The Fourteenth Banker Blog

July 19, 2010

About Nothing

Filed under: Running Commentary — thefourteenthbanker @ 1:06 AM

The news cycle is a little dictator. Constantly streaming forth stories, facts, opinions, statistics. A thousand linear streams of thought. I appreciate so much how I can throw a topic out there and you bring your comments and take discussion to a deeper level.

I am reading Yves Smith’s Econned.  The subtitle is “How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.” So far, through the first three chapters, she runs through some of the history of recent (last 50 years) economic thought and how mainstream economists have been captured by their models, academic rituals and scientific wannabe-ness. I will write more on the book but my first impression is that you can add most economists to the top Wall Street predators and Washington power brokers doing us no favors.

Two interesting summaries of the recent statistics/developments in the economy are here and here. This is serious business. There is a contraption ticking. Our financial markets are Improvised Explosive Devices. The Geithner/Summers/Bernanke team are turning their wrenches and stripping the bolt head.

I looked at running for Congress, just to see about stirring up some real debate in a political process. Of course, nominating for the two parties is done. Also, in my state, I suspect in all states, you can’t even get on the ballot anymore. The ballot is closed. An independent candidate must file early. Isn’t that a statement on our corrupt entrenched power structures? The two party system is alive and well. Of course, my gerrymandered district would not have a competitive election anyway. But, a little political scrap would be worth having, just to annoy the powers that be. Does anyone know of a single congressional challenger that would be capable of making a good argument on the economy, financial reform, and corporate values?

So all this talking, writing, debating is good. It is foundational for something to follow. What do you think that should be? What do you think it will be? How does our little movement do something about the NY/Washington power axis? Any ideas? What about our little banking system? Any ideas?


  1. If you are doing more than idly musing, the Congressional election cycle is short enough that now is the time to get to work for a 2012 run.

    Can you come up with at least a couple of million in a year?

    Comment by Don — July 19, 2010 @ 11:18 AM | Reply

    • You are right about a serious run. It is too late for this cycle. But it does speak to our system that even a rich guy, self funded, would have to run a write-in campaign post FinReg. Potential candidates cannot respond to actual election year events in making their decision.

      Comment by thefourteenthbanker — July 19, 2010 @ 1:42 PM | Reply

  2. Don’t know about a challenger, but Brad Miller, congressman from here in NC has so far been the exception that proves my rule about legislators – if they are honest, they don’t last in DC, leaving in disgust over the system. All others get turned to the Dark Side.

    Let’s face it – the oligarchs have won. Between the campaign cash, the lobbying, the revolving door between government “service” and Wall St. and K Street, we, the lowly public, are well and truly screwed.

    I used to believe that justice would prevail, but no more. I’m just trying to find a way to keep my head down, get as much off the grid as I can, and hunker down until the SOBs have slit their own throats (or each others), which, inevitably they will.

    As long as we celebrate the Ayn Randian model, no amount of legislation, no economic models, none of it will make a whit’s worth of difference, because, friends, “Man is the only animal who $hits where he sleeps”, and we don’t even recognize the extent to which we have fouled this nest. Also, once we went “global” there was no longer any loyalty to our own people – the almighty bottom line truly became the new God and Country. Labor, more than ever, is merely a drag on the bottom line. But their dilemma, which they haven’t addressed yet, is where are their consumers going to come from when we’re all eating beans and rice?

    I read an interesting piece over the weekend about how all wealth is ultimately based on natural resources and because of that, the industrial/capitalist era is on its way out. That may not be totally accurate, but Chief Seattle said it best – not until we have cut down every tree, eaten every fish, mined every precious metal and ore, etc. will we learn we can’t eat money.

    Comment by Sandi — July 19, 2010 @ 5:18 PM | Reply

  3. PS – I think it’s no coincidence that the news hit the fan today about the vast hidden aspects of government that Dana Priest writes about in the Washington Post, and Glenn Greenwald, of wrote about:

    Most of what the U.S. Government does of any significance — literally — occurs behind a vast wall of secrecy, completely unknown to the citizenry. . . . Secrecy is the religion of the political class, and the prime enabler of its corruption. That’s why whistle blowers are among the most hated heretics. They’re one of the very few classes of people able to shed a small amount of light on what actually takes place. (Greenwald)

    Sooooo, we have Big Money and secret government enclaves………….anyone else getting nervous yet?

    Comment by Sandi — July 19, 2010 @ 5:37 PM | Reply

  4. I am looking at the entire social disfunction of the US from apparently unorthodox perspectives. For the state arrangement to survive, there must be enough commonwealth among the factions making up the society that allows acceptance of the state on a going concern basis. At the same time, technological development of the production , service and state components of the society absolutely require security for the physical components to survive destruction from factions that oppose these components. High tech requires high security at the expense of the populace to physically survive. Each of these components have operated on an adversarial basis for so long that cabals there might be but they are to fluid to last long. The proof here is that the state is unable to craft consistent problem abating long term policy. Instead, each component is so beyond reason they destroy themselves by their own decisions and processes. We have a highly distressed financial system that literally survives only so long as credit exists. We have state units that are now so bereft of ability to generate operating funds they are closing essential security services like fire and police. The service sector is in extremis because it depends totally on the ability of the citizenry to purchase services in commonwealth. This is declining while pressures on the system are growing.

    I ran into a very interesting segment of the problem while working on my mothers estate today. I searched out home sales closed in the last two months for properties similar to my mothers’s house. In every case noted, the sales were in the same Township. There is a Township Assessor. I found around a dozen actual sales and every single one of them were greatly under the 2008/ 2009 assessed values. These varied from 55 % of assessed value up to 79 % of assessed values. My mothers would be 91 % of sale listing value only because of a senior citizen type partial freeze. Think about this ! Local government will soon be operating under assessed value pools around 35% lower than the immediate past. They cannot get rate increases. Here is a secret everyone in local revenue generation keeps away from public perception. The property tax system only reacts if you individually pursue assessment value remediation. The rest of the citizens are simply defrauded. The deceit is not properly setting values provided by statute. The state is involved too because they ignore the problem in equalization procedures required by the state constitution.

    Everywhere, there are secrets so that each intrenched managerial faction may continue getting paychecks.

    The political system is collapsing. The financial system is collapsing from sheer ineptness brought on by placing theory before identifying fact.

    There needs to be a book that makes this point apolitically and which will survive it’s suppression.

    Comment by Jerry J — July 19, 2010 @ 9:14 PM | Reply

    • This aging flower child feels some responsibility for where we are now, to this extent: We were the “do your own thing”, “if it feels good, do it” folks. BUT – there was always the unspoken, but known, caveat – “as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.” We were very much a non-materialistic bunch – we shared what we had with true feelings of brotherhood and magnanimity. As Jerry J points out, for society to survive, there must be a sense of commonwealth, a sense that it isn’t “us or them”, it’s “us” – all of us. My old history teacher pointed out the way you turn men against one another is to exploit their differences and then demonize those who are determined to be “not like us”. (In other words, we’re still behaving tribally.)
      Since then, here are the dots I’ve been connecting. The dumbing down of our public schools – beginning with the “white flight” after integration; more recently the flight to private and charter schools has been led by the religious right. A contributing factor has been the move to privatize every part of the Commons, led by the “ownership society” free-marketers. Add to this the fact that we still fund public schools through property taxes, so poorer neighborhoods get poorer schools. (I’m not saying money is the only answer to good schools, but poverty is part of the equation, for a variety of reasons).
      In the late ‘90’s, when my daughter was in middle school, civics had been blended into social studies – and barely covered. To hear the Tea Partiers, one wonders if anyone learned the deeper story of our founding, beyond the buzz phrases?
      Sometime in the 1980’s I read they quit teaching ethics in college – about the time everyone seemed to want to get their MBA and head for Wall St. Is it any wonder the phrase of the day then was, “He who dies with the most toys, wins”?
      As long as money buys power, or access to power, we will have the kind of leadership we have now.

      Comment by Sandi — July 20, 2010 @ 8:23 AM | Reply

  5. I am becoming more and more convinced that our last best hope is local. Community is where real change will begin, where the first winning battles will be fought. It may take 50 or 100 years, and some severe pain from a number of directions, but ultimately it is local communities that will survive or fail.

    For a lot of good thoughts on this, but from a different perspective (peak oil) I recommend He takes a long, long term approach that makes sense.

    As Gandhi said: “We must be the change we want to see in the world.”

    Comment by Eric W — July 19, 2010 @ 11:14 PM | Reply

    • Eric,
      Thanks for the link. That is the ultimate bottom line, for sure. Good to be reminded, as I was by another blog entry today along similar lines.

      Comment by Sandi — July 20, 2010 @ 9:47 AM | Reply

    • Very nice site. Thank you Eric.

      Comment by thefourteenthbanker — July 20, 2010 @ 8:50 PM | Reply

  6. Patience. The swinging pendulum of democratic justice is so large that it seems to take too long for change. People are paying attention, and they will express themselves in Nov. There will be some clensing out of muck, and if that’s not sufficient there’ll be more clensing in 2012.

    Comment by suntinwong — July 20, 2010 @ 2:14 PM | Reply

  7. 14th writes: “But, a little political scrap would be worth having …”

    Go for it 14th in 2012 then! It could be fun.

    Comment by tippygolden press — July 20, 2010 @ 7:09 PM | Reply

  8. 14th wrote: Any ideas?

    Well let’s talk about social-Darwinism. This is a theory which means the survival of the fittest and purportedly the Law of the Jungle. It expresses itself in an adversarial winner-take-all system. I am wondering if this is not a immature-social construction. One that justifies crazy and sometimes lethal and self-defeating behaviours.

    An English major once told me, one of the literary themes that emerged after World War I, is why then — if war is the ultimate expression of social-Darwinism — was society left with the lame, the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly, women and children? The best and brightest, the educated and the fittest the young men having gone to war and died in the killing fields and trenches of the Somme, Passchendaele and Verdun.

    Perhaps there could be a middle way. A way of moderation that is both dynamic and inclusive. Street smart and profoundly-honest at the same time.

    Comment by tippygolden press — July 23, 2010 @ 7:58 PM | Reply

  9. This just about says it all for me:

    “We suggest that a corporate culture based on character virtues…predicated in part on reciprocity and mutual regard, could improve both the moral character of business and the profitability of corporate enterprise.” — Herbert Gintis and Rakesh Khurana

    Comment by tippygolden — July 23, 2010 @ 8:11 PM | Reply

  10. 14th wrote: Any ideas?

    We share your distress – we too are fighting on this side of the pond, our ideas are on our website. We wish you well and trust that we might join forces one day as our battle progresses!

    Comment by Peter UK — July 24, 2010 @ 12:53 PM | Reply

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