Almost thirty years ago, the federal government declared victory over the savings & loan meltdown that wiped out hundreds of reckless financial institutions and their investors and depositors. One-third (1,043) of all U.S. S&Ls failed, including many whose over-the-top investments encompassed risky loans, self-dealing, cattle ranches, speculative drilling ventures and even Nevada bordellos. An ‘80s deregulation was a major contributor to the debacle.
Only a few years after that, having learned nothing from the S&L fiasco, an equally reckless, clueless and “bought” Congress repealed the Great Depression era Glass-Steagall Act that had done a creditable job protecting the U.S. banking system and national economy from collapse for more than 60 years. The consequence of that legislative disaster was the 2008 Great Recession.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, announcing from the high bench that its protections of the right to vote were no longer needed. We see visible evidence every day of how badly that’s playing out. Voter suppression has since emerged as a bedrock Republican policy, all based on the fake premise of (virtually non-existent) voter fraud.
Today we are confronted with three more indicators that history teaches our leaders nothing:
First, they tell us that the U.S. banking system is in great shape notwithstanding the eminently avoidable collapse of several institutions and resulting bailouts to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Former Representative Barney Frank, co-author of the Dodd-Frank Act that was a reasonable response to the abuses that caused the Great Recession, made his bones through his eloquent polemics about bank recklessness and “moral hazard.” He subsequently retired from Congress, sold out to the Dark Side by joining the board of the late and unlamented Signature Bank, one of the failed institutions that launched the current financial crisis. Worse, he now argues without a shred of evidence that Congress’s 2018 rollback of Dodd-Frank regulations that might have prevented the crisis was a good idea. It appears that thirty pieces of silver still goes a long way.
Second, they proclaim that the Covid-19 pandemic, history’s first politicized disease, is behind us and we can all go about our business once again unmindful of any precautions. The extreme polarization that prompted Donald Trump and his team of incompetent bozos to downplay the most serious health crisis in a century and then to disparage life-saving health precautions, resulted in hundreds of thousands of needless deaths and disabilities, and sorrow for families that will last for the rest of their lives.
Last I looked, the pandemic is still alive and doing quite well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that, at this writing, the weekly total of new Covid-19 cases is almost 150,000. More than 1,700 people died from Covid this week, while more than 17,500 were hospitalized. Only 16.4 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated with an up-to-date booster. A new subvariant has just emerged. Meanwhile, little has been done to prepare for the next pandemic.
Third, climate change is real and is wreaking havoc with weather patterns, the consequences of which are death and destruction that is guaranteed to get much worse. Places like California are bordering on being unlivable. The United Nations most recent climate change report forecasts nothing but doom, gloom and Armageddon around the corner. Coincident with this scientific analysis, Donald Trump and his congressional lapdogs persist in denying that there is even a problem.
Meanwhile, the lessons of history go begging for someone to listen to them and act responsibly.
March 24, 2023