Angelides: ‘Gluttons of privilege’ rule Wall Street

“The Wall Street reactionaries are not satisfied with being rich. They want to increase their power and privileges, regardless of what happens to the other fellow. They are gluttons of privilege.”

Bites doesn’t know if those words, spoken by President Harry Truman at a campaign stop in Iowa in 1948, ever made it onto a sign at Occupy Wall Street, or Occupy Sacramento. But they ought to.

They were quoted again by California’s former State Treasurer Phil Angelides, at a gathering last week of Sacramento’s Truman Democratic Club.

Angelides, for whom Truman is a favorite—he evoked the same speech during his 2006 run for governor against Arnold Schwarzenegger—knows more than most about Wall Street reactionaries.

He was appointed by Congress to chair the bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission formed in 2009 to get to the bottom of America’s financial meltdown.

“I thought I knew something about the financial system in this country,” Angelides—himself a successful developer—is fond of saying. The commission was a “journey of revelation” which led him to open a door to the hidden back room of the financial system, in which he spied, “A casino floor as big as New York City.” A casino that wiped out $9 trillion of household wealth.

The FCIC’s report came out a year ago, along with several referrals from the Commission to the U.S. Department of Justice. “It is still my hope that justice will be done in this country,” Angelides said.

But that seems ever less likely. And Angelides is still making the rounds, reminding us that little has changed, no one has gone to jail, and no one has been held accountable.

“Compensation practices remain unchanged and the amounts of compensation remain ungodly,” Angelides remarked. Seventy-seven percent of banking assets are controlled by the 10 biggest banks, a level Angelides says is greater concentration than ever before, up from 25 percent in 1990, and 55 percent in 2005. “And we have a bitter rearguard action by the forces of power and money to stop reform,” he added.

But wait, aren’t the Democrats among the forces of power and money, too? Angelides acknowledged it, saying, “We need to look at our own party.”

Right now, if the Democrats don’t get back, at least a little bit, to taking on the Wall Street reactionaries, right now, they never will.

“For all of our disappointments” with the White House, Angelides said, “I now see a new attitude in this administration. And it was the people who gathered in Zuccotti Park who lit the fire and put this back on the street.”

The mention of Occupy Wall Street was one of the few applause lines in the otherwise grim talk. Interesting since a lot of the folks in the room were pretty mainstream Dems, including several city council members who’ve had a pretty awful relationship with the local Occupy movement.

The local scene has devolved into a cycle of harassment and mutual contempt regarding Sacramento’s (futile and unconstitutional) camping ordinance. It’s a shame. The Occupy folks and the Democrats are on the same side—nationally and locally—on so many issues.

Later in that 1948 speech, Truman says, “We are fighting with all our strength to prevent the gluttons of privilege from swallowing the country.” Sound familiar?