Monday, September 24, 2018


Above Photo: From


By Paul Buchheit,

Market-happy illusionists keep spouting nonsense about a healthy economy built on today’s capitalism.
The original Capitalist Manifesto was a 1958 book by economist Louis O. Kelso and philosopher Mortimer J. Adler. In their view of a properly conducted democratic capitalist society, a sort of modern-day Homestead Act was envisioned, in which all Americans would participate in the “capitalist revolution” of growing stock portfolios. This would be possible because of great technologies (energy in the 1950s, AI now) that would allow all of us, in Aristotelian and Jeffersonian property-owning ways, to become ‘free’ to pursue the arts & sciences and to enjoy more leisure time. Today, this form of democratic capitalism could be realized through the Employee Stock Ownership Plan promoted by the “Just Third Way” movement.
Just one problem. Apparently, in 1958, economists and philosophers were not able to foresee the unlimited greed of the relatively few people with the power to manipulate the strings of the capitalist state. They thought the newly productive post-war capitalists were being cheated by workers who depended on socialist strategies to even the score. But the opposite has happened. Average Americans have been cheated out of the gains from technological productivity. Just in the past ten years in our world of big business, over $30 trillion – nearly a third of our nation’s TOTAL current wealth – has gone to the richest 10% of Americans. Yet market-happy illusionists like the Wall Street Journal keep spouting nonsense about a healthy economy built on today’s capitalism.
The root of the problem is the condemnation of anything ‘social’ as un-American, which has helped modern-day capitalists to justify their belief in individual gain by any means. Wealthy conservatives know that social responsibility might take away some of their riches by providing opportunities and jobs and a decent standard of living for all Americans. In their minds, the poor have only themselves to blame for being poor, and for dying. But it is capitalism that is killing them. The Capitalist Manifesto has been twisted into an assault on poor people.

Politicians And Plutocrats Stand By As People Are Poisoned

What is the capitalist incentive to clean the water in Flint, Michigan? Little money is to be made, so little effort is made to save lives. People are DYING because there’s no market for profit-making.
From a global perspective, the dangers of poisoning and death from pollution are magnified many times over. There were 1.5 billion people in 1900, there are 7.6 billion now, and 11 billion are anticipated by the year 2100. Scientists predict dangerous increases in respiratory and infectious diseases, malaria, meningitis, typhus, and cholera. And global food shortages. Instead of working in a cooperative manner to encourage self-sufficient small farms around the globe, industrial behemoths like Monsanto and DuPont are positioning themselves for a chemical assault on our food supplies.

Millions Are Without Health Care – For Many Americans That Means Death

Over 30 million Americans are without health insurance in our business-driven, capitalist society. The American Journal of Public Health flatly states, “Numerous investigators have found an association between uninsurance and death…Our estimate for annual deaths attributable to uninsurance among working-age Americans is more than 140% larger than [the Institute of Medicine’s 2002 study].”
One of the most disturbing examples of individual disdain for society is the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharmaceutical executives admitted to the felony charge of lying about their product’s addictive qualities, but no one went to jail. In a six-year period to follow, other Big Pharma dealers, including AmerisourceBergen and McKesson, distributed nearly a billion pills to West Virginia alone.
Social responsibility especially implies caring for our young people and the elderly. For the latter, see below. For young adults, one of every five deaths in 2016 involved opioid addiction. The great majority of heroin users started with prescription painkillers. But our social responsibility seems to dissipate under the cloud of individual-centered capitalism. Despite a doubling of opioid overdose deaths in six years, millions of people live in counties without a licensed provider of the drugs needed for treatment.
As social beings, we empathize with the opioid sufferers, but in a profit-driven world in which the victims rather than the predators are blamed for their own bitter misfortunes, the empathy is muted. Social consciousness would correct that. But that won’t happen as long as the media is promoting individual (human and corporate) gains over collective, cooperative efforts to restore our country to health.

Bankruptcies Are Surging, And So Are Suicides

The percentage of elderly Americans filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991. Individualism over social consciousness is much to blame. A study by the Social Science Research Network found that the shift from employer and government pensions to individuals has increased risk while exacerbating stress. Meanwhile, much of the stress for working people comes from the 40-year stagnation in wages. “Deaths of despair” from drugs and alcohol and suicide are on the rise. For those who make up the poorest 60% of America, premature deaths are up 20 percent since the turn of the century, and the economic suicide rate has risen dramatically.
Life expectancy for the poorest classes in America is now equivalent to that of Sudan or Pakistan.
Yet business-minded conservatives are trying to make it harder for these most vulnerable of Americans to survive. Medicaid work requirements and drug testing are two of the proposed or implemented hardships reserved just for poor people.

The True Meaning Of Socialism

In the worst moments of the hurricanes that keep hitting American cities, members of government and business and military and especially the public abandon thoughts of personal gain and dedicate themselves to the needs of fellow human beings. People around the nation pitch in, through their labors and donations; neighbors and first responders rescue trapped victims; the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, including many local churches, deliver food and supplies and medicine; GoFundMe initiatives are set up; the business community donates their goods and services; government officials remain focused on the people they were elected to represent; even the military contributes with rescue helicopters. No one seems to care about the skin color or religion or politics of those in need.
It takes a tragedy to reveal the true meaning of socialism. It’s not government control, but rather people controlling their own lives through empathy and cooperation.

Federal Agency Says It Lost Track Of 1,488 Migrant Children

Above Photo: don/Flickr


By Garance Burke,

Twice in less than a year, the federal government has lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children after placing them in the homes of sponsors across the country, federal officials have acknowledged.
The Health and Human Services Department recently told Senate staffers that case managers could not find 1,488 children after they made follow-up calls to check on their safety from April through June. That number represents about 13 percent of all unaccompanied children the administration moved out of shelters and foster homes during that time.
The agency first disclosed that it had lost track of 1,475 children late last year, as it came under fire at a Senate hearing in April. Lawmakers had asked HHS officials how they had strengthened child protection policies since it came to light that the agency previously had rolled back safeguards meant to keep Central American children from ending up in the hands of human traffickers.
“The fact that HHS, which placed these unaccompanied minors with sponsors, doesn’t know the whereabouts of nearly 1,500 of them is very troubling,” Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the panel’s chair, said Wednesday. “Many of these kids are vulnerable to trafficking and abuse, and to not take responsibility for their safety is unacceptable.”
HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley disputed the notion that the children were “lost.”
“Their sponsors, who are usually parents or family members and in all cases have been vetted for criminality and ability to provide for them, simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made,” she said in a statement.
Since October 2014, the federal government has placed more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.
On Tuesday, members of a Senate subcommittee introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at requiring the agency to take responsibility for the care of migrant children, even when they are no longer in its custody.
An Associated Press investigation found in 2016 that more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay. At the time, many adult sponsors didn’t undergo thorough background checks, government officials rarely visited homes and in some cases had no idea that sponsors had taken in several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.
Since then, HHS has boosted outreach to at-risk children deemed to need extra protection, and last year offered post-placement services to about one-third of unaccompanied minors, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
But advocates say it is hard to know how many minors may be in dangerous conditions, in part because some disappear before social workers can follow up with them and never show up in court.
From April to June, HHS called 11,254 children the agency had placed with sponsors, and found 25 of the children had run away, and 1,488 could not be located, according to the data provided to the subcommittee.
Portman began investigating after a case in his home state of Ohio in which eight Guatemalan teens were placed with human traffickers and forced to work on egg farms under threats of death. Six people have been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their participation in the trafficking scheme that began in 2013.
The legislation comes as the Trump administration faces litigation over its family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexican border, which while it was in effect sent hundreds more children into the HHS system of shelters and foster care. Some of those children since have been reunited with their families, while others have been placed with sponsors.
Oakley did not respond to questions regarding whether any of the children who the agency lost track of had been separated from their families before they were sent to live with sponsors.
The legislation is aimed at ensuring HHS does more to prevent abuse, runs background checks before placing children with sponsors, and notifies state governments before sending children to those states, the bill’s sponsors said.
“The already challenging reality migrant children face is being made even more difficult and, too often, more dangerous,” said the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware. “This simply doesn’t have to be the case and, as this legislation demonstrates, the solutions don’t have to be partisan.”

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fourth Canada – United States – Mexico Trilateral Peace Conference

Fourth Canada – United States – Mexico
Trilateral Peace Conference

September 13, 2018 – Moca, Dominican Republic

Final Declaration
The Canadian Peace Congress (CPCon), the U.S. Peace Council (USPC) and the Mexican Movement for Peace and Development (MOMPADE) held their fourth Trilateral Meeting on September 13, 2018 in Moca, Dominican Republic in conjunction with the Hemispheric Peace Conference of the World Peace Council and its affiliates on this continent. Upon the conclusion of their meeting, the delegations of the three organizations issued the following statement:
Our Trilateral Meeting takes place at a time of a serious deterioration of the international situation, marked by the increasingly aggressive actions of U.S. imperialism, with the active support of Canada and its other NATO allies, to interfere in the domestic affairs of other states, to use economic blackmail and threats of aggression, to conspire with regional actors and local oligarchies to carry out ‘regime change’ operations against governments unwilling to submit to imperialist demands, and in some cases to resort to direct military intervention. This aggressive behavior comes together with, and is closely related to, the deepening systemic crisis of capitalism and the ever-worsening effects of climate change and the general degradation of the global environment.

The participants express grave concern that the accelerated drive to militarization, aggression and war threatens the very future of humanity, and call for urgent measures to stop and reverse the arms race, to sharply reduce bloated military budgets and to redirect these funds to peaceful and socially useful purposes to raise wages and living standards, improve social programs and protect our environment. Urgent efforts are required to prevent the modernization of nuclear arsenals, to ban the militarization of outer space, and to move in the direction of general and comprehensive disarmament, including the ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Our organizations condemn the further expansion of NATO, including the recent addition of Colombia as a “global partner” and its intention to recruit other states in our hemisphere to the NATO camp, which is totally controlled by U.S. imperialism and serves its economic and political interests. The cause of peace can only be advanced through the dissolution of this aggressive military alliance, not through its expansion.
The Trilateral Meeting agrees that the firm foundations of peace must be based on the principles of non-intervention and full respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, self-determination and independence of all states, as stipulated in the UN Charter and covenants of international law enacted since the end the World War II.

The participants note that the web of U.S. foreign military bases around the world – including an archipelago of almost 80 foreign bases throughout the Americas – is a direct threat to world peace and undermines the sovereignty of individual states, and we call for the closure of these bases. Our three organizations commit to helping build the Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases, and pledge to help mobilize the largest possible contingents of peace forces from our countries to participate in the International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases to be held in Dublin, Ireland on November 16-18, 2018.

Our organizations pledge to strengthen our solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, both of which are under sharp attack by U.S. imperialism, and with Socialist Cuba which continues to endure and advance despite a revitalized blockade by the United States. These are not isolated issues or events, but rather part of a coordinated campaign to undermine progressive governments and movements throughout Latin America, particularly those striving to resist imperialist hegemony, and to defend their national sovereignty and independent path of development. This subversive campaign increasingly relies on judicial and parliamentary maneuvers to remove elected leaders and oust progressive governments from power.

In this regard, our Meeting welcomes the progressive changes in Mexico arising from the recent election results, but warns that the new government could well become the next target of such anti-democratic attacks by imperialism and domestic reactionary forces.

The participants note that the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between our three countries has reached a critical stage as the Trump Administration, acting in the interests of U.S. finance capital, seeks to extract concessions from both its northern and southern neighbors. Our organizations consider that the economic relations between our neighboring countries – and related treaties and agreements – must be mutually beneficial for the peoples and economies of our three countries, must serve to improve the wages, working conditions and overall living standards of our peoples, and must protect and enhance our shared natural environment.

Our organizations also express alarm at the rapid growth of racist, anti-immigration tendencies and state policies in our countries, especially marked by the plans of the Trump Administration to step up the deportation of undocumented workers and the completion of a wall along the entire US/Mexican frontier. In our view such positions and policies pander to and help to promote the further rise of xenophobia, national chauvinism, racism and fascism in our societies, backward and dangerous trends which are antithetical and hostile to the cause of peace. We should be building bridges to unite us, not walls to divide us.

While working on all of these related issues over the coming period, our Meeting proposes that our organizations consider three specific campaign initiatives flowing out of this trilateral session:

1. Against Arms Production, the Arms Trade and the Militarization of our Societies – this to include opposition to the military-industrial complexes in our three countries, the export of weapons and military-related goods internationally (including the illicit cross-border traffic of weapons), and the hypocritical “War on Drugs” and militarization of police forces domestically, all of which serve to breed a poisonous ‘cult of militarism’ in our societies. No to Wars at Home or Abroad!

2. Against the Reactionary Wave of Intolerance, Xenophobia and Anti-Immigrant Ideas and State Policies which criminalizes migrant workers, national minorities and racialized communities, and promotes the spread of racism and fascism in our societies. Instead, we must build unity and solidarity among all those who stand for the protection and enhancement of the economic, social and political rights of the people, including the fundamental and inherent rights of the indigenous peoples of our countries.

3. Against Imperialist Interventionism and ‘Regime Change’ and in solidarity with all those peoples and States which are victimized by, or targeted for such imperialist interference and aggression within our hemisphere and around the world.

Finally, the Trilateral Meeting agrees to establish a permanent “continuation” committee, composed of one representative from each of our three organizations, to develop concrete proposals with regard to the three campaign initiatives (outlined above), and to maintain ongoing lines of communication and dialogue among our organizations on all matters of mutual concern and interest.



Above photo: From Getty Images.
Every war being fought today is illegal. Every action taken to carry out these wars is a war crime.
In 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact or Pact of Paris was signed and ratified by the United States and other major nations that renounced war as a way to resolve conflicts, calling instead for peaceful ways of handling disputes.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was the basis for the Nuremberg Tribunal, in which 24 leaders of the Third Reich were tried and convicted for war crimes, and for the Tokyo Tribunal, in which 28 leaders of the Japanese Empire were tried and convicted for war crimes, following World War II.
Such prosecutions should have prevented further wars, but they have not. David Swanson of World Beyond War argues that a fundamental task of the antiwar movement is to enforce the rule of law. What good are new treaties, he asks, if we can’t uphold the ones that already exist?

By Ellen Davidson.
The United States is violating international law, and escalating its aggression
All wars and acts of aggression by the United States since 1928 have violated the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter since it was signed in 1945. The UN Charter states, in Article 2:
“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Yet, the United States has a long history of threatening aggression and using military force to remove governments it opposed and install friendly ones. Illegal attacks by the US since World War II have resulted in 20 million people being killed in 37 nations. For example, as we outline in “North Korea and the United States: Will the Real Aggressor Please Stand Down,”the United States used violence to install Syngman Rhee in power in the 1940’s and subsequently killed millions of Koreans, in both the South and the North, in the Korean War, which has not ended. Under international law, the “war games” practicing to attack North Korea with conventional and nuclear weapons are illegal threats of military action.
The list of interventions by the United States is too long to list here. Basically, the US has been interfering in and attacking other countries almost continuously since its inception. Currently the US is involved directly in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The US is threatening Iran and Venezuela with attack.
The United States has 883 military bases in 183 countries and has hundreds of outposts scattered throughout the world. Lynn Petrovich recently examined the new defense budget. With regard to the Pentagon’s 2019 budget report, she writes:
If the planet is our community, America is the bully in the neighborhood.  Reference to the word ‘lethal’ is sprinkled no less than 3 dozen times throughout The Report (‘more lethal force’ p. 2-6, ‘technology innovation for increased lethality’ p.1-1, ‘increasing the lethality of new and existing weapons systems’ p. 3-2).”
Were it not for The Report’s dire (yet, fully funded) predictions for world domination, one would think this budget request was satire by The Onion.”
Included in the new budget are funds to recruit 26,000 more of our youth into the military, purchase ten more “combat ships,” build more F-35s, even though they don’t work, and “modernize” our nuclear weapons. At a time when the United States is losing power in the world and falling behind in wealth, the government voted nearly unanimously to provide $74 billion more than last year to be more aggressive. Imagine what that money could do if it were applied instead to improving public education, transitioning to a clean energy economy and a public works program to restore our failing infrastructure.
The United States empire is falling and blindly taking all of us down with it as it tries to assert its power.

By Margaret Flowers.
What to do about it
The peace movement in the United States is being revived and building alliances with peace activists in many countries, and it can’t happen fast enough. There are many opportunities for action this fall, the “Antiwar Autumn.”
The World Beyond War conference, #NoWar2018, just concluded in Toronto. The focus of the conference was legalizing peace. Among the topics discussed was how to use courts to prevent wars, stop the escalation of militarism and investigate war crimes. Professor Daniel Turp of the University of Montreal and his students have sued the Canadian government over participating in extraditing prisoners to Guantanamo, potential intervention in Iraq and providing weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Turp recommends that activists who are considering legal action first look to domestic courts for a remedy. If none exists or domestic action is unsuccessful, then it is possible to turn to international bodies such as the International Criminal Court or the United Nations. Any people or organizations can file a report or complaint with these bodies. Before doing so, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible, first hand accounts are strong but even hearsay can be grounds to trigger an investigation.
Currently, Popular Resistance is supporting an effort to ask the International Criminal Court to launch a full investigation of Israel for its war crimes. People and organizations are invited to sign on to the letter, which will be delivered by a delegation, including us, to the Hague in November.
William Curtis Edstrom of Nicaragua wrote a letter to the United Nations in advance of Trump’s visit to serve as the chair of the Security Council meeting. He is requesting “hearings, debate and vote on an effective plan of action against various crimes that have been committed by people working for the government of the US that are of significance to the global community.”
This week, Medea Benjamin confronted a Trump administration official, the head of the new “Iran Action Group,” at the Hudson Institute. President Trump is planning to advocate for more aggression against Iran at the United Nations. When the US tried this in the past, it has received push back from other nations Now it is clear it is the US, not Iran, that has violated the nuclear agreement and is conducting an economic war against Iran while threatening military action. The world is likely to stand up to Trump and US threats.
Recent progress towards peace by North and South Korea show that activism is effective. Sarah Freeman-Woolpert reports on efforts by activists in South Korea and the United States to build coalitions and organize strategic actions that create the political space for peace.
Leaders of both countries met this week to discuss improving relations and finding a compromise between North Korea and the United States. President Moon will meet with President Trump at the United Nations this month. Korean activists say that their greatest concern is that Koreans finally having “the ability to shape the future of [their] country.”
When we understand that war is illegal, our task becomes clear. We need to make sure that all nations, especially the United States, obey the law. We can replace war with mediation, conflict resolution and adjudication. We can legalize peace.

From Pinterest.
Here are more actions this Antiwar Autumn:
September 30-October 6 – Shut Down Creech – week of actions to protest the use of drones. More information and register here.
October 6-13 – Keep Space for Peace Week. Many actions planned in the US and UK. Click here for details.
October 20-21 – Women’s March on the Pentagon. More information here.
November 3 – Black is Back Coalition march to the White House for peace in Africa. More information here.
November 10 – Peace Congress to End U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad. This will be a full day conference to define next steps for collaboration by activists and organizations in the US. More information and registration here.
November 11 – March to Reclaim Armistice Day. This will be a solemn march led by veterans and military families on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which ended World War I, to call for celebrating Armistice Day instead of Veterans Day in the US. Click here for more information.
November 16-18 – School of Americas Watch Border Encuentro. This will include workshops and actions at the border between the US and Mexico. More information here.
November 16-18 – No US NATO Bases International Conference in Dublin, Ireland. This is the first international conference of the new coalition to close US foreign military bases. Click here for more details.
Ben Bernanke (right) and Timothy Geithner (background) say they did what they had to do to “prevent the collapse of the
Ben Bernanke (right) and Timothy Geithner (background) say they did what they had to do to “prevent the collapse of the financial system and avoid another Great Depression.” But what they really did was teach middle-class families a grim lesson.

By Zach Carter

Ten Years After The Financial Crisis, The Contagion Has Spread To Democracy Itself

Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson dealt a catastrophic blow to public faith in American institutions.

By the time Lehman Brothers filed for the largest bankruptcy in American history on Sept. 15, 2008, the country had been navigating stormy global financial waters for more than a year. Bear Stearns had been rescued in a bailout-facilitated merger with JPMorgan Chase, and the government had nationalized housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. For anyone paying attention to the financial system, the situation had been quite dire for a long time.

And yet throughout the mess, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury had been permitting the largest banks in the country to funnel as much cash as they wanted to their shareholders ― even as it became clear those same banks could not pay their debts. Lehman itself had increased its dividend and announced a $100 million stock buyback at the beginning of 2008. Insurance giant AIG paid its highest dividend in company history on Sept. 19, 2008 ― three days after the Federal Reserve handed the insurance giant $85 billion in emergency funds. According to Stanford University Business School Professor Anat Admati, the 19 biggest American banks passed out $80 billion in dividends between the summer of 2007 and the close of 2008. They drew $160 billion in bailout funds from the U.S. Treasury, and untold billions from the Fed’s $7.7 trillion in emergency lending.

When poor people engage in such activity, we call it looting. But for the princes of American capital and their lieutenants at the Fed and the Treasury, this was pure crisis management.

Today, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner insist they did what they had to under conditions of extreme duress. Mistakes were made, the government’s former top financial overseers acknowledge in a recent piece for The New York Times, but they did ultimately “prevent the collapse of the financial system and avoid another Great Depression.”

Except they didn’t really rescue the banking system. They transformed it into an unaccountable criminal syndicate. In the years since the crash, the biggest Wall Street banks have been caught laundering drug money, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba, bribing foreign government officials, making illegal campaign contributions to a state regulator and manipulating the market for U.S. government debt. Citibank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and UBS even pleaded guilty to felonies for manipulating currency markets.

Not a single human being has served a day in jail for any of it.

The financial crisis that reached its climax on that Monday morning 10 years ago was not fundamentally a problem of capital, liquidity or regulation. It was a crisis of democracy that taught middle-class families a grim lesson about who really mattered in American society ― and who didn’t count. 

The failures of the crash and the bailout were not technocratic failures. They were about power. 
University of Georgia law professor Mehrsa Baradaran

For most of American history, financial policy was a central political battleground. There was the feud between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over Revolutionary War debt; the Whiskey Rebellion; Andrew Jackson’s assault on the Second Bank of The United States; the greenbacks Abraham Lincoln issued to help finance the Civil War; William Jennings Bryan and the cross of gold; the creation of the Federal Reserve; FDR’s New Deal. These were among the most heated political issues of their day. And they were all understood to be questions of power and democratic accountability, not merely matters of growth or efficiency.

But beginning in the 1950s, the United States increasingly came to understand finance as apolitical ― something best handled by technocratic experts insulated from the passions of a democratic electorate. This idea went by different slogans ― “the liberal consensus,” “the great moderation,” “central bank independence” ― but they all amounted to the same thing: The economy was nonideological. The decisions made by experts tending to the financial machine were were strictly tactical. Any mistakes were a matter of pulling the wrong lever or setting a dial too high.

The financial crisis exploded this myth. “The failures of the crash and the bailout were not technocratic failures,” says University of Georgia law professor Mehrsa Baradaran. “They were about power.”

Lehman would be the only major American financial institution to out-and-out fail in the crisis. Everyone else was bailed out on generous terms that not only protected their creditors, but their shareholders and ― with the exception of AIG ― the jobs of their top executives. Criminals who broke the law were shielded from prosecution.

Here’s what happened to everyone who didn’t work for a bank: As a percentage of each family’s overall wealth, the poorer you were, the more you lost in the crash. The top 1 percent of U.S. households ultimately captured more than half of the economic gains over the course of the Obama years, while the bottom 99 percent never recovered their losses from the crash.

These were policy choices, not economic inevitabilities. Under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the government saved the financial sector by pumping it full of cash, and then taking unprecedented steps to elevate the value of financial assets. For anyone who owned stocks and bonds (otherwise known as rich people), this was great news.

But there was no similar commitment to housing ― where middle-class people held their wealth. Instead, over 7.7 million homes were lost to foreclosure between 2007 and 2016, while millions more found the source of their savings ― home equity ― wiped out.

It could have been different. When Obama took office, he promised to spend up to
$100 billion from the bank bailout to prevent foreclosures. He ultimately spent just
$21 billion. But the dollar amount was only a fraction of the failure. The bailout gave
the government unprecedented authority over the foreclosure process ― it could
have required banks to adjust monthly payments or reduce debt burdens for
homeowners in distress. Instead, as Geithner put it, the foreclosure relief plan was
designed to “foam the runway” for banks coming in for a hard landing. It allowed
banks to slow down the pace of foreclosures, but did not actually help families keep their homes.

Geithner hadn’t set the dials wrong. He had made a choice about who deserved the government’s full attention and how aid would be distributed. And he had done it
without any meaningful input from Congress, or even a public debate.

“It led to a breakdown and a lack of trust in institutions,” says Admati. “What we
witnessed here … is kind of ominous. It raised a lot of questions about who controls
society ― corporations or the elected government.”

Far right nationalists like Hungary's Viktor Orban have a seen a resurgence in Europe and the United States, fueled by bailou
Far right nationalists like Hungary’s Viktor Orban have a seen a resurgence in Europe and the United States, fueled by bailout-and-austerity packages crafted by technocratic leaders.

Financial crises foment authoritarianism. In 2015, a trio of German economists studied financial panics in 20 advanced economies dating back to 1870, and concluded that
they almost always result in major gains for “far right” political parties after a lag of a
few years. The most pressing question for policymakers facing a banking meltdown
is not, “How do we restore our banks to profitability?” but, “How can we prevent
social collapse?”