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Grandpa Tells the Awful Truth,
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This review is from: Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism (Hardcover)
Kevin Phillips dedicates his latest insightful work of political and economic history to his grandson. It's a fitting tribute since, by the author's reckoning, the aforementioned young man might be well into his forties, and the U.S. deeply into its post-imperial senescence, by the time the mischief explained in the pages of Bad Money is fully digested by the earth's economic system.
Instead of reflecting upon and compensating for the turn to an unprecedented expansion of finance capitalism that today supersedes manufacturing in this nation by at least six percent of GDP, Wall Street, our empire's "coliseum," chose instead to gamble upon the promulgation of an unregulated class of investments known as derivatives, the size and scope of which, particularly in terms of their capacity to hedge against risk, could only be guessed at. So much for the efficacy of market deregulation.
In a similar context, it was sadly hilarious to hear former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin state recently that no one could have guessed the present debacle. Or, to recall that Hillary Clinton had proposed a blue ribbon committee, presumably to be chaired or co-chaired by Allan Greenspan, to address the situation.
Warren Buffett has been on record for denouncing derivatives as "weapons of financial mass destruction" since at least 2003. Even so, to paraphrase Pete Seeger, "the big fool(s)" at Citibank and Bear Stearns, "said to push on." Privatize the profits and socialize the losses.
At present, these so-called derivative financial "instruments" are embedded deeply in every sphere of global economic activity, from domestic pension funds to the portfolios of credulous investors throughout the world who believed in the transparency of the U.S. market system. Their ramifications add up to a disaster, aided and abetted at every modern-day turn by America's government, under both Democratic and Republican leadership.
Through his incisive and perceptive use of charts and tables,and,in his exceptionally clear narrative, Phillips makes the case that our government lies to itself as well as us. Now, we are fifty trillion dollars in debt. Go figure. Better yet, read and be ironically comforted by the truths contained in this quietly patriotic book.
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Initial post: Feb 9, 2009 11:25:13 AM PST
Paul J. Papanek says:
Wow. Very fine writing. Thanks for the review. Agree that recent events have probably moved us well beyond this book's analysis. Sadly, misguided cant about free markets (as if that term should apply equally to capital markets as to the market for goods and services) is still being heard from the right.
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