Gretchen Morgenson has earned a Pulitzer-winning career from exposing abuse and conflicts of interest on Wall Street. In this interview, she confirms that there is indeed a second set of rules enjoyed by our elite financial institutions, largely unfettered by the constraints that apply to the rest of us.
Consequences for failure and fraud are very different under this second set of rules — in fact, they’re practically rewarded. Accountability, by all prudent measures, has become non-existent. The extraordinary measures the U.S. deployed to deal with the great contraction in 2008 only served to exacerbate these imbalances.
What’s sorely needed now is a national dialogue on whether we’re willing to allow this to continue. What benefits are we receiving by enabling these elite to enjoy such different standards? What type of system and rules might work better for our interests?
Sadly, beyond the disorganized Occupy Wall Street outrage that has waned in visibility, there is no real cogent, organized public debate focused on this right now. A big reason is that Washington is actively avoiding such a dialogue. It was fundamentally complicit in creating the underlying factors resulting in the ’08 collapse and it doesn’t want brighter light helping the public understand that more clearly.
As a populace we have a decision to make: Are we going to get more engaged and start articulating the reform we want to see? For if not, we’re making a passive decision to allow the wealth gap to widen further.
In the meantime, Gretchen sees a lot of instability in financial markets that have been allowed to balloon further even though the underlying causes of the ’08 crash haven’t been resolved. She cautions investors to avoid risk (despite the Fed’s encouragements), pay down debt, and have a defensive plan in place should the markets suffer another serious correction in the near future.