Book Review: THE BIG SHORT, INSIDE THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE by Michael Lewis

I know it’s been a while since I last posted a blog, but I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches to THWARTED QUEEN before sending it off to my service providers to be turned into an e-book and printed. Going through hundreds of characters in a Wars of the Roses novel and writing memorable notes about them is hard work, and when I come to the end of a stint, I feel so cross-eyed I can hardly see straight.

 

In any event, I wanted to talk about a book I’ve been reading lately called THE BIG SHORT: INSIDE THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE by Michael Lewis. You may remember that nearly three years ago, this country was brought to the brink of disaster by a bunch of wall street bankers. This book explains, in meticulous detail, exactly what happened. Some of this stuff is highly technical. But Michael Lewis’s book is so good, that instead of taking you through talk of tranches, credit-default swaps, CDOs, and shorting subprime mortgages, I thought I would blog instead about my outrage over what happened (now that I understand it).

Here we are in 2011, some 3 years after those criminals on Wall Street brought us to the brink of financial disaster (anyone who brings this country to the edge of disaster deserves to be called a “criminal”), and the economy is still struggling. No politician wants to say it, but it is clear to me and many people that we are in the grips of a DEPRESSION. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Millions of people have lost their houses, and yet the devilry that these bankers wrought in the form of shorts, credit-default swaps, crappy subprime mortgages posing as triple-a rated paper continues to ripple out into the US economy..

I said I wasn’t going to go into technical details, but one take-home message from this book is that your mortgage that you worked so hard to pay off was being used as a poker chip in a corrupt game to see who could make the most money.

Most Americans are justifiably proud of this country and of its fine traditions of democracy.  So why is it that the wealthy people of this country aren’t getting together to help those who are less fortunate than themselves, and are now in dire straits thanks to the meltdown of 2008? Why is it that the wealthy are so reluctant to agree to paying higher taxes? Come on, people, it’s your moral duty to do so. These people who are suffering right now are not Martians, but your fellow Americans. They include the woman who cleans house for you, the young man who waits tables at your neighborhood restaurant, the night nurse who looks after your mother, the plumber, the gardener, and the person who sells snacks on the street corner.

Speaking for myself, I would be glad to pay more taxes to help these people. As someone who was once poor but is now rich, I remember well what it’s like to have little money. You have no room to maneuver. You don’t have that second house, valuable assets, or fancy car to sell when things get difficult. You can’t decide to forego your country club membership, gym membership, recreational classes, because you’ve already trimmed your costs to the bone. If you lose your job, chances are you’ll lose your house.

Wealthy people of America, let’s not act like those French aristocrats in the eighteenth century who looked the other way and said “Let them eat cake” when the starving and malnourished people of Paris rose up to protest their heavy tax burden, the rising costs of food and the fact that the clergy and aristocracy were EXEMPT from paying taxes!

We can do better than that.

We, the rich, have voices and we should use those voices to  put pressure on bringing those Wall Street criminals to trial. They should pay for their crimes. Given that the taxpayer had to pay at least 700 BILLION (SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION!!!) to bail out Wall Street, I don’t think it is asking too much to ask these criminals to pay fines of 10 million dollars. Or twenty. I would even use Morton’s fork on them. Archbishop Morton, a great favorite of King Henry VII (1485-1509), instituted the following clever scheme: You either paid your fine, or if you didn’t, you paid a fine for not paying the original fine. So fine those bastards 20 million dollars and put their ill-gotten gains into a fund to help those people who’ve lost their jobs and homes. And if they won’t pay that 20 million, then fine them 40 million for not paying.

It’s one thing for Count X to lose his estates because he had the bad judgement to bet them against the roll of a dice while playing at a fancy casino in Monte Carlo, but to allow those Wall Street bankers to use hard-working American’s mortgages as a gamble in the game of “Who Can Make the Most Money by Screwing the Poor?” Come on! This is crazy. And cruel. And the people who are suffering right now are just those people who couldn’t pay their mortgages. They have done nothing wrong, and deserve help.

Jefferson always said that a great democracy depended on its citizens being well-informed. So get THE BIG SHORT and read it. And when you’ve read it, let’s pull together to demand action:

  • Let’s make sure that the people who were screwed get the help they need.
  • Let’s pull together to make sure that the criminals who perpetrated this fraud are made to pay.
  • Call your congress-person, your senator, and how about organizing a grass-roots campaign?

As always, feel free to post your comments below.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

 

Images: Wall Street (presstv.ir)

Storming of the Bastille (wikipedia)

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