You Can Take That To The Bank.

That used to be a statement of certainty. Americans once considered the bank a place of safety for their money; an island of certainty in an uncertain world. No longer. With the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, banks have become little more than high-end casinos – only casinos have some semblance of integrity.

When banks lost their high-stakes bets in 2008, they collapsed our economy. And, in an act of unparalleled hubris, they turned to taxpayers to help them avoid bankruptcy. Instead of paying a significant price for their wantonness, the “too-big-to-fail” banks continued with business as usual, even continuing to pay their executives six and seven-figure bonuses. Meanwhile, other Americans slogged through the greatest recession in history, losing as much as $7 trillion through a combination of home foreclosures, lost salaries, lost interest and lost pensions.

And who made off with most of that money? Why Wall Street, of course.

Given their recent history, one would expect that at least some of the bankers who caused the problems would have been convicted of crimes. They weren’t. Instead, they have continued to profit. Worse, they have continued to game the system. They continue to oppose the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. They continue to oppose the Consumer Protection Agency. And they continue to gamble with your money.

In fact, since the banking collapse of 2008, bankers seem to have upped their game; engaging in numerous financial scams and committing outright crimes. To wit: UBS paid $2.3 billion in fines when it was discovered that one of its traders hid €5 billion in losses. Wells Fargo paid $175 million to settle accusations that it discriminated against African-Americans and Hispanic borrowers. JPMorgan Chase gambled $2 billion and lost nearly $6 billion. Barclays paid $450 million to settle charges that it manipulated LIBOR, the global interest rate, and UBS paid $1.5 billion to settle similar charges. USBC paid $1.9 billion to settle a money laundering probe. And Barclays was recently fined £284,432,000 for its role in rigging the foreign exchange market.

Though the banks have admitted to felonies and paid billions in fines, they have yet to pay any real penalty. As far as I can tell, only two bankers have gone to jail. And the rest are unrepentant. Indeed, a recent poll of Wall Street traders found that a significant percentage would be willing to commit a crime if it resulted in a payback of $10 million. (Keep in mind that, on Wall Street, $10 million is chump change.)

But instead of cracking down on the banksters, a GOP-controlled Congress seems determined to deregulate Wall Street. (They know who butters their bread or, more precisely, makes the majority of their campaign contributions.) So you don’t have to be a financial expert to know that there will be many more scandals to come.

You can take that to the bank…er…mattress…or whatever.

Organized Bank Crimes.

After an ill-advised investment in grain futures in the late 80’s, I became more convinced than ever before that small investors are at the mercy of large investors. Not just in commodities, but in other markets as well. If your timing happens to coincide with that of the large corporations and the wealthy, you profit. If not, they take your money.

In other words, all markets are inherently rigged. Because large corporations and the wealthy gamble such large amounts of money, they control the price of commodities and securities.

We’ve seen this play out in a variety of ways since 1999. That was the year President Clinton caved to the big money lobby (reported to have spent $300 million over 25 years) and a Republican-controlled Congress by signing a bill that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. According to the likes of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, former Senator Phil Gramm and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, repealing the law would “free” Wall Street from onerous regulation so the banks could “innovate” and grow.

A year later, Clinton signed another such onerous bill, The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Ironically, that was also the year of the crash.

Our financial markets have taken us on a frightening roller coaster ride ever since.

In my opinion, these bills turned financial markets into international high stakes casinos with a variety of complex games that allow the house and the big players to constantly adjust the rules in order to skim more money from suckers like us.

We’ve seen the big players run up the price of commodities, such as gold and oil, at the expense of ordinary citizens. We’ve seen them pump up the real estate market with subprime mortgages designed to fail. When the inevitable happened, the institutions holding those mortgages were bailed out by taxpayers. They then stepped in and snapped up foreclosed homes at a fraction of their actual value. These events also resulted in the loss of trillions by pension plans and the holders of 401ks.

So, thanks to the gambling of financial institutions, millions of ordinary citizens lost their homes and their financial futures at the same time.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was designed to protect us from such risky and unethical behavior by financial institutions. Signed into law in 2010, Teapublicans have not allowed the act to be fully implemented. Even worse, they are working on behalf of their Wall Street benefactors to dismantle the bill. Even some freshmen Democrats seem to have fallen under the spell of Wall Street and the promise of campaign contributions. They recently voted for a bill written almost entirely by the banksters’ lobbyists that would water down Dodd-Frank.

For their part, financial institutions seem totally unphased by any regulations. In the past year, we learned that financial institutions manipulated LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) the benchmark interest rate that determines the international cost of borrowing. After stealing billions, a handful of the big banks involved in the scandal have paid fines that amount to a stern slap on the wrist. Of course, such penalties only encourage financial traders to continue their games.

Now we’re learning of yet another rigged game – the currency market (aka the Foreign Exchange market). According to a Bloomberg report, “traders at banks around the world have regularly worked together for ‘at least a decade’ to move a key benchmark currency rate in ways that profit them and hurt their clients.”

It seems the old adage that “it takes money to make money” has never been more appropriate.