Politics - Federal

The Seven Hundred Billion Dollar Swindle

By Adrian Duyzer
Published September 22, 2008

Seven hundred billion dollars. A sum so large the mind cannot comprehend it, except by making analogies: grains of sand, stars in a galaxy. This is the amount of money the US government is about to squander on the corrupt corporations and the insatiably greedy individuals who have steered the US economy into disaster.

This will go down as history's greatest robbery: the theft of a prosperous future, a clean environment, and a robust society from generations of future Americans. Today's Americans are selling their children into servitude, turning them into indentured servants to a mountain of inserviceable debt.

All this simply to escape the inevitable consequences of unregulated greed.

No Knowledge of History

This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we are continuously told, as though the Depression is some ancient calamity, like the asteroid that impacted earth 65 million years ago, creating the Chicxulub Crater and perhaps wiping out the dinosaurs. Rare and terrible, we must do whatever we can to defend ourselves.

This is a fiction that only flies in America because most Americans have no sense of history. The Depression happened just a lifetime ago, for many of the same reasons we're in trouble now.

The most visible difference is that this time, those responsible are not leaping from the windows of their skyscrapers. Instead, they are reaping dividends betting that a government run by money, for money, will shift responsibility to those least able to afford it: the future generations of America's working class.

What does it say about a nation when its citizens have so little knowledge of their own past that they cannot even draw the connection between this debacle and the Savings and Loan bailout of the Reagan administration?

Reagan, bizarrely and incorrectly eulogized as the vanquisher of Soviet Russia, somehow shed the stink of that robbery in the minds of Americans. That his ideological successor is poised to carry out the same monstrous swindle boggles the imagination.

"Big Problem" - No Kidding

"This is a big package, because it was a big problem," said Bush, citing the advice of "experts":

"Well, my first instinct wasn't to lay out a huge government plan. My first instinct was to let the market work until I realized, upon being briefed by the experts, of how significant this problem became."

Since when does Bush listen to experts? He ignored the experts who said Iraq had no WMD and warned that invasion would be a long and costly disaster. He continues to ignore the expert consensus on the looming global disaster of climate change.

Of all crises, this is the one that cries out most for a response from the gut. But we all know that where Bush's gut ought to be there is instead a malignant tumour made of lust for power, greed, xenophobia, paranoia and religious extremism.

What's even more incredible about this bailout is why it is supposedly necessary. Without it, Bush says, it would affect the average citizen's "capacity to borrow money" to buy houses or education.

In other words, a crisis rooted in encouraging Americans to rack up debt they cannot afford must be solved by racking up public debt that America cannot afford - so that Americans can go back to racking up more debt.

I hope that right now a sense of outrage is percolating in the hearts of many Americans. I hope that they still have enough pride that they will decline to help those who have held them in contempt as they gambled with their future in front of their computer screens.

If so perhaps there is still hope for the United States. Otherwise, this latest travesty is yet another stumble by an empire in decline.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

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By adam1 (anonymous) | Posted September 22, 2008 at 12:12:42

It could happen in Canada too. We have to take notes.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 22, 2008 at 14:11:19

Something like 2 million American families face foreclosure on their homes this year (this is a back-of-the-envelope guesstimate based on the foreclosure numbers for the past quarter).

If you divide the $700 billion among those 2 million families, each family gets $350,000.

Are you with me so far?

Use the money to help families pay their mortgages so they don't default, the securities made up of blocks of high risk mortgages don't collapse in value, and the financial institutions that leveraged themselves to the hilt buying them don't go into bankruptcy.

It's beautiful trickle-up economics, and it starts by helping the people at the bottom of the pile, who were screwed first and hardest by the financial crisis, keeping its corporate architects afloat as a side-effect.

Of course, to be effective this would have to be coupled with robust, clear regulations on both flaky mortgage financing (no-doc negative amortization etc.) and corporate fiduciary impropriety to counter the moral hazard of bailing out people who made bad decisions.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 22, 2008 at 16:32:31

the latest:

www.calculatedrisk.blogspot.com/2008/09/report-paulson-agrees-on-equity-stake.html

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 22, 2008 at 17:17:27

a drop in the bucket my friends. If you can't comprehend $700 billion, try $11.5 trillion! The US national debt. Once that bill comes knocking it might make the Great Depression look not quite so 'Great'.

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By ventrems (registered) | Posted September 23, 2008 at 08:50:36

don't believe what you see on CNN guys. most real economists don't believe this is as serious as even the recession in the 1990's.

the bailout is sad but necessary. imagine if over night, all of the major banks went bankrupt. how would students get money for school? how would businesses get loans? how would people buy homes?

the US and it's huge national debt you all laugh about buy almost every product we produce here. if they stopped spending, most Canadians would be out of work.

you crave catastrophe as if you're isolated from it. you're not.

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By A (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2008 at 08:50:36

don't believe what you see on CNN guys. most real economists don't believe this is as serious as even the recession in the 1990's.

the bailout is sad but necessary. imagine if over night, all of the major banks went bankrupt. how would students get money for school? how would businesses get loans? how would people buy homes?

the US and it's huge national debt you all laugh about buy almost every product we produce here. if they stopped spending, most Canadians would be out of work.

you crave catastrophe as if you're isolated from it. you're not.

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By B (anonymous) | Posted September 23, 2008 at 09:39:52

Um, so which is it? Is it not as serious a recession as the 1990s, or is it so serious that all the major banks could go bankrupt? It can't be both.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 24, 2008 at 09:16:03

Ventrems, or A - not sure who I should respond to - you'll be glad to know that I haven't watched CNN in years. I think you made my point when you said "if they stopped spending most Canadians would be out of work". Exactly. As anyone knows, people in massive debt can only go so far before the wheels finally fall off and the debt carriers come knocking. We don't know when, but that day is coming.

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By ventrems (registered) | Posted September 24, 2008 at 13:37:30

debt and credit is fundamental to how or finance system works. people borrow money to make things happen (buy homes, go to school, run a business). if the day comes when people can no longer borrow money, i hope to god i'm long dead.

and yes, it can be both. it's not as severe as past recessions beacuse the public has not lost confidence in the financial systems. the problem here is the lenders made some terrible decisions and now are running low on money to lend. this plan is to give them money so the normal operations of society can continue, as opposed to seizing up to a halt, as jason appears to welcome.

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By schmadrian (registered) | Posted September 25, 2008 at 14:05:07

This first part of a video provides some much-needed insight into the American banking system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dmPchuXI...

And this article, a partial interview with former Republican candidate for President, Ron Paul: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/the-home-fro...

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By Z (anonymous) | Posted September 26, 2008 at 19:09:44

Money, money, money, money, money: try spending it in hell.

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