A bubble! Trapped in a house of cards!

“Isn’t it odd,” I mused.

To look at the three of us at Bruno’s the other day, sitting outside at a table, chatting and sipping our coffees in that beautiful late afternoon sun of a mid-October day (–along with all the other people at other tables, similarly engaged) you might be forgiven if an “all’s right with the world” thought crossed your mind.

There we were –the Professor of Philosophy, the Artist, and the (…what AM I, anyway? Writer? Publisher? Currently? Put down “aspiring Poet”) Poet. Chatting away.

Chatting?

I’m not sure about that. “Chatting” implies, at least it does to me, a casual shooting-of-the-breeze, and we were hardly being casual. We were deep in serious conversation about…guess what –Our Election Season; Our Quadrennial Paroxysm.
To which, of course, has been added the Criminally-Induced Cataclysmically Avaricious Collapse of the Economy.

A bubble! Trapped in a house of cards!

(Another friend, who I will call M., –now retired– dropped by. In a few short days, his retirement nest-egg had been attacked, sucked out, depleted by 30 to 40%, he told us. And there was no knowing how much further it might go.)

Just one person! He has lost a huge amount of money. He’s had it wrested from him –stolen, really.

But, by ….whom, exactly? Who is to blame? Who should pay?

Those no-account sub-prime individuals who responded to the inducements and “bought too much house”?
Or the gleefully-greedy unregulated banks who urged them on?
Or the gleefully-greedy unregulated financial “wizards” who sold their worthless mortgage-“paper” to gleefully-greedy indecently-hasty banks all over the world? (Who couldn’t get enough of them, or quickly enough. So much so that those banks had absolutely no time to check those sub-prime mortgage applications….)
Or a Government (inept, unquestioning, ideology-driven –and, incidentally, campaign-contribution driven) who refused –under threat of severe lobbyist pressure– to regulate?

We’ve had those daily Bush-convened meetings. W’s chance for an “I’m still here, I still count” photo-op. (What is this?: Another slant on W’s “History will prove me right”. More “Legacy-Nursing”?)

An article in the Business section of the Sunday NYT, about the part that Goldman-Sachs is playing. So many G-S people are now involved with Chairman Paulson in devising a “solution” that people are calling it “Government-Sachs”.

The Foxes are issuing new rules, a one page tract, headlined:
“Concerning The Proper Running of Hen-houses…”

Did I say “Rules”?

That was careless of me… When you consider that we have been living in a Globally Unregulated Henhouse all this time….
The essence of the current problem is –THE LACK OF REGULATION. The refusal to regulate, to grasp the nettle, turn off the tap.
The denial of urgency….

I suppose someone has to call: “Bailout!” I mean, of course, “Timeout!”

If it was up to the foxes, that’s all the regulation that they would …allow.

So. Who is going to order this thing?
And what are the rules of the New Game going to be?

Something has gone terribly wrong, and because of it, millions of ordinary people have had their savings savaged and their future security terribly undermined.

First question: Has anybody owned up to anything?

I haven’t heard any Mea Culpas, have you? All I’ve heard is that old construct, (that favorite of John McCain, by the way):
“Enough mistakes to go around.”
(We have explored the McCain formulation in an earlier posting…)

There is, we hear, a crisis of confidence. A crisis of credit. A crisis of trust. (I’ll say.)

A question that strikes me as being at the heart of the matter, this whole global matter:

IF THE ECONOMY HAS BEEN CAUSED TO FAIL,
(Recklessly, Greedily, Uncaringly….)
AND MILLIONS ARE CAUSED TO SUFFER BECAUSE OF IT,
HOW CAN CONFIDENCE EVER BE RESTORED….

IF NOBODY ADMITS TO CAUSING THE FAILURE? AND MAKING RESTITUTION?

And another, related question:
DID THE BRIGHTEST GUYS ON THE BLOCK –Goldman Sachs, who, I hear from GS consultant/historian Charles Ellis, are in it not for THE MONEY but THE RISK…
[Let’s call them very well-paid high-wire risk-takers, but operating with a Bailout Safety Net that none of us could see was there]
…did they KNOW what was going on?

And if they did, why didn’t they stop it?

And if they didn’t, WHY ARE THEY DEVISING THE SOLUTION FOR US?

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

We have come to a Paddy Chayevsky “Network” moment.
We have been given a rare chance…to put things right.
But you have to say the words after me:
“WE’RE MAD AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!”

(Louder…..)

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Just to help you get started, I will end here by quoting part of Maureen Dowd’s column today about those fine upstanding folks at AIG whose a** we just saved with $85 Billion of …yes, yours and my money.
The AIG folks threw themselves a little post-collapse party, an outrageous indulgence.
It reminded me of Leona Helmsley’s famous Marie-Antoinettism (*funny: I forgot that Ms. Dowd had also invoked M-A, see below.)

“IT’S THE LITTLE PEOPLE WHO PAY THE TAXES!”

How right she was!

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In any event, on to Maureen’s wit and wisdom:

This Sunday morning, Maureen Dowd strikes a note of righteous anger that I recommend:

“Just when we thought executives of A.I.G., the insurance giant bailed out by taxpayers for $123 billion, had been shamed into stopping their post-bailout Marie Antoinette spa treatments, luxury sports suites, Vegas and California posh resort retreats, we were dumbfounded to learn that some A.I.G. execs were cavorting at a lavish shooting party at a British country manor.

London’s News of the World sent undercover reporters to hunt down the feckless financiers on their $86,000 partridge hunt as they tromped through the countryside in tweed knickers, and then later as they “slurped fine wine” and feasted on pigeon breast and halibut.

The paper reported that the A.I.G. revelers stayed at Plumber Manor — not the ancestral home of Joe the Plumber, a 17th-century country house in Dorset — and spent $17,500 for food and rooms. The private jet to get there cost another $17,500, and the limos added up to $8,000 more.

In an astonishing let-them-eat-cake moment, the A.I.G. big shot Sebastian Preil held court at the bar and told an undercover reporter, “The recession will go on until about 2011, but the shooting was great today and we are relaxing fine.”

There were at least three New Yorkers bagging birds — Jeffrey Malkovsky, a senior director at A.I.G.’s Manhattan office, Hilary James, the general manager of the Bristol Plaza Hotel, and her friend, John Roberts, an A.I.G. adviser.”

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So? Mad as hell?


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