Finally! Real Journalism!
Ever since I began my blog, I have been railing against what passes for journalism, especially on the 24-hour cable news programs. Unfortunately, I am not here today to announce anything new on that front, but a reporter with The Rolling Stone, of all the magazines I could imagine, has finally reached for the light switch and flipped it on. What Matt Taibbi reports in the upcoming, April 2, 2009, issue of The Rolling Stone is not for the weak of vision or stomach. It is truly alarming and should not and cannot be taken lightly by the American People. The article is entitled “The Big Takeover: The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution.” It can be accessed at www.rollingstone.com. Do not be put off by the length of the read, it is worth every minute spent if you want to understand “what happened” from the very beginning of this mess.
The story is a chilling account of how the Big Boys of Wall Street conspired to line their pockets by utilizing the expertise of Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) in shutting down the Federal regulations which would have kept this entire mess from happening. Now, I have long been a detractor of Senator Gramm. We all know the embarrassment the Dixie Chicks expressed about President Bush being from their home state of Texas. But for me Phil Gramm is the most embarrassing politician coming out of the Lone Star State since I came here in 1967 – and that includes two Presidents named Bush and an impeached and disgraced governor, not to mention Tom Delay. The self-serving slime that drooled from Senator Gramm every time he spoke was enough to make me puke – and I boast a strong stomach. He, far more than W, dragged Republican politics to the far right down here by cozying up to the religious right, while secretly holding title to a chain of adult bookstores.
And for those who feel that we would be better off if John McCain had won the last election, I remind you that Phil Gramm was McCain’s economic advisor until he claimed that the American People were a bunch of “whiners” where the economy was concerned. McCain hastily removed Gramm’s name from the letterhead of his campaign, but it is unlikely that he wasn’t still getting advice from him, not to mention the fact that McCain’s ideas on the economy had most probably been swayed by his “former” economic advisor.
That was just the opening scene in the Shakespearean tragedy penned by Journalist Taibbi. The Wall Street moguls and their greedy underlings used that lack of regulation to “go heavy” into the sub-prime mortgage market with the assurance that AIG was insuring any losses they might suffer from those nasty defaults that unemployed ex-cons taking out said mortgages might dump back onto them. And, of course, in the end it turns out that AIG was just a great big bullshitter that was selling something it didn’t have to sell: insurance that was actually backed up by money to offset the losses that came with the collapse of the housing market. Ooops!
Not to worry, faster than a cat blinks its eye, the good folks who had so recklessly gambled in the great casino known as Wall Street turned to the American taxpayers with their tragic story, vividly colored with the threat that the entire world as we know it was on the verge of obliteration if they weren’t bailed out immediately! Now that may seem like quite a feat to pull off such a coup. But the Wall Street mafia had an ace up their sleeves. One of their own had been elevated to the position of Secretary of the Treasury by then-President George W. Bush. Now the frail and injured “victims” of this terrible tragedy wouldn’t be further “victimized” by having to tell their tale of financial rape. They had their own champion to come forth and defend them and make them whole: Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Not since Chicken Little – or sadly 9/11 – has such a spin of urgency been carried to the unsuspecting American people by leaders of our government. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” they shouted at the top of their lungs – the President of the United States and his Treasury Secretary.
Of course, with such “urgency” being reported daily in the newspapers and on network and cable news programs, the American People were scared to death and, just like the days following 9/11, willing to do anything necessary to avoid the dangers ahead. The table set, the gluttons of Wall Street sat back and readied their treasuries for the handover of billions of taxpayer dollars with no strings attached. And they were not disappointed by their own over-inflated expectations. The unsuspecting taxpayers and their elected representatives fell into the trap and handed over billions of dollars with promises of more to come. It just seemed like the only thing to do at the time. The consequences presented to us were along the same order as the fake “mushroom cloud” scenario that was utilized to trick us into the Iraq War. But who knew? Who could take the chance? Fright is an awesome weapon of mass destruction, trumping even mushroom clouds. At least after the nuclear fallout settles, total annihilation has spared almost everyone of having to sit around and wonder if they did the right thing.
But what would happen after Bush and Paulson left the stage? Who would be there to keep the gravy train rolling so that the Wall Street crowd could just keep on keeping on with their grand scheme to pick the pocket of the US Treasury? Well, they did have their well-placed buddy over at The Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke – another Bush appointee. Come to find out, even Congress doesn’t have the power to question the doings over at The Fed. We can’t even blame this one on Phil Gramm – dammit! It seems that in the 1950s a law was passed that prohibits the Congress from auditing the Federal Reserve or exercising any oversight whatsoever. So Mr. Bernanke is the equivalent of a Russian Czar with limitless power at his disposal to do whatever he wants, UNCHECKED! He answers to no one; not even the President of the United States. Matt Taibbi gives several examples of what Mr. Bernanke and The Fed have been up to over the past couple of years in the face of what was a growing catastrophe. Read it and weep. We have been betrayed by that entity for quite some time now as they have publicly and secretly manipulated “the markets” with newly written laws and programs.
That brings us to our last insider: Timothy Geithner. Mr. Geithner has long been part of the Wall Street scene, both in and out of government. After reading Mr. Taibbi’s brilliant expose, it leaves no doubt in my mind as to why Wall Street and their Republican buddies on The Hill cheered his appointment so vociferously. Of course, now, those same Republicans are wielding pitchforks and calling for his head. Pure political theater! Secretary Geithner was brought in by the Obama Administration with the belief that he would use his insider status to guide the government through the maze of contracts that had led to the greatest Wall Street crash since the Great Depression. Somehow, the Secretary has failed to navigate his new boss through the troubled waters Obama has inherited. Instead, the new Secretary of the Treasury has led President Obama directly into the mine field and inflicted injury on the new Administration’s credibility.
It seems the common-sense thing to do when you are a new President, to reach out and recruit the “best and brightest” for your cabinet. It’s only natural to look for those with the greatest knowledge in their field, especially when that field is where the action is as far as the success and failure of your administration is concerned. But I’m am beginning to fear that President Obama has made and is making one of the biggest mistakes of his predecessor, George W. Bush. I’m certainly no apologist for W, but I have come to believe I was right about him. He surrounded himself with the worst people possible when it came to military and energy policy. That group known as “The Neocons,” headed by Vice President Dick Cheney shaped his world view and convinced him that Saddam Hussein was “unfinished business” left over from his father’s Administration. They also convinced him that insiders in the Oil Industry were the “best people” to shape energy policy for our nation. As we all know now, this advice proved to be disastrous for George W. Bush’s Administration and the nation. The greedy oil executives used their power in the White House to line their own pockets and bring the nation to its financial knees last year with inflated oil prices.
Now, it’s the bankers on Wall Street who are taking their turn at “tinkering” with the government in order not only to keep their ill-gotten gains, but to pocket what’s left of the US Treasury. While the peasants of Paris – read Detroit and every other city of America – are picking through the gutters and trash barrels for crumbs of bread to brush off and eat, the crystal goblets are clinking at Versailles – read Wall Street. It’s a dangerous and volatile situation we find ourselves in. The People and their representatives are already reaching for their pitchforks and threatening to bust up the party. I think the question that we must ask from The Left is: President Obama, are you inside the palace drinking champagne, or are you out here with your people leading the charge on the bloated criminals who have taken over our economy?
It appears that the Big Apple that is Wall Street is rotten to the core. And the thing you do with an apple that is rotten to the core is throw it out. You don’t just keep slicing into it in hopes there is a good bit to eat. Arianna Huffington reported on Morning Joe today that the credit unions of our country are perfectly healthy and are still making loans. She asks a good question: Why not subsidize what’s good in our financial sector instead of propping up what’s bad? I’m with Arianna. It’s time for a change in strategy. It’s time to declare that nothing is “too big to fail.” It’s time to let the chips fall where they may. Somehow we will survive.
It is time for us as citizens of this great nation to face a few facts. Our homes will not be worth the value we believed them to be a year ago for five to ten years. THEY NEVER WERE WORTH THAT MUCH! If you have a stock portfolio, it will not be worth the value the traders on Wall Street pushed it to a year ago for five to ten years, or maybe even longer. IT NEVER WAS WORTH THAT! We were duped into a sense of well being that was unrealistic. The men at the top of Wall Street knew that all along, but they were making outrageous profits by keeping that truth to themselves until it was exposed. Many have referred to the mess on Wall Street as a house of cards. I submit that it was a shell game, and the dealers were deftly shuffling the shells at such a rapid pace that they didn’t even know where the pea was.
As Americans we must emerge from our posture of denial and accept the fact that the “good times” are over for a while and adjust our living and spending accordingly. The government, however, has an obligation to protect us from the further disasters that will befall us if we should become sick without insurance, and continue to keep a forward looking policy about public education. And, for God’s sake, put the regulations back on the financial sector so that this doesn’t happen again.
As for Secretary Geithner, it’s time for him and his cronies to go. We need fresh eyes on the problems of Wall Street – eyes that don’t stand to profit from their findings or failure to find what’s there. Ben Bernanke, too, should hit the road, and the Fed should become answerable to the American taxpayers who it has such an influence over.
As for our elected leaders, Democrats and Republicans, both sides have let the American People down and need to make amends by stopping their insane political posturing over every issue and start governing and taking care of the majority of the American People instead of an elite group of campaign contributors at the top of the heap. ENOUGH ALREADY!
And as for those of us out here that expect more from our government,
P.S. Left Eye on the Media, awards its highest award for journalistic excellence to MATT TAIBBI of The Rolling Stone. This award, which will be awarded when merited, will from this day forward be known as the Matt Taibbi Award. Thanks, Matt, for telling it like it is.