Imagine living in a world in which reality is controlled by a shadowy organization, in which people are manipulated to provide sustenance for a nearly unseen conspiracy that operates in plain view of society, where people seem all too happy to help maintain the illusion.
It’s not just the plot of The Matrix, the 1999 action blockbuster starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and lots of trenchcoats. It is also scarily similar to the numerous banking scandals that have become very common, yet surprisingly unheralded.
Two major bank conspiracies that have recently been uncovered show just how far banks have infiltrated every level of society: from local municipal bond rates to the LIBOR, the most important interest rate in the world.
Just like in The Matrix, society has come to be run by a group of remorseless machines that see people as nothing more than tools to meet their own ends. But instead of artificial intelligence, the fabric of society is run by a relatively small group of people willing to lie, cheat, steal, and conspire to make as much money as possible without thought for the greater consequences of their actions.
If you need to catch up, check out this excellent infographic from AccountingDegree.net, which does a great job of detailing what the LIBOR is, how it is created, the ways in which it affects our everyday lives, and what the fact that banks have manipulated it means. Put simply, this rate, in one way or another, touches every monetary part of our lives. There is no doubt that it has hit you and me, probably in something that we have done today.
But it’s not just the LIBOR that has been manipulated. It is also local bond rates across the country. A quick crash course in municipal bonds: local governments sell them to people at certain interest rates to help finance projects. In essence, the person buying a municipal bond is giving the government a loan upon which interest is paid like any other loan.
Ideally, the market helps to price these bonds at the most appropriate rate. Except that it recently came to light that banks had illegally manipulated these rates to make more money. It’s a very subtle, intricate, complicated, and illegal activity that costs every single taxpayer money.
And just like in The Matrix, nearly every single person in the world is involved and feeding money to the banks. If you or your family have ever taken a loan or paid city/state taxes, you’ve been affected by these scams. And sure, like in The Matrix, people go on living their lives; these are things that might grab just a few cents or dollars per person. But it is death not by a thousand cuts, but by thousandths of cuts - small shifts in interest rates that mean big money on a macroeconomic scale.
Media coverage has been sparse, and neither candidate for the US presidency seems particularly interested in talking about the topics. If Morpheus was offering us a choice between the pills, it would seem that everyone is choosing blue.
Thankfully, the government has taken some action – namely issuing fines. But there’s not enough outcry to force politicians to truly hold those guilty of these crimes and adequately punish them, particularly when Wall Street money helps get them elected.
Put it all together and we’re living in a world that even Neo might not be able to save us from. It’s a time and place in which giant multinational banks are able to drain resources from every single person not just without their knowledge, but with a good amount of complicity.
The implications are impressive, but far from the truly terrifying part. Like Cypher (which would definitely be my name if I was fighting machines in a dystopian future), the vast majority of people either seem unaware or entirely unwilling to care. Sure, it’s a complicated topic and everyone gets tired of hearing about crappy bank news. After all, if you found out you were living in the Matrix, what would you do? What could you do? We’ve come to a point where our confidence in the government is so low, exactly what, if any, options are there?
As Cypher says, “Ignorance is bliss.”
And now, just because, here’s the lobby shootout.