Why Aren’t Ordinary Americans Enraged?

I highly recommend the book Griftopia by Matt Taibbi (an editor from Rolling Stone).  If you’ve ever wanted someone to explain the very complex machinations behind the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and the financial meltdown in the U.S., this is the book for you.  But don’t expect a measured tone – Taibbi is boiling mad.  The rage he feels sears through the pages.  Upon reading this book, I wonder why all U.S. citizens aren’t just as angry as he is, but I guess not many people go to the trouble to truly understand the scope of what has occurred and the numerous levels of government and corporate involvement in these events.

Where am I left at the end of this book?  It no longer seems to matter who is or becomes President, there is too much damage to undo.  The United States is no longer a world power, at least in financial terms.  And what else counts these days?  Militarism?  Takes cash.  Political clout?  Sold out to the investment and financial sectors.

What follows are just three of the many seminal quotes from Griftopia.

On Alan Greenspan (Taibbi calls him “The Biggest Asshole in the Universe”): “…by the time Greenspan left the Fed in 2006, Americans had lost trillions upon trillions of dollars in two gigantic bubble scams, and we had gone from being a nation with incredible stored wealth in personal savings to being a country that collectively is now way over its head in hock, with no way out in sight.  As of this writing, America’s international debt is somewhere in the region of $115 trillion, with our debt now well over 50 percent of GDP.  This is debt on a level never before seen in a modern industrialized country.”

What Taibbi doesn’t mention is that a great deal of America’s debt is owed to China, hence the new term “Chimerica.”  He does mention that the Federal Reserve is supposed to protect the country’s money, but that’s certainly not what happened.  Greenspan just kept printing the stuff.

Taibbi notes that the American economy has been run like a casino, but unlike a casino, it gives betting money to people that don’t have any resources to pay it back!

On the bailouts: “…we all ended up picking up the tab, subsidizing all this crime and dishonesty and pessimism as a matter of national policy.  We paid for this instead of a generation of health insurance, or an alternative energy grid, or a brand new system of roads and highways.  With the $13-plus trillion we are estimated to ultimately spend on bailouts, we could not only have bought and paid off every single subprime mortgage in the country (that would only have cost $1.4 trillion), we could have paid off every remaining mortgage of any kind in this country – and still have had enough money left over to buy a new house for every American who does not already have one.”

Of course, it’s more important to keep greedy criminals afloat than to bail out your nation’s own citizens.  Who cares about them, they’re only your bread and butter…

On the selling of infrastructure and landmarks to Arab nations and cash-rich countries: “…we now literally have to beg [them] to take our national monuments off our hands at huge discounts, just so that our states don’t fall one by one in a domino rush of defaults and bankruptcies.  In other words, we’re being colonized…”

Colonized in one gigantic yardsale!

How the mighty can fall due to rampant deregulation, short-sighted get-rich-quick schemes, and diabolical political lobbying.  If you’re like me, you’ll read this book and every few pages you will sink to a new low of disbelief and despair.

It’s non-fiction that reads like fiction.  It’s hard to believe the people in financial power didn’t see this coming…more disturbingly, they were getting so rich so fast, they just didn’t care.  Goodbye world power, hello dire consequences.  Welcome to (only the beginning of) the financial apocalypse.


The Inspiration that is Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt played at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre recently and put on an excellent show.  She is a fantastic guitar player and her voice has lost none of its perfection.  She has such respect for other songwriters and musicians.  Colin James joined her on the stage for a couple of songs.

Bonnie Raitt is 62 years old!  I only hope I’m half as cool NOW, let alone when I’m in my sixties.  Her most recent album is titled Slipstream and it is fantastic.

I also saw Heart at the P.N.E. last weekend.  The Wilson sisters must be in their mid to late fifties by my calculations.  I bought the Dreamboat Annie album when I was in high school.

Seeing these older women actively touring and entertaining is a true treat.  When I was younger, the only women role models in music were the Runaways, Suzi Quatro, Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, and Heart.  Speaking of the Runaways, Joan Jett still sounds and looks awesome – I saw her at the P.N.E. last year.  Other than an appearance on the television show Midsummer Murders, I’m not sure what Quatro is doing these days.

It gives me hope that times are changing and women are valued for their experience and accomplishments in a way that was not the case just a couple of decades ago.  Slow progress, but progress nonetheless.