Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ruining the Country

Last night at a local hotel bar I listened to a man explain to the people around him that Mexicans are ruining the country.

He was an older man, bald, pink-faced, probably in his late fifties, wearing an Amsterdam t-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it. He let us know that he'd served in the Army and had no interest in the opinions of anyone who hadn't.

Just before going to the bar, I'd read this.

I suggest following the link, but I'll quickly summarize what it says: employees of Goldman Sachs (and a few other banks) bought thousands of sub-prime loans, packaged them together, sold the packages to various investment groups, and then bet on their failure. (That's worth re-reading again as a one sentence summary of what's wrong with American capitalist culture.)

Within the article, one finds this quote:
“The simultaneous selling of securities to customers and shorting them because they believed they were going to default is the most cynical use of credit information that I have ever seen,” said Sylvain R. Raynes, an expert in structured finance at R & R Consulting in New York. “When you buy protection against an event that you have a hand in causing, you are buying fire insurance on someone else’s house and then committing arson.”
The article suggests that in effect every home in the country was lit on fire by these arsons—every home, in any case, which lost value when the global financial system locked up because of their bets.

But in the United States we've always admired the ingenuity of criminals. So we do not blame them for stealing our money. Instead, we blame the man born into abject poverty who ventures thousands of miles from home in order to eat. And who succeeds in eating by getting on his bicycle at five in the morning and riding to work, where he grows, harvests, and prepares our food.

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