The moral environment on Wall Street is pathological — money rules all

The enclosed video is stunning, partly because it’s usually-“mainstream” Jeffrey Sachs talking. Sachs often argues for corporatist faux-centrist policies. Not so here; in this clip he rails against the obvious, blatant, “pathological” corruption of the billionaires in the Wall Street financial sector — a group of people he calls “immoral”  in the lowest sense of the term.

He also calls out the political system that nurtures and protects them — including the president. This is as strong an assault on Wall Street culture and corruption as I’ve heard. (Thanks to Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism for the clip; an amazing find. Click for her own comments.)


The Worship of Mammon

I’m starting the clip at the strongest, meatiest condemnation, about 11:51 in. The whole thing is worth a listen though. There’s some very tough talk near the beginning, then some weedy material near the middle.

From the first few minutes, if you’re interested:

(3:10) I know that [Larry] Summers, for example, continued to really institute moral hazard policies right and left by fighting against any limits on compensation of these people who had entered into the breach.

By “institute moral hazard policies” Sachs means instituting policies that create moral hazard. “Moral hazard” refers to incentives in a system that increase immorality — for example, compensation that encourages breaking the law and defrauding customers.

There’s a segment just before the start of the sub-clip I selected that discusses how emerging countries deal with this corrupt international scheme; needless to say, they’re horrified, but trapped.

But on to the main point. Here’s Jeffrey Sachs, “centrist” economist and Columbia University professor, on the immorality of the Wall Street financial sector and the corruption of the entire system. Please note that the comments are mainly about individuals. This is a system of deeply dangerous individuals.

From the transcript, some of the juicier parts of my sub-clip (thanks to Naked Capitalism; emphasis and some changes mine):

I meet a lot of these people on Wall Street on a regular basis right now. I’m going to put it very bluntly. I regard the moral environment as pathological.

And I’m talking about the human interactions that I have. I’ve not seen anything like this, not felt it so palpably. These people are out to make billions of dollars and nothing should stop them from that.

They have no responsibility to pay taxes, they have no responsibility to their clients, they have no responsibility to people … counterparties in transactions.

They are tough, greedy, aggressive, and feel absolutely out of control, in a quite literal sense.

And they have gamed the system to a remarkable extent and they have a docile president, a docile White House and a docile regulatory system that absolutely can’t find its voice. It’s terrified of these companies.

… [T]he financial markets are the number one campaign contributors in the U.S. system now. We have a corrupt politics to the core, I’m afraid to say… and both parties are up to their necks in this. This has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans. It really doesn’t have anything to do with right wing or left wing, by the way. The corruption, as far as I can see, [is] everywhere. …

Two notes:

The question before this one, about how small and emerging nations deal with the current state of pathological immoral international banking is revealing. Listen to that at 9:35 in the clip.

The entire Sachs audio clip is introduced by someone name Bill Still, about whom I know little. I suspect he’s a “libertarian,” whatever that means. The introduction tells how he got the clip — by audiotaping a conference call he was on. Whatever Still’s background or beliefs, though, the meat is Sachs’ views, and one should agree or disagree on that basis only, in my opinion.

A class that does nothing but feed

The rich and the Rest — more proof if you need it. This is the full-throated song of the predator class. According to no less than “centrist” Jeffrey Sachs, our money is their meat, and they do nothing but feed. No wonder they own us.

Listen to Sachs again, and see if he says less than that. Pathological indeed.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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46 Responses to “The moral environment on Wall Street is pathological — money rules all”

  1. Wilf Tarquin says:

    Don’t pin your hopes on a pyramid scheme run by Russian mobsters and mainly used for laundering drug money.

  2. karmanot says:

    My kind of talk! :-)

  3. Bill_Perdue says:

    I’m not a sap. I don’t talk to the enemy. Kindly stop asking me to have a chat with union busting, austerity imposing, bigoted, racist mad dog warmongers. I talk to my friends.

    You’ve come to the end of a dead end alley and now you’re pounding your head on a wall. That’s not very bright and it’s obviously damaging.

  4. Mike Meyer says:

    NO time for a phone call ? Congress affects life in America and The Speaker has the most power in Congress, or do YOU leave that part out of the “education” regimen.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    Keeping in touch with your congressional cretins is doing nothing. Don’t pretend otherwise.

    Organizing and expanding the union left and the LGBT left, which is what I try to do, is doing something real. Educating, which is what many people who comment here do. and many of them do it very well, is doing something.

    Talking to Nancy and Jon-Jon is an exercise in futility. Voting form them is betrayal.

  6. Mike Meyer says:

    At least its doing SOMETHING instead of nothing but complaining.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’s nice of you to keep in touch with your congresscretins I don’t because they’re paid political prostitutes for the rich and it’s painfully obvious after more than 200 years that they rarely listen to. Revolutions are not more of the same – that’s why they’re called revolutions.

    As, as others have pointed out, it’ll be a second party,not a third party.

    “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.” Gore Vidal

  8. This is one of the things that has goten me pissed off about the Obama admin they look the other way ..They know how much damage was done they know laws were broken yet nothin you might as well have the bush admin justice dept on this cause the same thing would be happening.NOTHING

  9. Mike Meyer says:

    I’ve called Boehner @1-202-225-0600 concerning these VERY SAME issues and I’ve called Nancy @1-202-225-0100, when she was in office, since 06. I would suggest YOU CALL YOUR Congress Person over these same matters. The only OTHER ANSWER I can think of is to form an organization, a THIRD PARTY of like minded people to address these very same problems & take them to Congress. A revolution would seem like more of the same, or worse, IMHO.

  10. wjbill49 says:

    The moral environment in general has been deteriorating. This is just one aspect of “our” society. Peel back one layer of any institution and you find decay.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    And I’m just going for accuracy.

  12. Bill_Perdue says:

    You can accept responsibility for Vietnam and Iraq. I don’t. I fought tooth and nail against both.

    The secular workers revolution in Arab and muslim nations like Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and elsewhere is moving forwards by fits and starts which is all you can expect in newly and partly industrialized countries. Any revolutionary advance is a step in the right direction.

    The revolting people with guns in this country are the police and the military, particularly officers. If you don’t want them killing American workers and citizens like they did in Vietnam and Iraq and like they’re doing in Afghanistan and half a dozen other countries then you’d better support their immediate withdrawal and total demobilization, the decommission of all nuclear, chemical and bio weapons. disarming the police, organizing an International War Crimes Tribunal and a constitutional amendment renouncing wars of aggression.

  13. Mike Meyer says:

    I guess that would be Americans, PAID for by U&I to invade. Not a pretty sight. I would hate to see the same here. In the Middle East, THOSE REVOLUTIONS aren’t turning out that well for those folks.

  14. nicho says:

    I’m not saying that didn’t happen.

  15. Bill_Perdue says:

    The revolting people with guns are those who invaded Vietnam and Iraq. Your version of history is grotesquely distorted in favor or the warmongers.

  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    I agree 100%.

    The soldiers who fought the long bitter fight from 1775 until 1783, including women auxiliaries, were overwhelmingly young and overwhelmingly composed of farmers and city workers. They were never given the opportunity to complete the revolution although we did get the Bill of Rights, now being systematically gutted by Obama, the courts and both major parties.

    The First American Revolution does not belong to the teatards, it belongs to workers and small farmers, people of color, women and ourselves.

    A People’s History of the American Revolution. (2002, By Ray Raphael, series edited by Howard Zinn) Perennial/Harper Collins

  17. Mike Meyer says:

    Its The American Culture—-OUR most toxic asset & export.

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    The bottom line is that the 1917 revolution was betrayed.

    The Stalinists weren’t plutocrats. Plutocracy does not mean dictatorial and counterrevolutionary, it means rule of the rich. Stalinists didn’t own the economy, they deformed it to enhance their own bureaucratic power and ultimately, like all rightwingers, turned against the revolution and liquidated the USSR.

  19. lynchie says:

    I honestly believe that is the only hope that we take back our country and in turn create a more equitable way of life where the poor and elderly are not asked to finance the illegal wares and bad bets by Wall Street.

  20. zorbear says:

    Sounds like heaven, but then, I remember when Google’s mission statement was “Don’t be evil”.

    Maybe it’s the fluoride in our water?

  21. eahopp says:

    I’d love to see them rot in jail as well, but when the billionaires have purchased all those in government and the legal system, they will have the “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The corrupt system continues on. My fear is that when people finally have nothing left to lose, they will resort to violence to kill and take from whoever they feel has wronged them.

  22. Mike Meyer says:

    NOW YER THINKIN’!!! Good points.

  23. Mike Meyer says:

    Revolutions are full of revolting people with guns. WE ALREADY have that here.

    nicho: Run the campaigns on Bitcoin. LEARN to campaign without money.

  24. FunMe says:


  25. FunMe says:

    I think the next revolutions are going to come through the internet and the organization like “Anonymous” will be one of the groups leading the way. That is why the government is so intent on getting CISPA to pass because they are running scared that in the internet the TRUTH can be told.

  26. FunMe says:

    These 1% oligarchy barons are TRAITORS to the foundation of our country: Democracy.
    We are here because they have allowed corporations to run our country. “They” being both Democrats and RepubliCONs including our US President. Plus they have been helped by the US Media which our government has allowed to take over so that they can spill out the message of lies.

    Check out this great documentary that includes Danny Glover and award winning journalist Amy Goodman

    “Shadows of Liberty reveals the extraordinary truth behind the news media: censorship, cover-ups and corporate control.”

  27. nicho says:

    But the bottom line is that ultimately the Russians traded one set of plutocrats for another set of plutocrats, however, they got to that point.

  28. karmanot says:

    Exactly, the ignorant of capitalist history don’t know the difference between Marxism and Stalinism. The later is a repudiation of the former and savagely betrayed revolutionary advances.” It will have to be replaced replaced by a state and government” This concepts leads to corporate fascism.

  29. karmanot says:

    It’s time to take a closer look at the Mondragon Corp as a possible model for our local economies.

  30. Bill_Perdue says:

    That analysis is cursory and leaves out the real history of the matter.

    The Bolsheviks who defeated the czarists and liberals were in turn defeated, because they were largely decimated defending the revolution. They were replaced by the rising bureaucracy led by Stalin and by the mid-1930’s he became a ferocious dictator and a counterrevolutionary. His successors destroyed the Soviet workers state because they, like the capitalists were unwilling to reform.

    The capitalist state, like the deformed state created by the Stalinists, cannot be reformed. The chances of that are zero. It will have to be replaced replaced by a state and government exclusively of, by and for working people.

  31. Wilf Tarquin says:

    It is often observed that money from business has corrupted politics, less often how the corrupted politics is corrupting business.
    Wall street is “immoral” and “pathological” because if you’re a billionaire you can effectively control the legislative process and the media. We even now have a whole ideology based on the concept that unbridled greed is the ultimate good: libertarianism.

    Citizens United accelerated and made visible a process which has been going on for decades.

  32. I have said for years that if there were enough money to be made in raping babies, most people who work in the financial sector would be out tomorrow raping babies, their lackeys in the federal government would pass laws to facilitate the raping of babies, a majority of the Supreme Court would find that the Constitution guarantees the rights of rich people to rape babies for profit, and anyone who complained about all the baby-raping going on would be attacked by Fox News and the Tea Party as a Marxist who hated America.

  33. Bill_Perdue says:

    “who is going to charge them, try them and imprison them…” There;s only one possibility, one possible solution. The creation of a workers state run by and for workers exclusively.

  34. Forested says:

    worst tragedy since 1962

  35. karmanot says:

    We’ll name the mew party ‘Revolution.’

  36. nicho says:

    Just adding a third party to the mix is keeping on dancing. If you need a billion dollars to run for president, then having three, four, or even five people, each of whom needs a billion dollars, will actually give the corporations even more power. We have third parties now, but they don’t have the money to run a winning campaign. Until you get money out of politics, nothing will change.

  37. Mike Meyer says:

    Well then keep dancing. I see no problem with that. Ya just ain’t been fucked enough yet, that’s all.
    YOU are right, trying to fix THIS nation is magical thinking. MAGIC BEGINS with doing SOMETHING DIFFERENT, not the same thing over&over&over&over&over&over&over&over&over, etc.

  38. lynchie says:

    Me too, but who is going to charge them, try them and imprison them it you can convict them. Certainly the judges are all bought and paid for and the juries would be too. I think we would all be surprised what people will do for money all we have to do is watch what the 1% are prepared to do. Oil spills, then no fly zones and control the media. How much have you read about the explosion in west texas or the oil spill in Arkansas. Conspiracy theories are wild but I would put nothing past the 1% to protect their wealth and to take what remains.

  39. nicho says:

    That’s magical thinking. As long as money dominates the political process, it won’t matter how many parties you have. They will all become corrupt.

  40. BeccaM says:

    Capitalism as an economic philosophy, has gone feral.

    It exists now not to serve society or nations — and certainly not the people — but the billionaire sociopathic plutocrats. In no sane world should a CEO receive hundreds of millions of dollars — and a bonus — for driving a corporation into bankruptcy, yet it happens all the time now.

    I’m reminded of the last time we had such economic inequality: The Robber Baron Era. Everybody back then was certain this is how things would always be.

    Then the money-bloated oligarchs got too greedy, and in nation after nation, the people said ENOUGH. From this came organized labor and resistance. I actually believe we’re on the cusp of such a paradigm shift. It might take another couple of decades to reach fruition, and in all likelihood it’ll happen in other nations first, as opposed to the decaying American empire, but as Jefferson said, governmental power derives from the consent of the governed. Consent can be coerced, but that only works for a while.

    Eventually comes the idea: We don’t have to allow those rich bastards to keep all the money. That in fact it’s immoral and wrong for someone to accumulate more money than they’ll ever spend, not when there are people starving to death. Not when it’s been estimated that it would only take a few hundred billion dollars a year to END poverty worldwide.

    A side thought: Fiat currency is only worth what people agree it’s worth. I find it fascinating how there is now an increasingly accepted supra-national black market currency, the Bitcoin — completely divorced from any government. I’d be fascinated to learn, Gaius, what you think about the social and economic implications of its creation.

  41. Mike Meyer says:

    GREED&STUPIDITY dance hand in hand inseparable through this life.

    Third Party, Folks. (or just keep dancing)

  42. dula says:

    I would rather see them rot in jail for treason and fraud.

  43. nicho says:

    That won’t work. There will just be more to take their place. The people who followed the tzars in Russia were just as bad as the tzars in terms of plutocracy. We need strong regulations and vigilant enforcement. We need strong labor unions. We need citizens to stop allowing themselves to be distracted by wedge issues of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. and focus on what really is at stake. We need a free press, not just a gaggle of corporatist propaganda outlets.

  44. eahopp says:

    I’m sorry to say this, but I’m thinking the only way to stop them is to kill the billionaires, and take their property away from them. It happened before in France and Russia. It may be only a matter of time when it happens here.

  45. nicho says:

    This should come as no surprise. This has been the ethic of Wall Street since it was just a bunch of guys trading shares and screwing each other out of money under a tree in the 1700s. Over the years, we learned that the only way to rein this in was with strict regulation and keen government oversight. Then, along came the corporatists and their corrupt media to convince enough useful idiots — aka “conservatives” and “libertarians” — that regulations, taxes, and government were evil. Everything we’re seeing today flows from that.

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