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This article is generations too late, but all are grateful for the supportive walk and talk of Mr. Grieder. I would suggest that all of those who are able to leave the USA do so, quickly. Do not renounce your citizenship as, if you do, you will be targeted as a terrorist or soon to be one in the next two to five years. Meaning you must be apprehended and rendered and incarcerated in some needy, friendly NATO-wannabe country. Just go.

Suzanne de Kuyper

Amsterdam, North Holland, the Netherlands

Apr 2 2009 - 5:56am

Web Letter

Another great article by Bill Greider, and yet after reading it, I could not help but ask myself whether the article helped any of us to be readier, say, to ask Obama or any of his top people a devastating, disarming, non-dodgeable question at, say, a town hall meeting.

My answer was no. Greider's most sensible list of laudable reforms is of little help in the battle to corner, embarrass and discredit the demoblicans so they have to choose between changing their priorities and plans, and trying to suffocate the views of the citizenry the best they can, hoping they will not be swept away by popular anger.

Which of the points raised by Greider could embarrass Obama about the trillions in taxpayer hard cash that he is being compelled by his coterie of millionare "advisers" to insist on trying to give to the upper crust in order to "save" it from its investments in derivatives and such ?

If one told Obama or his people, "I disagree that saving the banks in the way you propose will help the economy in a desirable way," they would find a media-savvy retort, no prob.

But what if one of us got a chance to ask him: "The bailouts may or may not save the banks and 'the financial system,' but we saw already how the billions given so far to the banks were funneled in a breeze towards other banks and we can be sure they already landed in the pockets of the upper crust, so how do you feel about such welfare for the rich?"

"The poor have to accept all kinds of humiliations when they receive federal welfare, so which humiliations have you decided that the rich who will get to enjoy federal bailout welfare will have to endure?"

"Have you ordered the IRS and the Treasury to come up with concrete ways to ensure that any individual investor who will be end-recipient of bailout millions be tracked so that he/she can be targetedly taxed at later moment?"

"Which special taxes will you ask that be levied on those rich people whose 'portfolios' will be 'regenerated' by W.'s and Geithner's bailout billions?"

Of course, much harder questions could be asked and about additional topics if much harder numbers were available, but progressive economists are dodging the work. The other day, I e-mailed several leading progressive national-economy specialists asking how many trillions in de facto worthless derivatives and such are in the hands of the top 1 percent, top 0.1 percent, etc., of Americans, and will have to be bought at face value with our taxpayer cash to save, if not "the financial system," at least the upper crust. I got only one answer, and it was very striking, albeit tentative: "Inasmuch as the Congressional Research Service states that the wealthiest 1% increased their share of the returns from wealth from 37% ten years ago to 57% five years ago, my estimate is 70% of the derivatives and other gambles are by the richest 1% today. And...my guess is that about 50% accrue to the top 0.1%."

This answer already allows us to confront Obama and his people with the question: "How do you justify giving 80 percent of one trillion taxpayer dollars to the upper crust?" Or would it be better to tell Obama to consider reforming corporate law or the Federal Reserve ?

I am all for every one of the reform proposals offered by Bill Greider, but let's first corner, embarrass and discredit the demoblicans by rubbing their noses in the immense, treasonous, stinky and shameless theft of taxpayer cash they are about to perpetrate to save their beloved upper crust.

Marc Dunord

Chicago, IL

Mar 30 2009 - 6:38pm

Web Letter

Notwithstanding AIG's prominent example to the contrary, I wouldn't consider most insurance companies to be part of the "shadow banking system." The financial arms of P&C insurance companies generally invest conservatively. Their reserves, monitored by the states, aren't perilously low as is the case with many banks. Also, the insurance industry is generally divided between P&C companies and life insurers on insurance "bailouts," and even the major P&C associations disagree about the federal role in regulating the industry.

David Rossie

HeroesofCapitalism.com<br />Chicago, IL

Mar 30 2009 - 6:22pm

Web Letter

I admire Greider, I try to read every article he writes, but this time he just doesn't get his arms around the magnitude of change that is needed in the financial sector of this country.

We need the creation of currency and credit to be a public utility. All the naysayers will scream "socialism," but our right to sovereign currency and credit are outlined the Constitution. The founding fathers warned us about the tyranny of private banks. Looking back to the formation of the privately owned and operated Federal Reserve, all we see is disaster after disaster. We see the bankers' irresponsibility and greed initiate boom and bust .

The is no question that someone has to be in charge of the banking system; the question is who will be most accountable. At least with the pols we can vote them out. We have no such remedy for private bankers. Why should taxpayers suffer for decisions they have no voice in?

The establishment of finance as a public utility would reap great rewards, as the profit and prerogative of currency and credit would accrue to the government, i.e., the taxpayer instead of private interests and the creation of credit could be managed to be sustainable. The finance sector is just like electricity, in that we need a steady flow to keep the economy on an even keel. Too much and the system shorts out, too little and things grind to a halt. Finance is too important not to be a Government Public Utility that underwrites the national interest, not the undeserved profit of the very few.

Michael McKinlay

Hercules, CA

Mar 30 2009 - 5:56pm

Web Letter

I'm afraid we're in for a long winter. Capitalism is the latest God that failed. Once the economy gets on a even keel (if it ever does), the malefactors of great wealth will deregulate whatever Obama's/Geithner's regulations achieve. (Never trust Geithner, he lies like a rug on things like past taxes and bonuses!)

How easy is it for the big timers on Wall Street to screw you? Let us count the ways. (Enjoy this scenario)

The biggest scam ever was the subprime mortgage business. Credit was so easy that anyone with a pulse was given a junk mortgage; these, in turn, were shoveled through the doors of the banks and insurers like AIG. Next, our best and brightest bankers prevailed upon the rating agencies to label the junk as AAA securities. These “troubled assets” were then sliced and diced, securitized, leveraged thirty times and sold around the world as if they were gold. The business was such a money machine that it was impossible to say no to it. When the housing bubble burst, people lost their life savings, and countries went down.

(Take particular notice on the "securitization" part. This is the way they turn junk into gold. They can do this any day of the week, including Sundays: beware when Madoff or Summers knocks on your door!)

Capitalism has finally developed its own economic weapons of mass destruction: CDOs, quants, credit default swaps, securitization, megamillion-dollar salaries.

Combine this with the usual greed, fraud and avarice, and you have a killer system. Except it will kill itself.

Howard Kaplan

Belmont, MA

Mar 29 2009 - 5:17pm

Web Letter

Greider's article raises disturbing questions that many left commentators avoid. We should seriously ask ourselves the question, "Why are Americans so passive in the face of massive economic violence perpetrated on themselves and their children?"

It appears to me to be the result of one of the most successful social conditioning campaigns in history. Whatever relates to commodities and productivity has become supremely real; whatever relates to political obligations has become supremely unreal. Social bodies such as governments have become simply targets for exploitation to which no loyalty or even elementary moral consideration is required. On the other hand, corporations can be permitted even the most invasive destruction of privacy.

Having given their loyalty to the corporate system, Americans become deeply conflicted at stories of corporate robbery. Since they usually share the same values as the corporations that have robbed them, they are often half-tempted to celebrate the successful heists, heists they themselves would have gladly participated in, despite what they tell themselves. The government and the values it represents have become an abstraction (inspiring or otherwise) to them, the representative of a power that is alien to their lives, while the values of the corporate world are everpresent and pressing.

It is critical to understand the outside and inside of the crisis from their perspective. They see themselves as inside the corporate system, but view the government from the outside. They also see the "financial crisis" as a phenomenon external to the system they are a part of. It is largely an abstraction to them, something that pundits talk about, but which doesn't directly affect their world, even if they lose their job or house. This "externalizing" attitude applies to the crisis as a whole. Since they are actually an intimate part of the system and what they do is by definition the result of worthy motives, the crisis must be caused by abuses of the system that are external to the system's normal operations. Therefore, the crisis is the result of a fortuitous combination of circumstances that threatens the smooth operation of the system, but is not part of the system itself.

Their ability to see this crisis as the inevitable result of the ordinary operation of profit system has been systematically deleted. This is one reason why the corporate media so easily runs diversionary maneuvers that distract attention from the primary theft--the robbery of trillions of dollars by those who caused the crisis. That robbery is an abstraction to most Americans, but when some culprits are found to be receiving bonuses from the tax money, their outrage swells because the crime has become personal at that point. In other words, they have a strong affinity toward private profit, but public obligations have become unreal, which demonstrates why such crises are inevitable. The witnesses of the crime cannot see it as a crime because their attitudes have been shaped by the same causes as the crimes themselves.

So strongly have they internalized the profit system that they see the system as a victim in the same way as they feel their own victimization. The dominant analysis of the crisis as the fault of various malefactors--reckless speculators, greedy and overpaid executives and the self-indulgent American consumer--allows the evil to be personalized and externalized at the same time. The cause is always external to the system itself, just as the system that they participate in is not part of the "financial crisis" that the system generated. The key theme of media coverage of the crisis is to reinforce its personal and subjective aspects, to focus microscopically on personal faults and moral failings so as to isolate causes away from the nature of the system itself. The mortgage crisis is explained as the result of unregulated personal greed, as if this evil could be separated from the nature of the profit system, which obviously depends on it as the primary motivating force behind all economic activity.

What we must see is that by internalizing the profit system so profoundly, Americans have no vantage point outside the system to criticize it without condemning themselves. Until they can face their own moral visage in the mirror, they will remain easily manipulated victims of their own victimization.

Boyd Collins

Katy, TX

Mar 29 2009 - 12:32pm

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