs bragged that his firm "made more than we lost" by betting against the housing market.
Thankfully the SEC is starting to look into the fraud that Goldman Sachs committed during this time period, but the truth is that Goldman is not likely to receive any more than a slap on the wrist for what it has done.
They are way too big, way too powerful and have too many friends in high places for them to get into any real trouble.
For example, it has come out that Barack Obama does not intend to return any of the campaign contributions that he received from Goldman Sachs. And surely they will be glad to continue to pour big money into his political coffers.
So where does that leave the rest of us?
Well, the rest of us can expect higher taxes and a lower standard of living according to the IMF. The IMF (which has deep connections to these megabanks) says that the party is "over" for nations that have been enjoying the good life. In a recent article, the Washington Post summarized the message that the IMF is trying to communicate through their recent policy papers....
To keep the global economy on track, people in the United States and the rest of the developed world need to work longer before retiring, pay higher taxes and expect less from government. And the cheap imports lining the shelves of mega-chains such as Wal-Mart and Target? They need to be more expensive.
So are you ready to work longer, pay higher taxes, expect less from government and have a lower standard of living?
That is what the IMF says we are all going to be facing in the years ahead.
We are all going to financially suffer as the megabanks continue to thrive and consolidate power.
Isn't that wonderful?
You say you don't like that so much?
Well, good luck taking on the 800 pound gorilla.