White-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator William Black addresses the grassroots reaction to austerity measures in Europe — from the “Indignados” movement in Spain to the anti-bailout elections in France and Greece — as well as in the United States, where the Occupy movement is re-emerging as the presidential campaign gets into full gear. “Finance is supposed to simply be a middleman to help the real economy,” Black says. “It in fact now completely dominates and is a parasite on the real economy. German austerity has pushed the entire eurozone into recession and the periphery into Great Depression-level unemployment. And the same arguments are being made in the United States and are used as a pretext to try to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is economically illiterate, but politically attractive.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Now, William Black, I wanted to end by asking you quickly about the economic crisis in Europe. In Spain, over 100,000 people took part in anti-austerity rallies Sunday. In Greece, anti-bailout parties won the nation’s recent election. And in France, François Hollande was sworn in today as France’s new president, becoming the first French Socialist in power since the ’90s. He recently said his enemy was the world of finance.
FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE: [translated] My real enemy doesn’t have a name or a face or a party. He’ll never run as president, and so he’ll never be elected, although he does govern. My enemy is the world of finance.
AMY GOODMAN: That is François Hollande, France’s new president. William Black, your final response?
WILLIAM BLACK: Finance is supposed to simply be a middleman to help the real economy. It in fact now completely dominates and is a parasite on the real economy. German austerity has pushed the entire eurozone into recession and the periphery into Great Depression-level unemployment. And the same arguments are being made in the United States and are used as a pretext to try to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It is economically illiterate, but politically attractive.
AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Obama versus President Bush?
WILLIAM BLACK: Well, less bad on this subject, but President Obama is also—feels that he must politically say there’s a vital need to balance the budget, which is to say, to have austerity, even though he’s looked at Europe and seen that the worst possible thing you can do in a great recession, or the attempted recovery from a great recession, is to start reducing the spending and such.
And Obama needs to go back to what he originally proposed, which was brilliant. It was a Republican idea: revenue sharing. We all knew that the states and localities, unlike the federal government, cannot run significant deficits, and that there was going to be a financial holocaust that was going to reduce vital services and throw hundreds of thousands of public workers out of work when they were most needed and exacerbate the great recession and dramatically slow the recovery. So, the recovery bill that—the stimulus bill that President Obama proposed had that provision. The Blue Dog Democrats, the conservative Democrats, and the Republicans got together to kill that. And unfortunately, the Obama administration didn’t fight for it.
Here’s what we know. The Wall Street Journal just ran an op-ed saying, don’t allow the federal government to help the states. That tells you that’s what they’re scared of. It would be economically brilliant, it would be politically brilliant, to bring back the revenue sharing provisions, which are, after all, a Republican idea, and make the Republicans make the call that they want a financial holocaust throughout America, and they want us to slip back into a recession.
AMY GOODMAN: William Black, I want to thank you for being with us, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, also a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.