So, following my encounter with an investment broker, I feel the need to vent regarding this, this the most worthless, overvalued, narcicistic, sociopathic, gluttonous, vice-ridden, hypocritical, unethical, incestuous, vapid, destructive, self-serving, corrupting professions on Earth. I would go on but I seem to have spent all my adjectives, which, despite their negativity, these materialistic bastards are more than happy to take like everything else.
There is a reason most religions abhor banking, usury in particular. It leads to predatory practices. Bankers, in theory, are supposed to protect and even grow your wealth. The problem is the profession is so far removed from the value of wealth that it is all numbers. Since the creation of time, money was created as a physical manifestation of labor. It doesn’t just appear; it needs something to give it value otherwise it is valueless. Bankers, though, do not create this wealth. They are merely handed the labor and resources of men and the problems begin. They have to find ways to create wealth while they are in no real position to build anything. They don’t construct bridges, factories, or stores. So how are they to increase your wealth?
The issue with banks was mostly held in check by the gold standard. Money can’t exist without something backing it. Where once it was labor, gradually other sysyems replaced the Lydians crude invention. Gold has largely been the foundation of economies for the majority of the modern era. Then came the 70s and the bill run up by President Johnson. Domestic spending on social policies coupled with the cost of the Vietnam War put the US in a precarious position economically. What to do when there is no more gold. Well, take gold out of the equation. That’s right, let’s not accept the boundaries put on us by a finite source. Let’s go crazy! Let’s go fiat! The source of monetary value would now be the word of government. Yeah, that never fails.
The oil embargo, increased global competition, and government bungling only exacerbated an embattled economy. It wasn’t unexpected. World War II had wiped out all competition. Someone had to rebuild, resupply, and finally re-establish a healthy Europe. The 40s-60s were a boom for that reason. But eventually there is only so much to do and Europe wanted their piece of the economic pie. Couple that with the costs of fighting a Cold War, funding social programs that kept increasing, and then dealing with a generation that merely wanted to tune in, drop out, and move on…well, it isn’t healthy for the economy but it wasn’t expected. The problem was we had become so accustomed to the largesse over the decades that when moderation came, no one wanted it. We were hungry, but there wasn’t really anywhere else to build or invest. Cold War, remember.
So Carter chastises, we throw a tantrum, and then Reagan steps in. He promises a return to the prosperity of that 40s-60s era. Now how he would accomplish that, well, he was the dreamer. He had men to make it real. So America said, hey, why not, how much worse could it be?
Reagan’s vision was to deregulate. Government, that damn hall monitor, got in the way of progress. Now, I’m a conservative and believe in small government, but I also believe in government’s role as mediator. To Reagan, government was costing too much with its bloated infrastructure and regulatory bodies. Cutting the fat would allow the government to require less, that savings going back to the people to reinvest and reap the benefits of private enterprise. It didn’t work out that way.
The regulations Reagan wanted rescinded dated back to the Depression. Yes, that Depression. These regulations were put into place due to the practices conducted by banks. Now, I mentioned that banks have to be creative when it comes to growing wealth. Loans are their primary means of profit. Now, smart money lenders check to ensure that assets exist to support the loan should the individual fail to repay the loan. Land, houses, businesses, etc, if they fail at least you have something to cover the loan. Following World War I, the US economy was surging. Why? Because of the loans America made to the Entente during the war. These loans were making American banks profits. The problem was these loans were, first due to the length of the war, became unsupportable by assets. By roughly 1916, the UK and France had mortgaged everything they had. It was the political will of anglophile Wiodrow Wilson that pressured American banks to give loans without collateral to support their allies. This meant that should the Entente default, there would be nothing to cover the cost. You wonder why we entered the Great War? Second, when the war ended, the UK and France placed the burden of these shaky loans on reparations paid by Germany to the Entente. So now Germany was drawn into a growing bubble. If Germany were to stop paying, France and the UK would follow suit, then the US would be stuck with bad loans. When Germany decided to default in protest of the Rhineland occupation, France marched in to seize assets to cover these loans nearly leading to an economic crisis. The solution? More loans. Yes, keep pouring fuel on the fire. These loans spurred on the appearance of economic growth. All that interest, all those numbers.
Economic boom was further inflated by pent up consumer demand caused by the rationing of war as well as American intrusion into markets neglected during WWI. Markets surged, profits grew, and the stock market became the measuring stick of success. People saw stock prices going up and wanted a piece of the action. The problem with economic growth is that eventually there is a saturation point. Something can only be worth so much. Well, there is no profit in that! People kept pushing up stock prices in the belief they’d always rise. It became so compulsive people started going to banks for loans to buy stock. These banks, fat and happy from events in Europe were all too happy to supply the loans. The problem is eventually the stock market became oversaturated and the sponge bled. When the loans came due, these people only had stock which they bought at premium and was worth a fraction. The banks’ value dropped overnight. When you loan out $10 but only have a $1 in return, that is bad business. When people discovered the banks were losing on loans and didn’t have the collateral to cover these losses, they poured in to withdraw this money. As there wasn’t enough money, most of their wealth based on future projections rather than fact, bank after bank threatened to collapse. Wealth gone, the markets soon followed and the illusion of affluence evaporated taking with it jobs, businesses, idealism. Political radicalism and war followed. Regulations came to protect us from this voracious hunger for wealth. The stock market was regulated to prevent unethical practices that had led to irresponsible stock purchasing. Banks were placed under tight control regarding loans. The government increased oversight. The economy eventually rebounded. Measured economic growth: that was the mantra.
Now, economic crises tend toward consolidation. This is due to the size of the problem which grows larger every generation. Whether it is the tulips of Amsterdam, the silver standard, etc., governments and institutions trend toward smaller numbers and larger bodies believing it creates better coordination and increases the resources to deal with the problem. The truth is it just lends itself to even greater problems because the problem cannot be spread out and limited.
Back to the 80s. Reagan’s deregulation showed quick change. One example was the Savings and Loans banks. Created to aid in the purchasing of homes, backed by government promises, they had proven not quite lucrative but guaranteed in their vision of making housing possible. This creation also followed the splitting of the typical savings banks and investment banks. Limit the risk and keep it isolated. Reagan saw S and Ls as an unnecessary government subsidized entity. In order to make them self-sustaining, he removed the restictions placed that had split savings and investment banks. What followed is sadly cliché.
Now remember how I spoke about how growth had run out by the 70s? Welcome to the raider days of the 80s where men cannibalized age old companies for quick profit regardless of the shocks to the overall economy. Now people like to blame off shoring for the losses of manufacturing jobs, but corporate raiding played a major role in imploding a swath of the American economy. The problem was, numerous investors saw the quick buck to be made and strove to emulate, immitate, exacerbate the problem. Hence, the rise in junk bonds: a manner to raise quick cash to buy companies to dismantle for profit. Loans…to destroy what the loans are for. Exactly. The return is very unlikely to be positive, but you and I aren’t business/economics grads.
Back to the S and Ls. They saw the money that was being made by other banks chasing these risky propositions. Now cast into the free market, they chased junk bonds with their clients’ money. We’re talking about millions of people who trusted in the secure solvency of their savings. What made this worse was the gradual collusion of bankers with investors to guide them toward these junk bonds. It’s the Roaring Twenties all over again!
The culture of the 80s fueled the boom. Materialism, greed, ostentation: that was what success meant. For god sakes get those unwashed masses (hippies, cough) shaved and in suits. It’s time to make money. Buy buy buy, drive the economy with the credit that is now readily available.
By 1987, the boom went bust. Loans came due, bills went unpaid, and the malaise of the 90s was conceived. Was it the debt materialism and success left in its wake the cause for PC culture and self-loathing that followed? Who knows. But what we do know is that the banks failed, the S and Ls in particular. The Keating 7, those politicians who had supported the deregulation of the S and Ls and did their best to conceal the fallout, were caught up in a scandal when the dust settled. The banks were bailed out, some consumed by others, executives kept their ill earned fortunes, and middle America paid the price as a neo-Gilded Age took root.
Every generation or so banks find a new means to steal from those who trust them. There was the dot.com bubble, Enron, derivatives, sub prime loans…the list is endless. Everytime, the government bails them out at greater and greater cost. The last bailout was the equivalent to between 5-10% of the American economy. And these men don’t care. Their redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the upper class is eroding confidence in banks and government, distorting the economy, taking cash that could go to schools, infrastructure, and other programs and placing it in the pockets of those who already have too much. But hey, the currency is endless. Keep printing it. Keep manipulating it. Somehow take hold of the illusion of success even if it keeps slipping through fingers while the rich hold tightly to your material wealth.
This is the corrupting influence that banks for profit, rather than banks for growth, create. The system incentivizes graft. And the best part is the entitlement these bankers have. It’s ‘their’ money to play with. Expense accounts for prostitutes, drugs, and strippers. Personal jets, gargantuan bonuses, fortunes for severance. Of course if they screw you, so what, it’s a game or they act that way. And when they are caught, they put on a face of shame but it is really fear, fear that their wealth may be taken, their freedom taken, their special place taken. When they face losing everything then they, in their selfish way, get it but oh how they do their best with their stolen resources to hold onto it.
Usury: materialism fostering further materialism. Before you lay blame, both parties share the blame. The Republicans and Democrats dismantled regulation, crafted faux reform, and sold their cores to Wall Street. More and more wealth is being concentrated even as its value declines. Globalism has only increased the repercussions.
In case you can’t tell, this enrages me.i grew up in a lower middle-class family. I lived three to a bedroom, sometimes slept on the floor. Three meals a day was not the norm. I got my first job at fourteen in repo which gave me experience dealing with those living beyond their means. I had guns pulled on me, saw women sell themselves for quick cash to pay us off, and the projects, seeing the filth some people live in. That last part, witnessing people accept squalor as long as they had a new television. And the med student, a man worth hundreds of thousands, who hid and refused to pay because he was above paying his debts. I know hard times and have been humbled by them. My father taught me the value of hard work and taking pride in my accomplishments.
To then deal with a man who thinks himself better than me, this legitimized thief, this pompous bastard who wouldn’t know hard life save from a PBS special or his wife’s shallow charity even though he is responsible for creating his fair share of hard times for others. I saved his life, by the way, though his ability to show any gratitude proved impossible. In fact, he was just as insulting after.
This greed, this insatiable greed has a compounding cost. It steals trust, it fosters resentment, it rots society. But the rich don’t get it. They didn’t get it during the French Revolution. They didn’t get it during the Russian Revolution. The Nazis, the Khymer Rouge, do I need to go on? To those who are done evil, greater evil shall be returned. How long until they come for you in your mansions?