Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

Here’s another in our continuing lecture series, this time from UC scholar Elizabeth Warren on the (then) coming collapse of the American middle class.  This lecture was delivered in 2005 and is just as relevant today as  it was prescient then.  It’s also an hour long, so grab some coffee, cocoa or tea and get comfortable.

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This video is a must-see for anyone who wishes to understand the truth behind our present economic disaster and why Republicans should never, EVER again be trusted to control the country’s wealth.  They ran us into the ground many times before, and they’ll do it again.

So you see, the disaster visited upon us by Bush & Co isn’t an aberration.  It’s a logical result of a failed ideology.

Anyone who thinks this recession is going to be over by year’s end just isn’t paying attention.  If you think housing is about to rebound, you’re delusional.  The latest casualties of the housing bubble is just now starting to rear their ugly heads.  Check out these stories from Reuters:

U.S. property bust threatens condo “death spiral”

MIAMI (Reuters) – Rust pokes through the peeling paint on the railings, pest control has been curtailed and the palm trees are no longer being fertilized at the 1940s-era Miami Modern condominium building in Miami Beach.

The condo association has been forced to cut expenses because the owners of 11 of the 28 apartments in the modest two-story building are delinquent, victims of a mammoth U.S. real estate collapse that has hit Florida especially hard.

With so many cash-strapped owners failing to pay their monthly fees for upkeep, the condo board last year had to raise $40,000 with a special levy to fill a giant hole in the $80,000 annual budget, but only managed to collect $19,000 from the owners who are still able to pay their bills.

Florida’s condominium and homeowners’ associations are facing what experts call a trickle-down disaster from the property crisis. Dozens and perhaps hundreds of condo buildings have budget shortfalls as thousands of owners, under water on their mortgages or in foreclosure, stop paying monthly fees.

“I call it a death spiral,” Miami Beach city commissioner Jerry Libbin said. “It’s a catastrophe in the making.” …

and the New York Times:

Banks Starting to Walk Away on Foreclosures

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Mercy James thought she had lost her rental property here to foreclosure. A date for a sheriff’s sale had been set, and notices about the foreclosure process were piling up in her mailbox.

Ms. James had the tenants move out, and soon her white house at the corner of Thomas and Maple Streets fell into the hands of looters and vandals, and then, into disrepair. Dejected and broke, Ms. James said she salvaged but a lesson from her loss.

So imagine her surprise when the City of South Bend contacted her recently, demanding that she resume maintenance on the property. The sheriff’s sale had been canceled at the last minute, leaving the property title — and a world of trouble — in her name.

“I thought, ‘What kind of game is this?’ ” Ms. James, 41, said while picking at trash at the house, now so worthless the city plans to demolish it — another bill for which she will be liable.

City officials and housing advocates here and in cities as varied as Buffalo, Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fla., say they are seeing an unsettling development: Banks are quietly declining to take possession of properties at the end of the foreclosure process, most often because the cost of the ordeal — from legal fees to maintenance — exceeds the diminishing value of the real estate. …

So, on the one hand, owners suddenly finding themselves unable to pay the bills, abandon their condominiums in favor of feeding their families.  On the other hand, banks refuse to take possession of houses they officially own because it’s not financially viable to do so.  In both cases, the city affected is left with a run-down, unoccupied building that’s a magnet for crime, rats and other vermin.

I’d like to say “good riddance” to the condominiums, but there really isn’t a silver lining in this.  Florida’s coastline is covered with these hideous, environment-destroying monstrosities, and I really doubt any of them are going to be torn down any time soon.  Imagine our nation’s most beautiful coastlines dotted with thousands of derelict high-rise buildings, crumbling to ruin and empty but for the garbage and detritus of human existence, monuments to human greed and selfishness.

Now consider the other side of it, millions of foreclosed houses abandoned by owners and banks, falling to ruin and vandalism.  Monuments to a failed philosophy of an “ownership society” and the lie that “real estate always goes up”.

This is the future we’ve created.  Welcome to it.

The Republicans are fond of telling us that our national socioeconomic problems are too complex to be solved simply by “throwing money at them”.  Fine, but why has that been their only response to the problems we’ve been having over the past ten years?  Remember in 2001 when Bush took office, he noticed what he thought was a blip on the economic radar, and decided what we needed was a “stimulus plan”?  Remember that that plan amounted to nothing but tax cuts and rebates?  And last year, when he was dragged out of his eight year sleepwalk, his response to the looming disaster was, once again, tax cuts and rebates?  Did it work in either case?

And don’t tax cuts and rebates amount to “throwing money at the problem”?

Have they noticed that NONE of their ideas have had the slightest positive impact?  I’m dying to hear from Republicans out there who think they can answer this question:

If throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it, why is it Republicans always want to throw money at problems?

Please, post your comments below and be polite.  If you’re polite, honest and sincere I will respond in kind.  If, on the other hand, you’re boorish, condescending and snarky, expect the same in reply.

I look forward to an intelligent explanation for this phenomenon.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I am currently in the middle of attempting to read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  It’s every bit as bad as I expected.  Heavy-handed, turgid, meandering, and about as subtle as a brick to the head.  But, it’s a “classic” and so I will continue my desperate sojourn through this literary wasteland.  Perhaps after I am finished I will reward myself with a re-reading of “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Reading this book naturally got me thinking about the myth of Atlas.  While the image of a grand figure carrying the world on his shoulders (and thus being the “prime mover” in Rand’s philosophy) is doubtless appealing to the wealthy and powerful, it is also a misapprehension of the original story.
You see, in the ancient myths of Greece, Atlas was one of the Titans who, along with his brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus, rebelled against the Olympians.  In punishment for his hubris, Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the corner of the world and keep the sky and the earth separate for all eternity.
In other words, unlike our modern-day Titans, Atlas did not choose his fate – it was imposed upon him.  It was punishment for his hubris, an entirely too appropriate word meaning “aspiring to godhood”.  And he doesn’t “move the earth”, he holds up the sky.
Our modern-day Titans would do well to learn the definition of “hubris” and its costs.
They might also, in light of their recent spectacular failures, do well to study works by other authors.  I recommend one especially, one which should have particular meaning in light of the “too big to fail” attitude of some of our less competent captains of industry.  It’s a quick read, so I shall present it in its entirety:
Ozymandius
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Shelley
And a second version, by one of Shelley’s contemporaries:
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
—Horace Smith
Read these words, you Titans, you modern-day Atlases, and ponder the punishment for hubris.  And also consider the true meaning of the concept “too big to fail.”
Atlas aspired to godhood, and was laid low for his arrogance.  Ozymandius built great cities of stone, and reveled in his power and creation.  In his arrogance he thought none could rival him.  Nothing remains of his works.

Remember the $700 Billion of your taxpayer dollars that the Bu$h administration was going to hand over to Secretary Paulson, no strings attached?  Were you, like so many of us, wondering where that money was going to come from?  Our usual lender has the answer:

BEIJING, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Chinese regulators have told domestic banks to stop interbank lending to U.S. financial institutions to prevent possible losses during the financial crisis, the South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

The Hong Kong newspaper cited unidentified industry sources as saying the instruction from the China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) applied to interbank lending of all currencies to U.S. banks but not to banks from other countries.

“The decree appears to be Beijing’s first attempt to erect defences against the deepening U.S. financial meltdown after the mainland’s major lenders reported billions of U.S. dollars in exposure to the credit crisis,” the SCMP said.

A spokesman for the CBRC had no immediate comment. (Reporting by Alan Wheatley and Langi Chiang; editing by Ken Wills)

How long before other countries follow suit?  We are sooooo fucked.

Heck of a job, Bushie.

…others will be blamed.  And future generations will pay for them.

That’s the essence of President Bush’s address tonight.  Not one word of condemnation for the corrupt Wall Street crowd that caused the present financial mess, not one word of censure for the Republican Congressmen who engineered the deregulation of the finance industry that caused the mortgage meltdown, not one word of criticism for the financial industry itself for creating the cutthroat deals and shady loans that wrecked the lives of millions of Americans.  Instead, our teenager-in-chief reverted to form, putting the blame on foreign investors and consumers who fell for the lousy deals, then pushing his “plan” to add another $700 billion to the national debt and expecting future generations to clean up his mess.

Mistakes were made, others will be blamed.