Wall Street is sacrificing lives for money, as usual.

There are patterns in this society of ours, and the most reliable one is rich people screwing over poor people, because the greed of the rich is endless. It’s frustrating to see the same problems happening year after year, decade after decade, without even any real change in the justifications given for poverty around the world. Our political and economic systems are designed to reward profit-seeking above all else, and this is the result:

Russia’s war on Ukraine has wreaked havoc on global commodity markets, driving up energy and food prices and exacerbating hunger emergencies around the world.

But while disastrous for the global poor—millions of whom are living on the brink of famine—the chaos has been a major boon for Wall Street giants, according to new data showing that the world’s 100 largest banks are on pace to smash commodity trading profit records this year.

“The 100 biggest banks by revenue are set to make $18 billion from commodities trading in 2022,” Bloomberg reported Friday, citing figures from the London-based firm Vali Analytics. “That would be the highest in the data, which goes back 14 years, and exceed the previous high watermark in 2009.”

“The prediction is the latest evidence that the wild swings in energy prices triggered by the war in Ukraine are delivering a boon to commodity traders, even as they push European nations into crisis,” Bloomberg added. “Vali, an analytics firm that tracks trading business, compiled data that includes the leading five banks in commodity trading: Macquarie Group Ltd., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Morgan Stanley.”

I would argue that in addition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the volatility of the markets and the rise in food prices also relate to the climate emergencies that keep happening. I do not think we’re currently at the point of climate-driven famine. The current crisis is being caused by the same thing that has been causing most of the planet’s problems in my lifetime: Capitalism. I’ve discussed before how the profit motive leads corporations to grow food to feed to livestock, rather than people. This is another piece to the puzzle. In the magical land of Real Capitalism, “market forces” will take care of supply, rationing, and so on. If something becomes scarce, the price goes up, and people at the bottom just… do without. The problem is that there’s nothing in the system that actually places a value on people. We’re valued for the work we can do for those with money, but actual people? We’re just another over-regulated commodity, in the eyes of the aristocracy. That means they get to play games with human life, so they make more money:

“People’s misery makes capitalists’ superprofit,” Salvatore De Rosa, a researcher at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies, tweeted in response to Bloomberg‘s reporting. “How do you reform this?”

Wall Street banks have not just benefited from the commodity price increases—they’ve actively helped fuel them, experts say.

“We’re in a market where speculators are driving prices up,” Michael Greenberger, former head of the Division of Trading and Markets at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, told Mongabay in July.

“Commodity markets are supposed to be hedging markets for people who are dealing with the commodity involved,” Greenberger said. “In the case of wheat, it would be farmers and people buying wheat. But if we looked at it, there would be banks in there with no interest in what the price of wheat is, writing swaps and controlling this price.”

“It’s too easy to say the war in Ukraine has unbalanced all these markets, [or that] supply chains and the ports are shot, and that there’s a supply and demand reason for these prices going up,” Greenberger added. “My own best guess is anywhere from 10% to 25% of the price, at least, is dictated by deregulated speculative activity.”

There will always be an excuse. There will always be some justification for why things just have to be this way. This is not something that can just be reformed away. This is the inevitable result of an economic system designed to funnel money and power upwards. This is the system working as intended.

There’s also not any point at which things get so bad that the people just rise up and change everything. Maybe there have been revolutions like that in the past, but from what I can tell, the story of Les Miserables paints a more accurate picture of what happens if you expect “the people” to just rise up because life sucks.

Change – meaningful change – will only come from the bottom, and only through organization. Whether it’s getting people vital supplies, or communicating in a crisis, or bringing a nation to a halt with a general strike, organizing will be key. Humanity’s greatest strength is our ability to work together to achieve better results than we could alone. That stuff requires coordination, and we’re at a point where we need billions of people to pull in the same direction. Historically, we’ve left that kind of work to our governments, under the notion that they would work on our behalf. There are ways in which that abdication of responsibility does makes life easier for a great many people, but both history and current events show just how catastrophic that can be in the long term.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *