Seriously, guys.


September 2008 was a catastrophe of a kind we had almost forgotten, so deeply engrossed we were in our illusion of comfort: a financial crash of epic proportions, a Steinbeck-type of depression that sent the western world into a whirlwind of home foreclosures, a steady and steep rise in unemployement rate and a (justified) growing mistrust in the free market. For the first time in a really long time, people called for regulation. They called for governmental intervention. The ghost of the red scare, floating over the United States despite skinny dipping into a pool of debt, was pushed away by people falling below the threshold of poverty, or reaching new lows they thought they would never attain. No social security to catch those millions on the downfall. Surely this would be enough of a nightmare for a deafening, international wake-up call? Surely, this depression would bring about the change we had all been waiting for? Finally, we would treat bankers like the irresponsible children that they are and would reign in the market to protect our assets that are, ultimately, our livelihood.

Yeah, well, no. Guess we never learn.

A year after the record plummeting of Wall Street, unemployement rates are peaking at 9.8% , foreclosures are planned to reach 2.3 million , but the banks are doing obnoxiously well. As a vast majority of us are contemplating a bleak and dull future, as employers of national companies are throwing themselves out of windows, financial markets are registering historic profit. On average, traders of the 23 first banks in the United States will cash an annual income reaching $143,400. This is when some of us will no longer be able to meet our mortgage payments or pay our rent. Bill Clinton’s miserably failing welfare system is tested in the most cruel and inhumane ways as Wall Street investors will pocket a total of $437 billion. Billions. Billions that have not been handed out by Congress in support of universal health care, when medical expenses in these uncertain times are undoubtedly going to send people into a spiral of financial distress. Bonuses pocketed by the sole Bank of America CEOs (who have begged for a $45 billion bail-out out of taxpayer’s money) will be six times as much as the IMF annual budget that tried to feed the very same people Bank of America majorly, royally and unapologetically screwed over.

Let’s face it: bankers were once on top of the world, and regardless of the pretty, hopeful and thoughtful rhethoric the new administration has been blasting in our ears, they still are. They literally got away with murder, and keep on living their lavish lifestyle while the dark clouds of the recession are still casting a long shadow over our heads.  The regulation we had been promised, supposedly extensively discussed during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh just a few months ago, has yet to be felt. Peter Kennen, professor of economics at Princeton University, told Le Monde that “the state does not have the power to act, but banks have to realise by themselves that the public opinion  can no longer accept such practices – and that they must change before Congress is forced to pass law.” Let it be clear: the government does have the power to act, it simply chooses not to do so. With all due respect for Mister Kennen, if any form of action is easily labeled – and thus slandered – by the conservatives as being an oppressive form of that scary socialism, it does not necessarily mean it is beyond Obama’s reach. As a matter of fact, this might be exactly what he has been elected upon: for once, a presidential candidate felt ready and even obligated to act upon the people’s wishes. Would that be a little too democratic for a country that’s not ruled by the Constitution, but simply being a by-product of the free market?

Robert Shapiro, president of Sonecon, is a little less positive and optimistic. He claims that banks are simply making a risky, short-term quick buck at the minute, and that the Dow Jones’ spectacular rise from its ashes (passing the bar of over 10,000 points) may only be temporary. Despite the banks’ goodwill plea that the bonuses fixed by the G20 summit will be respected, Shapiro is realistic enough to take those moral conversions with a grain of salt: “they only have their word for it”, he said, “and if they really commit to those principles, I want to see proof.” We all do, and we are all waiting for our returns on investments they have greedily swallowed along with their half-ethics never to plunge an entire country – and an entire economic system – into the Dark Ages ever again. Oh well, cross your heart and spit on it, because Goldman Sachs is not exactly anywhere near retiring from the business.