Want to get away with murder? Become a bank.
The biggest danger to the U.S. capitalist system doesn't come from communists or community activists or left-wing academics. It comes from some of the nation's biggest financial institutions. These companies, which helped create the financial meltdown that touched off the Great Recession, have now found yet another way to undermine the public's faith in capitalism and markets: the foreclosure fiasco. Even before the foreclosure problem appeared, the level of public distrust of our financial and political systems was approaching the pathological. It's going to get even worse when the true lesson of this episode sinks in. To wit: If you screw up big-time when you deal with a giant bank, you're toast. If the giant bank screws up when it deals with you, it gets a do-over. Sure, many -- probably most -- of the people whose mortgages are being foreclosed got in trouble because they overreached or lost their jobs, not because anyone cheated them. But if we're going to have rules, they ought to be binding on everyone. If I'm supposed to obey the law and pay my bills, the people I'm paying ought to have to obey the law too.