Subprime Is Really SubCRIME: America's Deeper Financial Crisis
By Danny Schechter, AlterNetPosted on February 21, 2008, Printed on February 21, 2008http://www.alternet.org/story/77375/
At long last, the Democrats are talking about the economy and the need for serious relief and reforms. The reason is simple. The people are feeling the squeeze.
Reports the Baltimore Sun:
"Since January alone, the public's perception about the state of the economy has plummeted -- with just 17 percent calling the nation's economy excellent or good -- down from 26 percent last month. The percentage rating the economy poor has grown from 28 to 45 percent."
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama now have their instant 10-point plans and programs. They have dipped into John Edwards' tool chest for ideas on fighting poverty and listened to policy advisors who have come up with a laundry list of proposals for stop-gap measures from hikes in the minimum wage and middle-class tax cuts. All of these proposals will take time to implement and probably will be forgotten by the time one of them becomes president, if they do.
Meanwhile the economy is collapsing because of crimes and irresponsibility on Wall Street, and no one is really talking about that. An inequality gap and structural crisis compounded by profiteering in high places goes on and is largely ignored.
The media is not investigating the profiteers and, in fact, continues to contribute to the problem by accepting millions for dubious ads for more loans that end up getting more Americans in debt. Prosecutors are not prosecuting wrong doing. No fundamental new regulations and oversight are being proposed.
The candidates don't even seem to know the extent of damage that is being done by the subprime crisis and its assignees. Andrew Abraham reports:
Bank of America delivered a report last night highlighting the current losses of the "credit crisis."
According to the report, the meltdown in the U.S. subprime real estate market has led to a global loss of $7.7 trillion in stock market value since October.
Quoting Bank of America's chief market strategist, Joseph Quinlan, the crisis, which has spread beyond U.S. shores to banks and other sectors worldwide, is "one of the most vicious in financial history."
That number again: $7.7 TRILLION. That phrase again: "the most vicious," that is, worse than 1929 and all the financial crises since.
Who is responsible for this, and who is being made responsible? Why aren't we talking about these massive losses and the growing debt burden? Why is this issue not on the political agenda save for the efforts of a few advocacy groups on the left and Ron Paul on the right?
It was discouraging when our government's leading critic of these practices got so discouraged that he quit last week. David Walker, the comptroller of the currency had warned back in 2005 (as reported in my film In Debt We Trust):
Continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode if not suddenly damage our economy, our standard of living and ultimately our national security.
And guess what? Just two years later, our economy was "suddenly damaged." The damage is "affecting our standard of living," and very few public officials or political candidates are connecting the dots. Why not?
When will we condemn the false prophets of the free market and their misguided policies? When will we indict those who cashed in on our country's misery?
Notes scholar Lionel Tiger:
Those who have been operating the managerial levers of the financial system have failed embarrassingly and massively to comprehend the processes for which they are responsible. They have loaned money avidly and recklessly to people who couldn't pay it back. They fudged data to get loans approved and recalculated. Then they sausaged fragile figments of money-reality into new "products" which could be sold around the world to investors eager to enjoy the surprising returns which often accompany theft, managerial incompetence and fraud. When it comes to responsibility for all this, there appears to be no one here but us spring chickens. Not only that, but the overseers of the bitter debacle may lose their jobs for a month but nonetheless fill their wheelbarrows with company money and "severance" when they leave to tide them over until the next corner office becomes available."
And what is to be done about this white-collar crime wave? At long last even shamed executives in the financial industry are joining those of us who long ago charged that subprime is really subcrime. Basil Williams, chief executive officer of Concordia Advisors, a hedge fund, says we need "a safety net for the innocent and a dragnet for the guilty."
Writing in the Record in Bergen County, N.J., he says that the greedy should pay to help the needy:
"The costs can be recouped by going after those who profited handsomely and unfairly from the multitude of transactions that touched the industry, including:
Mortgage brokers who originated loans to those who didn't understand the conditions, couldn't afford them and should not have qualified.
Appraisers who overvalued homes, knowing that the higher the value they gave a property, the more business they would reap from a dishonest broker.
Banks and brokerage firms that purchased, packaged and resold the mortgages for huge fees."
He goes on to discuss ratings agencies and more. This is a litany that the candidates and activists should sign on to.
With millions facing foreclosure, we have to expose those responsible and mount a movement for economic justice. It can be done. It should be done. Who is ready to stand up and organize a national mobilization to stop this outrage? Who is ready to fund it?
Danny Schechter writes a blog for MediaChannel.org. He is the author of Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the War on Iraq (Prometheus).
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