31 July 2010

The Committee to Defraud the World

To say now that 'No one knew' or 'I was mistaken' or 'I was just doing as I was told' is another in a series of lies and deceptions that have supported one of the greatest frauds in the history of the world.

But this is not history. This episode of fraud is still playing itself out now. And to fail to understand the depth and breadth of this madness is to place oneself in peril, and in the power of those who are twisting the Western economic and political system even now to satisfy their lust for wealth and power. You are only successful if you can keep what you kill.

Glass-Steagall fell after a decade long campaign involving hundreds of millions in lobbyist money spread lavishly around the Congress, led by Sanford Weil of Citibank, supported by key banking and political figures in the Congress and at the Fed. It involved Senator Phil Gramm, who helped to put a stake in the heart of the financial regulatory process under the Reagan free markets banner, and who recently said the problem is that the middle class were a bunch of whiners. As did his wife Wendy, who as the chairperson of the CFTC had exempted Enron from regulatory oversight, and then left to take a position there on its board of directors.

Like the Mortgage Backed Securities scandal it involved surprisingly few principal players, like Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, who used their power and influence to silence and ostracize critics, and promote a climate of reckless disregard for the public trust under the meme of 'efficient markets' and deregulation. This might have been an innocent policy error if it did not involve premeditated theft on a massive scale, followed by cover ups, denials, and a control fraud that exists even today.

But it also involved literally thousands of collaborators and enablers, from mainstream media people, economists, analysts, and other thought leaders to politicians and regulators who saw that it was to their advantage to at least passively support this scheme which they knew very well was a fairy tale, a fraud, class warfare by a new name, but were able to hide their own guilty consciences behind self-serving rationalization and the shield of plausible deniability.

History, and hopefully the justice system, will sort this all out. It is difficult, even now, to get one's mind around the enormity of it. This is its most powerful weapon. Who could be such monsters, so amoral, so destructively sociopathic? Future generations will regard it as an episode of madness, driven by a few people in a tight circle of self-reinforcing thought, people with remarkably similar cultural and educational backgrounds, driven by a consuming lust for power, that were able to dupe and delude an entire nation made vulnerable by propaganda, a co-opted press, and apathy.

In the meanwhile all the great mass of people can do is to watch, and wait, and seek to protect themselves from these ravening wolves grown increasingly desperate, as their arrogance comes to a tragic fall. They can vote out incumbents, but the parties choose the candidates, and too often they resemble competing crime families of special interests more than pillars of a representative government, saying one thing to get elected and doing another thing once in office.

This is the approach of trouble when hubris is at its height, and the few feel they have everything to gain and nothing to lose, if only they can gain more power, and necessarily become more ruthless. They are trapped in a cycle of fear and greed. The fear provokes the lies and the cover ups, but the greed promotes the extension of the fraud and the theft, requiring even more lies and cover ups. The operative word is 'over reach,' in a classic late stage Ponzi scheme. This will undoubtedly add to the confusion as the truth is assaulted by the big lie.

The last vestiges of polite society are often shed as the downfall reaches it final conclusion, at the end, when all is revealed, at last. And so there will be great danger.

The Committee To Save the World
John Hathaway
July 2010

Eleven years ago, the cover of Time Magazine (right) featured Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers posing heroically over the headline: “The Committee to Save the World.”

The sidebar was: “The inside story of how the Three Marketeers have prevented a global meltdown—so far.” The reverent tone of the 2/15/99 article strikes a note of discord in the sour investment climate of today. The article gushed: “In the past six years the three have merged into a kind of brotherhood………What holds them together is a passion for thinking and an inextinguishable curiosity about a new economic order that is unfolding before them..” In today’s less exuberant world, the picture, the headlines, and the content of the article are laughable and mildly irritating.

The “brotherhood” perfected the recipe of papering over market crises with layers of
debt financeable only by negative real interest rates. Their passion for thinking about the new economic order gave birth to capital markets more akin to casinos than rational allocators of capital. In the words of Ambrose Evans Pierce: “Central banks were the ultimate authors of the credit crisis since it is they who set the price of credit too low, throwing the whole incentive structure of the capitalist system out of kilter, and more or less forcing banks to chase yield and engage in destructive behaviour.”

Subsequent iterations and mutations of world saving committees have become routine. The committee of Jean Claude Trichet, Angela Merkel and IMF Managing Director Strauss-Kahn attempted to rescue the euro, the euro zone, and by extension, the global financial system. Their effort came a scant two years after Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, and Ben Bernanke teamed up to rescue the mortgage market and the U.S. banking system. The price of these two bailouts alone exceeds $2.6 trillion and still counting.

In a December 23, 2007 Op-Ed piece penned for the NY Times, Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw wrote: “The truth is the current Fed governors, together with their crack staff of Ph.D. economists and market analysts, are as close to an economic dream team as we are ever likely to see.” Two years later, the number of those who still believe in the magical powers of policy making leadership has plummeted....

Read the rest here.