By Matthew Rothschild on July 27, 2012

So Sandy Weill, former head of Citigroup, woke up one morning this week to the epiphany that the banks are too big to fail and should be chopped up. Well, that’s not exactly cause for bestowing an honor on the guy.

After all, he was the chief architect of too big to fail.

He was the prime mover behind destroying Glass-Steagall, the New Deal law that built a wall between commercial banking and investment banking.

Now he wants that wall rebuilt?

Well, thanks a lot, Sandy, but you already destroyed the economy with your greedy power play when you ran Wall Street and bullied the Clinton crowd into foolish deregulation.

And you were paid handsomely by Citigroup for your dirty work.

Now you say you’re sorry.

You’re like the pyro who sets wildfires and then apologizes later.

It just doesn’t cut it.

Nor does the oh-so-tardy apology from The New York Times. Finally, this morning, it acknowledged that it was wrong to editorialize for the tearing down of Glass-Steagall in the late 1980s and 1990s.

“Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it,” the Times said in an editorial entitled, “The Big Banker’s Change of Heart.”

Now?

And note how it tried to excuse itself by saying that its view at the time was conventional wisdom. As if that’s an excuse!

“Some expressed alarm about having banks, driven by huge profits and huge bonuses, bet the money of their depositors on new, opaque and increasingly risky investment instruments,” the Times wrote. “But the idea that the industry did better without regulation was entrenched in the political debate, not only on the right, but across the political aisle and into the higher reaches of the Clinton Administration.”

Come on now.

Many consumer advocates, like Ralph Nader, and wise economists, like Dean Baker and John Kenneth Galbraith and his son James Galbraith, were pointing out the insanity of tearing down Glass-Steagall. Just because some corporate Democrats, including those in the Clinton White House, supported the idea didn’t make it any more worthy. And the claim that the idea “was entrenched in the political debate” (Passive Alert!) raises the question: Who entrenched it there? And didn’t the mighty New York Times have the ability to get it out of the trench? In actual fact, it was the New York Times that helped put it in the trench.

Sometimes saying you’re sorry is worse than saying nothing at all.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Bernie Sanders Calls Out Obama on Social Security."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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