“There are signs the economy is improving.” George W Bush, 8-30-08
NEW YORK: The storm is coming. All eyes on the Doppler radar, the graphic swirls, the reporters bravely standing on Levee watch in New Orleans. This time, the evacuations are underway as if to say the government is finally looking out for its citizens and evacuating the people in harm’s way. Will it work? We will see and then see it live while we wait for the next epic disasto-tainment.
As we brace for what’s been called the “mother of all storms,” the platitude-pushing wonderland of TV has shifted the political debate overnight from the prospects of a man with a “funny name” to a gun toting former small town beauty queen turned Governor who hates polar bears and shoots moose.
One catastrophe may be coming. The other may be already here, and a third, well, no one wants to talk about that. You can move populations away from hurricanes. You can adore or make fun of unusual politicians. But what do you do about a financial tsunami that everyone knows is structural but many would rather ignore, until they can’t?
In other countries politicians are sometimes forthcoming about the threat, as the blogger behind the site Naked Capitalism observes in reporting on the way the UK is alerting its public to the economic crisis they are confronting:
“Chancellor Alistair Darling warns slump could be the worst for 60 years…Admittedly, the UK economy is more overleveraged that the US’s, but why are their officials willing to be candid and ours not? Don’t try the US elections as an excuse, there’s not much more candor in the off season.”
Maybe its apathy suggests James Cook on another financial site, SeekingAlpha:
“The largest hurdle is getting the attention of the majority of Americans who are apathetic towards the entire political process. These are the 71 million voting age citizens who decided not to vote in the last presidential election. If they don’t care enough to vote in the presidential election, they certainly won’t care about future unfunded liabilities. I think the only thing that will get the attention of this group is a major recession that negatively impacts their quality of life. There are millions of Americans living lives of silent desperation. They are living on the edge and the debt contraction that is underway is pushing many over that edge. The anger that is building will hopefully eliminate the apathy.”
Is there apathy because people don’t care or because they just don’t know? Should we blame the people or recognize the powerlessness working and middle class people feel in the face of powerful economic goliaths? In fact, many do get it like the Midwesterner who complained at the Democratic Convention that he wanted a president who would put “Barney Smith Before Smith Barney.”
Mike Taibi reported on Bill Maher’s show that thanks to a campaign financing loophole, big industries spend millions lobbying at the political convention with big parties. Many of these events were off the record and closed to the press including one by the credit card companies, an industry served for many years by Delaware’s Joe Biden.
Many don’t of us don’t know about these real power brokers because our media advertises them more than exposes them. Alas, the political parties tend to do their bidding as well as Bloomberg News reported last week:
“(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is facing the worst financial crisis since the Depression.”
You would never know that from the Democrats’ platform in Denver or its Republican counterpart, or from listening to Barack Obama or John McCain.
While both candidates have bemoaned the ravages of the subprime crisis, they have yet to spell out steps for tackling it, such as using taxpayer money to shore up banks and housing.
“They fail to come to grips with the biggest danger that is going to hit the next president in his first few months in office: the crisis in the capital markets,” said David Smick, a Washington-based consultant to hedge funds and author of ‘The World is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy.’
Dislike Ralph Nader all you want but at least he is pointing out an avoidance that even wraps itself up in the fig leaf of economic populism. His take on the Democrats was not to my knowledge echoed by any of the commentators we saw on TV who were raving about the excitement at the Invesco stadium.
“You won’t hear a call for a national crackdown on the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse that, in just the last few years, have robbed trillions of dollars from workers, investors, pension holders, taxpayers and consumers. Among the reforms that won’t be suggested are resources to prosecute executive crooks and laws to democratize corporate governance so shareholders have real power. Democrats will not shout for a payback of ill-gotten gains, to rein in executive pay, ending corporate personhood, or to demand corporate sunshine laws.
The Democrats and the pundits didn’t point out the parallels either between the depressing official protest area in Denver and its resemblance to the ones in Beijing. Unlike China where protesters were arrested, ours were just ignored.
But let’s be upfront, as consumer buying falls and the recession becomes more intractable, there are few real solutions coming out of either convention or the government even as the political race feels more and more like a sit-com.
One of the world’s leading financial publications, The Economist, hardly a radical rag, doesn’t mince words. They call this disaster a “nightmare;”
“Like a Hollywood monster that is impervious to bullets, the credit crisis refuses to lie down and die. The authorities have bombarded it with interest-rate reductions, tax cuts, special liquidity schemes and bank bail-outs, but still the creature lumbers forward, threatening new victims with every step. Global stockmarkets are suffering double-digit losses this year, and credit markets are once again gummed up.”
The economic crisis is slowly moving from category 4 to category 5—call this Hurricane “Maestro” for interest rate slasher Alan Greenspan– but no evacuation plans are in effect, no relief is in sight. Prices are up along with foreclosures and credit card defaults. but the economy is staying down.
The Administration’s “plunge” protection unit is about as effective as its war on terror. And the plunder goes on and on with only a relative few recognizing that this storm is coming and that we need to fight back.
Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter has written Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books—newsdissector.com/Plunder) as a follow up to his film In Debt We Trust. (InDebtWeTrust.org) Comments to Dissector@mediacannel.org