Tucked into the recent recovery bill was a provision granting the Federal Reserve the right to set up a $450 billion bailout plan without following key provisions of the federal open meetings law, including announcing its meetings or keeping most records about them, according to a POLITICO review of the legislation.
The provision further calls into question the transparency and oversight for the biggest bailout law ever passed by Congress. President Donald Trump has indicated he does not plan to comply with another part of the new law intended to boost Congress’ oversight powers of the bailout funds. And earlier this week, Trump dismissed the government official chosen as the chief watchdog for the stimulus package.
The changes at the central bank – which appear to have been inserted into the 880-page bill by sympathetic senators during the scramble to get it approved — would address a complaint that the Fed faced during the 2008 financial crisis, when board members couldn’t easily hold group conversations to address the fast-moving economic turmoil.
The provision dispenses with a longstanding accountability rule that the board has to give at least one day’s notice before holding a meeting. Experts say the change could lead to key information about the $450 billion bailout fund, such as which firms might benefit from the program, remaining inaccessible long after the bailout is over.
The new law would absolve the board of the requirement to keep minutes to closed-door meetings as it deliberates on how to set up the $450 billion loan program. That would severely limit the amount of information potentially available to the public on what influenced the board’s decision-making. The board would only have to keep a record of its votes, though they wouldn’t have to be made public during the coronavirus crisis.
A Fed spokesperson did not comment on the changes in the law or whether the Fed would continue keeping records of its meetings.
An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.
– Arthur Miller
Before going any further, I want to share a graphic that accurately summarizes my position on the current pandemic affecting the world.
Unfortunately, it’s quite common for many to latch on to one of these conclusions and singularly obsess about it to the detriment of the others, when we need to be thinking about all three simultaneously.
It’s absolutely critical we understand governments throughout the world are rapidly mobilizing to use the crisis as an excuse to extract more wealth from society and condition the public to relinquish more precious civil liberties. The response in my own imperial oligarchy masquerading as a country has been particularly grotesque. A government that told us masks don’t work and couldn’t roll out testing for weeks, is now responding with the worst of both post-9/11 and post-financial crisis responses.
The idea of representative government or democracy in America is a complete myth. The interests and desires of the people are irrelevant, and our economic system can be best described as financial feudalism.
We’ve seen this movie before. The U.S. government and Federal Reserve used major crises to consolidate wealth and power twice before this century, and it’s happening again. They got away with it before — and they’re getting away with it now — because the public accepts it. I hate to write that, but it’s true. People will tell me the public has no way to fight back, but that’s not accurate. The public hasn’t even tried historical methods like mass strikes and boycotts, instead they’ve been successfully neutered by phony red/blue team mainstream politics, through bickering about marginal issues like pronouns and bathrooms, and by endless entertainment and debt-based consumption. This is why the oligarchy keeps winning. Americans aren’t a serious people yet.
Witnessing the massive theft and power consolidation during the financial crisis a decade ago shook me to my core. I learned so much about how the world really works I simply couldn’t go on in the same way, so I quit my finance job and moved out of NYC. I was convinced such in your face theft would lead to effective popular movements and that the people would discover their power and take direct action, but I was wrong. Rather than economic populism transcending other differences to become ascendant and potent, most Americans were successfully shoved back into convenient political boxes easily managed by oligarchy. The rest is history.
Is the above wishful thinking? It might be. I had similar thoughts a decade ago and nothing truly meaningful happened. That said, I’ve learned some valuable life lessons over the past decade and will share some of them today.
The title of today’s piece is “what are you gonna do about it?”, but let me start by telling you what I’m not going to do. I am not going to vote in the 2020 presidential election. In previous cycles, I went out and voted third party as a protest, but I won’t even do that this time. I refuse to give such a farcical system the satisfaction of even a protest vote. I’m over it. Done.
Choosing to refrain from participation in a clearly rigged and sham presidential election process may feel like giving up, but it’s the exact opposite. It’s actually quite liberating to give up on the fantasy that voting for one of two sociopaths will materially improve your life or the direction of the country. Once you stop believing in the lazy fairytale version of politics you can get down to real action. If you accept that voting is largely a charade, you can either sit back and take it while playing video games, or you can get motivated. I see two avenues for action that can actually change things.
The first consists of mass organized movements that unite as many disparate factions as possible to focus on a single issue. This can take the form of a workers strike, a targeted boycott or something similar. The key thing that’s prevented this from happening is Americans have been so successfully divided and conquered. “Activist leaders” often demand those who constitute a movement see eye to eye on virtually everything, yet oligarchy knows to unite whenever their core interests are even slightly threatened. A hopelessly splintered public is one reason the people always lose.
Although I’m confident in the success of such a strategy if implemented by enough people, this doesn’t mean it will materialize. I was hopeful it could happen last decade, but it never did. Americans proved to be as divided, conquered and distracted as ever, and it’s possible things will continue along this path in the years ahead. As such, waiting for mass movements that may never occur to materialize is not a sufficient strategy. You need a primary strategy, and that strategy starts with you.
The only thing you truly have control over is your mindset and your actions. Think about what angers you most about the system as it stands and turn that anger into something productive. What can you do as an individual to protest or reject that system? What can you do to become more resilient? Can you repurpose your skillset or profession in a way where you become more of a solution than part of the problem? Some of us can do more than others, but virtually everyone can take some action. If you can’t think of anything, think harder.
Reflecting on the past decade, every moment I spent taking control of my life and improving as an individual was worthwhile and rewarding, while every moment I spent hoping others around me would change was a gigantic disappointment.
This doesn’t mean we should give up on mass movements, it means you cannot rely on other people to get to the point you’re at as quickly as you’d like. Think about what’s actually in your control and go for it. And good luck.