Paltry Fines and Penalties Show How Ineffective Washington Has Become
It is no secret that our government is overly concerned with the fate of multinational corporations, wealthy individuals and other special interests. This focus has only exacerbated our country’s problems and increased the divide between rich and poor. The concerns of these interests now trump those of average Americans, and the amount of access and special treatment they receive clearly demonstrates this.
Recent banking scandals have demonstrated just how entrenched these interests are in Washington. Recently, the Justice Department handed down the penalty Swiss bank UBS would face for rigging LIBOR rates. LIBOR rates determine the interest rate that businesses and consumers around the globe must pay to borrow money and greatly affect economic activity. Sixteen banks are accused of manipulating these rates. Estimates for the economic damage done are approaching $200 billion, and much of that cost is being passed on to small businesses, individuals and municipalities. Despite this staggering sum and their demonstrated disregard for the law, UBS must pay only $1.5 billion. Two former employees will face conspiracy charges, but over 40 employees were said to be involved in the rate rigging.
HSBC received a similarly paltry penalty of $1.9 billion for laundering money for Mexican drug cartels and groups linked to Al Qaeda, groups the United States has spent immense sums of money combating. No one at the bank will face jail time. Clearly there is a different set of rules for those with political influence. These banks’ U.S. operations have given millions of dollars to Democrats and Republicans alike, and clearly this influence is paying off.
This is merely a demonstration of how broken Washington is. Lobbyists hold the power while the good of the country falls by the wayside. Our lawmakers and regulators fear offending their friends in the business world, and the American people pick up the slack, be it through artificially high interest rates or lost jobs due to “free trade” agreements that help multinational corporations at the expense of workers.
Washington has become too cozy with monied interests. We must get money out of politics to temper the influence these interests hold. We must end the revolving door that rewards compliant politicians with high paying jobs after they leave office. Some of this reform may be possible through legislation and some may take a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United ruling, which has allowed corporations to give unlimited sums to campaigns. This will be difficult, but it must be done if we want Washington to work for the people rather than multinational corporations and special interests.
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