Friday, March 06, 2009

If Only We Could Be So Lucky

Someone named Hunter has a wonderful piece over on the Daily Kos today. Here is just a small portion of it:

Does it feel to anyone else that we are in a national rut? That the entire economy of the United States has been predicated, for the last decades, on the following ingenious business cycle?

1. Someone -- probably Phil Gramm -- pushes for deregulation of a particular subset of a particular financial marketplace (see: energy markets, corporate insurance markets), or fervently insists that a newly discovered loophole in current regulations remain open.

2. Using the new loophole or deregulatory act, the companies that requested the financial deregulation in the first place make money hand over fist by exploiting that unregulated marketplace in increasingly sketchy ways (see: Savings and Loan crises, Enron, AIG). Someone who pushed for the deregulation -- probably Phil Gramm -- happens to have a relationship to one of the companies in question, and profits handsomely.

3. The unregulated financial sub-marketplace becomes so sketchy, so loaded with either implicit or explicit fraud, that it collapses under itself, taking the savings of millions of Americans with it (see again: Savings and Loan crises, Enron, AIG). Someone -- probably Phil Gramm -- calls on Americans to stop whining about it, it's just how the world works.

4. The government is forced to step in and repair the damage, but is restricted by the policy prescriptions of multiple somebodies -- usually including Phil Gramm -- to re-regulating the industry in the most minimal possible way, bailing out the companies that got themselves willingly into trouble through their own sketchy or asinine behavior.

5. A thousand other somebodies -- usually followers of Ayn Rand, the most communistic anti-communist to have ever lived, the woman who proposed that the rebellion against communism should consist of starting a commune, but being, you know, more selective about the membership -- chafes violently at the proposed fix in the process, because even in most gentle form it is far, far too harsh on those that created the problem in the first place. Rinse; repeat.

Are we becoming a nation intent on scamming itself, a nation that only values work or inventiveness when it is applied to new ways of squeezing more transactions between the same market endpoints, or milking out one more tenth of a percentage point in income by taking on thirty times that in risk?

It's not enough to produce energy anymore, or to transport it -- there's not enough profit in that. So any company worth it's salt, like Enron, knows the real money is in speculating on energy, not actually doing anything with it. Any Wall Street broker worth their salt knows that investing in a factory is an absurdist proposition, you want to invest in the companies that invest in the investors that financed the investment of that factory. What fool would want to provide actual healthcare, when all the actual cash is to be made in managing that health care by deciding what gets covered, and how much it should cost, and exactly how many files need to be moved how many times before your doctor will see even a dollar in cash from your visit six months ago, and how precisely your heath management company should invest that dollar in other marketplaces, during the ever-expanding length of time it is held between when the service is rendered and all possible paperwork has been exhausted and the dollar must, at long last, be forked over?

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