Harry S. Pariser on the US Crisis

American artist, writer, publisher, and old friend Harry S. Pariser sent me this incisive commentary on the financial crisis currently gripping the United States. Quite a bit of it is also applicable in Canada, and worse is to come if Harper's wrecking crew manages to win a majority on October 14, 2008. Here's Harry's pitch:

The U.S. government, acting in conjunction with the legions of well-paid and overly-empowered minions of economic mouseketeers, have long maintained that nations all over the world should establish stock exchanges in order to bolster finance and ensure above-inflation-rate returns for those saving for retirement. Similarly, the U.S. has long been viewed, by those unfamiliar with the concrete contradictions presented by its history, as a refuge for the persecuted and a strong opponent of oppression.

This has all changed during the past eight years of misrule. While we informed citizens have always known that the U.S. government tortured in dark places, it has come as a great shock to many to see these activities celebrated in the light of day. In just eight years, the Bush/Cheney administration has managed to accomplish what even the best organized band of terrorists could not possibly accomplish. They have sullied, perhaps irreparably, the reputation of the U.S. In fact, they have established a standard which makes the regimes of the newly-befriended Libya, North Korea, and Burma appear as staunch guardians of human rights in contrast.

And, an even more stunning accomplishment, is the financial terrorism conducted under the benign 'oversight' of Christopher Cox and the Ayn Randian eye of the ancient sage Alan Greenspan. The thesis was that markets will take care of themselves, and we have seen how well that works...

This Alice-in-Wonderland view may be best expressed in such tried-and-not-truisms as "we couldn't build too many houses," home prices 'could not slump' if there were a glut, 'everyone could continue to somehow afford even more overpriced homes,' and 'there would never come a day of reckoning.' We all know how Alice transmogrified into Humpty and how we - indeed every denizen on this planet - will pay the price of this wink-wink incompetence for generation after generations to come.

The stunning cataclysm generated by these financial terrorists dwarfs the effects of any earthquake. The entire 'industry' has lost all credibility. Trust in bond ratings has disintegrated and research analysts have been left looking ridiculous, and humongous mutual fund companies such as Dodge and Cox and Fidelity have been left licking their wounds to ponder why they maintained their multi-million dollar investments in AIG and Fannie and Freddie right up until the apocalyptic meltdown. The failed auctions of auction-preferred securities as well as the growing doubts about the safety of money markets have endangered financing.

Foreign banks and sovereign wealth funds ponder why they hold so much increasingly-worthless American securities and what happened to those billions invested in American banks. And the effects of this have only started to be felt. The credibility and safety of mutual funds, the effect on IPOs and on more esoteric financial instruments, the load on pension funds and retirees alike, and the higher cost of consumer and business debt - all of these have yet to be felt. And the leverage bubble, in the form of car loans and credit cards, as well as for commercial real estate, is still a neglected topic of conversation.

Perhaps the most stunning revelation is that the financial press has been asleep. Mortgage REITS, Countrywide, and Washington Mutual were regularly touted as sound investments, without anyone bothering to investigate their lending practices. Sadly, Rip Van Winkle has yet to wake from his sleep - indeed investigative reporters are being fired left and right - so any new regulations will likely leave plenty of carefully-planted loopholes.

This has to be the most massive fraud of all time - and it is far from over yet: others may line their pockets - but its proponents have already dusted themselves off and are at the gates of Congress asking them for corporate bailouts. Expect talk of privatization of Social Security to resume the moment another Republican administration is elected. Look out below!

I will end with this timely quote: 'Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.' - U.S. President George W. Bush.

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