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The Moneychangers

I just finished reading The Moneychangers by Upton Sinclair, and was surprised by how little the financial industry has changed in the 100 years since he wrote the book.  Sinclair is best known for The Jungle about tainted food and general poor living conditions of immigrants in America, which resulted in the creation of the Food and Drug Administration.  Since he wrote The Moneychangers, the US has created the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, but the main difference is that the unscrupulous bankers and traders are now billionaires instead of millionaires, and the old trusts are now called hedge funds.

The 2008 “Great Recession” was very similar to the Panic of 1907 that Sinclair wrote about.  Lehman Brothers went down in bankruptcy in 2008 as the Gotham Trust Company did in The Moneychangers.  One of Sinclair’s main points was that Wall Street tycoons made their money by using other people’s money, usually leaving the little guys exposed to the loss if anything went wrong.  In the housing meltdown, it was the homeowners and retiree pension funds that suffered most of the losses, while the fat cats got bailed out by the government.  The nation can endure thousands of small individual foreclosures and bankruptcies, but not one huge one.  Lehman was just small enough to let die.

Relating to my obsession with the involvement of Jews in the financial industry, The Moneychangers only mentions the word Jew once, when a cleaning woman tells the main character that a man who looked like a Jew had paid her to go through his trash.  Presumably all the stock market manipulators were Episcopalian Christians, who perhaps had not paid too much attention to the sermons.  They all loved the show of money in their elegant town houses, their massive Newport beach “cottages,” their yachts, etc.  It sounds like the titans of Wall Street today.  And the banking practices still sound almost the same.  They have made some changes to get around the regulations designed to protect the public, but the results are pretty much the same, and as 2008 showed, the public is still not protected.

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