Dear Banker, The End is Nigh

(First Published in The Huffigton Post September 11, 2017)

In one of the clearest signs of how pathological the banking industry has become, this past week Texas Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling escalated his party’s rhetoric on how government regulation gets in the way of freedom and how the banking industry’s crusade to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the CFPB) is a patriotic duty. How ironic that this comes at a time when Texas needs billions in taxpayer dollars to rebuild in the aftermath of hurricane Harvey.

On his official website, the Congressman declares that his next legislative step is to repeal the law that brought the CFPB into existence, the Dodd-Frank Act. Like the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank has been a thorn in the side of Republicans since its creation. The warped repeal logic is the same; anyone who comes in the way of corporate greed must be neutralized before they cause an outright psychotic meltdown to a system seeking self-preservation while on life support.

So, why is it at a time when the unemployment rate is at historic lows and stock markets are at historic highs, are Republicans still blindly pursuing a deregulation agenda? The short answer is that the political infrastructure for deregulation is far more developed and well funded than the weak voices of the 99% advocating for regulation and fairness. In an era of low interest rates and slow growth, the only way for bankers to stay alive is by inventing new fees and penalties, and engaging in predatory lending. In short, the banking industry has become an entire system of Tony Sopranos in designer suites made more brazen by the 2008 bailout and a refusal to accept new economic realities. They own politicians who want the world to believe that any protection of the consumer is a despicable violation of freedom. This is the very definition of predatory capitalism that has run amuck in an economy that has gotten used to a passive, nonexistent, incompetent and impotent-by-design regulatory structure.

The CFPB is the brainchild of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who many believe represents a new breed of politicians on Capitol Hill. She thinks in terms of the generational run of democracy, not its exploitation for short-term gain. Her believes, while representing the emerging values of humanity, are a clear threat to bankers and their lobbyists who think only of the quarterly bottom line. While wealth continues to shift away from Main Street due to this well-established deregulatory infrastructure, bankers and their representatives in Congress seem to be hell-bend on making sure no regulation whatsoever gets in the way of their bottom line as they repeatedly called this agency undemocratic, freedom hating, and a destroyer of jobs and consumer choice.

This rhetoric about the evil effects of regulations on the private sector was borne out of Ronald Reagan’s declaration that government is the enemy of capitalism. Forty years later and this pathology has continued to grow. It has given America a fresh crop of ill-informed lawmakers who know nothing but obstructionism and the dying belief in the powers of the free market. At the behest of their lobbyists who control their destiny, they have successfully blocked the evolutionary pulse of our institutions and our culture. They have wrapped themselves in Old Glory while doing the ugly deeds of a predatory private sector. Who would point to such raw display of patriotism and freedom and accuse it of wrongdoing?

To see this battle play out from an ideological lifecycles perspective gives us hope that the end to predatory private sector behavior is near. The emerging system of values is rightfully angry and has no tolerance for incompetent and corrupt politicians. It recognizes the toxicity of an untamed private sector. As part of its natural manifestation it seeks to undo the inequalities caused by the dying ideology. What’s next for the US is a system of social democracy with a capitalist expression that can only thrive on collective fairness. While its current advocate, Bernie Sanders might seem abrasive to many the merits of its values speak volumes to millions of people.

This social evolution is being helped by two factors. The first is that history shows when an environment of unregulated greed is accelerated, which is the case under the Trump Administration, it spawns the seeds of its own destruction. The current White House is full of advisors who see the current pathology as truth. It is now just a matter of when President Trump appoints a new head of the CFPB. It will very likely be someone similar to the rest of his appointees, grossly incompetent, and fanatically intentional in his/her actions to destroy whatever is left of the power entrusted to our government institutions. It seems inevitable that the Dodd-Frank Act will be repealed. This will result in a new financial crisis for which there will be no bailout, which will hasten the end of the current system and help usher in the new.

The second and far more ominous factor is the confluence of the disruptive forces of the digital economy. The driving dynamism behind this technological revolution is the quantification of each and every industry. Banking is no exception. Neither is healthcare or is the carbon fuel industry. Here’s what we know about the patterns of this revolution: Once an industry is quantified it becomes digitized, and once it’s digitized it goes through a profound structural disruption. After the disruption comes the industry’s democratization. This last stage is the nightmare that haunts traditional CEOs since it violates so many of the tenets of the traditional capitalist model.

So as bankers and CEOs of old model industries continue in their myopic vision of lining up political stooges to deregulate and lobby for their outdated and outmoded products and services, something far bigger is emerging that terrified them. The real possibility that this game we call capitalism can no longer be rigged.


The Orange in the White House

This post is in response to the attention  the book The Chickenshit Club is receiving after becoming the #1 Best Seller with its release this week. The book is by Wall Street veteran reporter  and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jessie Eisinger.  In my opinion, (based on the authors interviews, I haven’t read the book yet) this author is among the first writers to articulate our economic system from a long cycle systems perspective, and the importance of a robust regulatory structure, much like what I describe in my work in MEMEnomic Cycles.
For 9 years I have spoken about how the regulatory value system, the  Blue level of development was made impotent by design over the last 40-year. I call this cycle The Only Money Matters Cycle which began with the election of Ronald Reagan.  When I talk about the decline of the regulatory system during these years, the primary subject of this book, people take pictures of the graphics that show those historic changes in the values memestack.  Finally, someone from the mainstream is able to see clearly the necessity of Blue  that people familiar with macromemetics and the value systems framework have known for years.
When the dominant economic meme says only money matters, the battle to proof otherwise becomes extremely difficult. That system knows no consciousness other than it’s own self interest. Its primary obsession has remained the repeal of laws to allow the free market to determine the destiny of humanity. To argue its toxic outcomes like income disparities and extreme poverty only reinforces its tenets about self-reliance and individualism while becoming more and more oblivious to its own toxicity.
When a problem is created by a system, only a systems approach can solve it.  A system’s perspective, provides for a shift in focus from “what an individual can or failed to do”, to  “how the system can be nudged forward in the right direction”.  Sometimes if that system’s values have become toxic to the overall health of the culture, it becomes necessary to know when it should be nudged  over the cliff to hastened its end and allow for a new system to rise from its ashes. 
While the author argues that Obama missed the opportunity to do just that during the financial crisis, I argue that the system  chose Obama precisely to fool people into thinking he’s a change agent. Yes Obama exhibited the highest expression  of progressive values with climate change and a renaissance of civil rights, but any effort to resurrect the Blue system in an environment that has developed a repulsive resistance to regulation, was doomed to fail. 
I agree with Eisinger that we have Trump today because of Obama’s failure to regulate Wall Street and to a greater extend his failure to rein in the excesses  of the Orange system.  Everyone who was effected by the financial crisis wanted Obama to act on this  unprecedented opportunity to cut toxic Orange at its knees.  His failure to do so was not because of his personal lack of will or intelligence, but because of the absence -by design- of intelligence in our government institutions that know how today’s Orange operates. It is this systems failure that extended the life of this declining system of values and gave it new life and gave us the executive leadership we have today.
So the Orange in the White House today is not limited to the President’s tan, or hair color. Those are just some of the ironic manifestations of the Orange value system during its decline and entropy  phase. Treachery, contempt for the law and collusion with known enemies to get what you want are just examples-made-visible of how this system in its unhealthy manifestation normally operates. Today, the Orange that sneaked into the White House is  on its death bed confessing the ugliness of all its sins to a world that is divided on how to deal with  its misery. 
Until new leadership rises that can articulate the need for the current system’s early death and what needs to be done to transition us to the next system we will be stuck  with Trump and the next  leader that the system picks.
Sadly,  things point to a noticeable vacuum in new leadership that can transition us without considerable pain.  The obsession we have with admiring Orange values  and dismissing Blue values is pervasive. The blind allegiance to one of the two current political parties is prolonging the life of the Only Money matters system.  We naively continue to believe that a solution to this problem will come from within the confines of the two-party system. As long as this remains the debate there will be  complete dominance of the current system (the Only Money Matters, not Republican v. Democrat). 
This system will eventually collapse as transparency cuts across both political parties, leading either to a revolution or a higher level of consciousness that can contain the arrogance of everything Orange. Once we detach from our current and outdated paradigm and  begin to articulate the characteristics of the  new stage, things like multi-party democracy and  corporations not being granted the same rights as people, all become parts of the vibrant dynamics that define the possible future of our human journey.

The Tragedy of the West: Our Obsession with Quantification

The recent rise of protectionism and nationalism in the Western World has presented progressive thought leaders with one of the greatest challenges in almost a century. We continue to struggle to make sense out of the current reversal in our journey towards human progress. And, sadly (or arrogantly), we continue to shape our views and our emotional well being  through the same lenses and by the same metrics that never saw this coming. What has been left out of the debate, and in my opinion, is the main  contributing factor to our continued anguish, is that we’ve forgotten how fragile our western construct of thought has been. Or, how vulnerable it is to a Black Swan event that can shake our faith in the very foundation of what we believe.
In the value systems framework, the current Western center of gravity for cultural values is associated directly with 4th and 5th levels of psycho-social development. This modern expression began after the Spanish Inquisition. The values of this era continue to shape Western culture today and are about the macro-memetics of the 4th level value system.  They’re about building the right institutions and excluding the wrong ones and other random un-quantifiable cultural expressions that fall into the dark side of this black-or-white dichotomy.  It is that dark side that in our subconscious that could no longer be repressed that is now coming to the surface.
With the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment came the macro-memetics of the 5th level system. This stage of psycho-social development  seeks to uncover the secrets of the universe through quantification, research and mathematical analysis. It excludes what is not rationally quantifiable and measurable, and everything that fell outside the processing capacities of the grey matter between our ears. This also became repressed in our subconscious giving us further confidence that the dark side of conscious actions mattered not.  This too is now coming to the surface.
Together these two levels of development gave us the wonders of Western Civilization. They gave us Measurement: Time, Space and Mathematics. They gave us the visual arts, music, and painting. They gave us business and bureaucracy, science, modern medicine  and technologies that have  become indispensable to our modern, efficient and  hectic lives.   But all this came at a cost. We seem to have forgotten what it is to be human outside the quantifiable world.
The perfect description of this world comes from one of my favorite writers in the piece below. Ironically it’s called the “Perfect World”. Kahlil Gibran supposedly wrote this after he was invited to recite some of his poetry at Harvard University, the most refined institution  that upholds the virtues of the 4th and 5th level systems.  After his recital he was humiliated and ridiculed for using a style called “free verse”, something that fell outside the quantifiable measure of Harvard at the time.
As you read this and consider the evolution of poetry over the last 100 years,  do what I did. Look within you to see if it’s not those same measures that have arrested our evolution and closed us off in our own safe world. A world that makes darkness out of the immeasurable, the un-quantifiable and the non-scientific. Maybe you’d add the spiritual and the metaphysical to all that defies measurement.
Gibran-Western Measure

“The Perfect World”

God of lost souls, thou who are lost amongst the gods, hear me:
Gentle Destiny that watchest over us, mad, wandering spirits, hear me: I dwell in the midst of a perfect race, I the most imperfect.
I, a human chaos, a nebula of confused elements, I move amongst finished worlds—peoples of complete laws and pure order, whose thoughts are assorted, whose dreams are arranged, and whose visions are enrolled and registered.
Their virtues, O God, are measured, their sins are weighed, and even the countless things that pass in the dim twilight of neither sin nor virtue are recorded and catalogued.
Here days and night are divided into seasons of conduct and governed by rules of blameless accuracy.

To eat, to drink, to sleep, to cover one’s nudity, and then to be weary in due time.

To work, to play, to sing, to dance, and then to lie still when the clock strikes the hour.

To think thus, to feel thus much, and then to cease thinking and feeling when a certain star rises above yonder horizon.

To rob a neighbour with a smile, to bestow gifts with a graceful wave of the hand, to praise prudently, to blame cautiously, to destroy a sound with a word, to burn a body with a breath, and then to wash the hands when the day’s work is done.

To love according to an established order, to entertain one’s best self in a preconceived manner, to worship the gods becomingly, to intrigue the devils artfully—and then to forget all as though memory were dead.

To fancy with a motive, to contemplate with consideration, to be happy sweetly, to suffer nobly—and then to empty the cup so that tomorrow may fill it again.

All these things, O God, are conceived with forethought, born with determination, nursed with exactness, governed by rules, directed by reason, and then slain and buried after a prescribed method. And even their silent graves that lie within the human soul are marked and numbered.

It is a perfect world, a world of consummate excellence, a world of supreme wonders, the ripest fruit in God’s garden, the master-thought of the universe.

But why should I be here, O God, I a green seed of unfulfilled passion, a mad tempest that seeketh neither east nor west, a bewildered fragment from a burnt planet?

Why am I here, O God of lost souls, thou who art lost amongst the gods?