President Obama addressed Wall Street yesterday, marking one year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
“There are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment” he warned. “Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we are recovering, they are choosing to ignore them. We will not go back to the days of reckless behaviour and unchecked excess that were at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses.”
Despite the strong words, the financial system remains pretty much intact, and with all the same underlying weaknesses. It is still elitist, unstable, and founded on usurious interest and unimaginable debt. The banks will fail again, because the whole system is unsustainable. Still, credit to Obama for telling them off. He is not the first president to do so. Here are four more:
“I sincerely believe… that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.”
Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809)
“Whoever controls the money in any country is master of all its legislation and commerce.”
James Garfield (1881)
“Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.”
Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921)
And my personal favourite, said to the bankers at the Bank of America:
“You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the Eternal God, I will rout you out!”
Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)
That, to be honest, is the kind of thing I’d like to hear from Obama and Gordon Brown.