When someone calls the banking bailout of 2008 a “government-sponsored insurance fraud scam,” one expects the speaker to be playing ultimate frisbee on the quad at Brown University, or, on the other side, waving a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag at a Tea Party. Certainly, one does not expect that person to be standing on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, flanked by a market analyst from Joseph Gunnar & Co., a strategist from Standard & Poor’s and the eponymous manager of the Hodges Fund, on national television.

But Dylan Ratigan, longtime show creator and on-screen personality for CNBC, and current host of sister network MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting,” has lately made a career of flouting expectations.

To begin with, he is a financial journalist who takes journalism seriously, bucking the trend among so many of his colleagues in the past decade to operate more as sycophants and facilitators of the Wall Street power structure than independent observers thereof. Furthermore, he is unafraid to treat the economic catastrophe as more than a market correction or the result of a few bad actors in an otherwise sound schema, but rather as it is: the inevitable outcome of systemic corruption, mismanagement and greed, which have perverted true capitalism into an oligarchic construct that benefits a select few people at the expense of  everyone else.  

MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan, looking a lot like Mephistopheles

MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan, looking a lot like Mephistopheles

Nothing in Ratigan’s resume suggests him as a storming-the-barricades Leftist radical. Prior to his stint at MSNBC he was Global Managing Editor at Bloomberg News, where he started as a reporter. His professional reputation is unimpeachable, founded on a minute understanding of the subjects that comprise his beat and an attitude that guests on his shows should be treated more like interrogation subjects in a police station than cronies at a country club bar. Even after moving to liberal MSNBC, the blog of the conservative Media Research Center (“Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias”), NewsBusters.org, praised Ratigan as “model” of how journalists should operate.

In short, Ratigan is a man to be taken seriously. He stated he left CNBC on the day his contract expired because he realized the financial crisis was a story that extended beyond downtown Manhattan, and he needed a bigger canvass to paint the full picture on. Since moving a few channels up the guide, while still assiduously avoiding parisan hackery, Ratigan has been as good as his word, folding in all of the separate elements at work – politics, corporate culture, the media filter – to relate the broader meaning and impact of the financial meltdown and how it relates to the fundamental framework of the United States economy and Republic.

However, he has gone further. Now backed by a network with a defined bent, Ratigan is trying his hand at advocacy. The results are magnificent.

His op-eds this month have borne titles such as “The Cost of Corporate Communism” and “Turn Goldman Anger into Government Action,” in which he wrote:

[In] allowing these outdated banks to take control of our government and change the rules so they are protected from the natural competition and reward systems that have created so many innovations in our country, you not only steal from the citizens on behalf of the least worthy but you also doom them by trapping the capital that would have been used to generate new innovation and, most tangibly in our current situation, jobs.

We don’t want a government commandeered by those in our banking system who have failed and been passed over by technological advancements, innovation and flat out smarts.

The government’s job is to restore the rules of investment, not indulge those who want to unfairly sustain their wealth and power at our nation’s expense.

In his latest salvo against the banking hegemony, Ratigan set his sights on the capo di tutti capi of Wall Street institutions, Goldman Sachs, perhaps the most powerful financial trust since the Knights Templar.

There is nothing new in pointing out that this global colossus counts the former secretary of the treasury and current Federal Reserve chairman among its alumni, or that it and its fellow firms have made billions off the backs of the American taxpayer. What is new, however, is the call to action accompanying the observations.

Ratigan writes:

  1. We must demand the return of those investment gains made with America’s money – it was stolen from us and we can get it back. Demand Claw Backs – and not from the future but from the past – That is where our money is.
  2. We must have an exchange for all credit derivatives — the current version is riddled with loopholes that let banks avoid transparency by mobbing offshore and prohibiting government regulators from being able to force the use of the exchange by the banks.

And this, ultimately, is why Dylan Ratigan should become required viewing for everyone who has realized how far down the path to modern-day feudalism we have progressed. There is no dearth of politicos and pundits who lament the current state of affairs and assert their detestation of Goldman Sachs et al. However, proposing a course of action is quite another matter.

We, who recognize that liberal economic practices (liberal in the classical sense) have been subverted and twisted behind the aegis of the “free market,” to the end that the financial services sector now operates as a taxpayer-subsidized plutocracy with dominance over almost every sector of the American economy, are in sore need of leadership. It will take more than one cable news host speaking out if we are to restructure capitalism into the meritocratic system it was intended to be, but Ratigan’s presence is a welcome step in the right direction. If others in his field follow suit, and popular anger can indeed be converted into cogent policy, we may yet succeed. 

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