This is an opinion piece I wrote about the recent trending of the #KenGriffinLied on Twitter and how it exposes much deeper systemic issues if you look a little further.
The beginning of 2021 brought a stock mania to the country with GameStop, Ken Griffin’s Citadel Securities, and Robinhood at the center. We’re once again seeing a resurgence of the story as #KenGriffinLied was trending on Twitter for a week straight, in reference to the billionaire lying about Citadel not having contact with Robinhood during the fateful week of 1/28. (Subpoenaed messages show that the two were in contact at the highest levels, it is not confirmed if they colluded to halt trading of certain stocks on Robinhood’s app). This story of impregnable fortresses and its cast of villains may seem pulled from the pages of a medieval tale, but unfortunately for us, the greed and corruption that drives our economy is very real and plots that may seem fantastical are happening right beneath American’s noses. In examining the truth of our market structure it becomes apparent that billionaires such as Griffin act as dragons hoarding treasure, plunging the working class into feudalistic servitude for mere crumbs of that loot to survive on.
If individuals are the monsters, then financial brokers on Wall Street are their gatekeepers; protecting their hoards of secrets at any cost while telling the public that they couldn’t comprehend the danger and complexity which lies in the vault. Heading this strict kingdom of hierarchy is the U.S. government and its Federal Reserve, creating and enabling the wealth distributed to the dragons. The Fed is run by a secretive board of shareholders unbeholden to any elected official, governing members who come from the very financial institutions that exist purely to keep the wealthy fed.
Beginning with Bernake and continuing under Yellen (who is regularly paid 6 figure speaking fees by Citadel, among other Wall Street firms), and Powell, the Fed’s strategy for maintaining a happy upper class has been quantitative easing. Since 2008 the Fed has been buying up all the toxic assets that Wall Street dumps, such as subprime mortgages that caused the Great Recession. On top of this Powell has lowered interest rates for Wall Street to nearly 0% (of course, banks still charge double digits for consumers) and has been printing money like no one before, creating over 40% of U.S. dollars in circulation within the last year. This massive influx of cash on top of a pandemic laying waste to the working class for the last 19 months has led to the greatest wealth accumulation in history for a few individuals. Assets of U.S. billionaires have grown exponentially during the last decade, 62% during the pandemic alone. While the richest few dozen saw their cumulative wealth climb from $2.9 to $4.1 trillion, the working class bled out $3.7 trillion from lost wages, inflationary costs, and chaotic markets due to COVID.
With staggering levels of wealth concentrated in the top 0.001 – 0.1%, the “normal” 1% look like children with a minimum worth of $4.5 million. This obscene fortune flowing from the working class, to the Fed, to the ultra rich has been reflected in stock prices (and bonuses) for Wall Street, seeing one of the most sustained bull market runs in our history. The bubble has been building since 2010, so strong that the only way it was going to pop was if Wall Street’s greed got too extreme. But we have the big 5 regulatory agencies in Washington to make sure that doesn’t happen, right?
A hefty portion of the money rich people receive is pumped right back to the individuals in our government, at every level. Ex-CEOs and financiers are hand selected by the financial lobby as Chairs of the Fed or other regulatory agencies to keep the system at maximum profitability, then sent over to the President who doesn’t dare go against Wall Street. The Congressional, Judicial, and Executive have all been bought and paid for by the ruling class to ensure that their nefarious dealings go unprosecuted. Ken Griffin provided Senator Kelly Loeffler his largest political donations, in the 7-8 figure range. Her husband is the Chair of the NYSE. As another example, a recent Wall Street Journal report into the finances of federal judges found that since 2010 there have been over 700 cases (involving 131 judges across party lines) in which the presiding individual had personal or familial investments in the winning party.
When purchased institutions can’t protect Kenny and company from getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they do everything they can to take it all back and rig the game again so that Wall Street comes out on top. In 2008 the SEC made sure massive bailouts got to the right firms. In 2021 the SEC turned a blind eye to Robinhood and other brokers turning off the buy button for certain securities and selling short millions more shares than should exist to manipulate stock prices. No matter what facade is in place, the way our current system is structured means billionaires will keep being able to lie about their crimes and escape accountability to steal more from the poor. They act as antagonists while hiding behind names like Robinhood, stealing our money and making us think we have a chance at winning big someday.