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April 27, 2013


Recent polls of incoming college students have not been promising. When asked why they were attending college, a disturbing number of them replied that they wanted to “make a lot of money.” Apparently the idea was to go to the Harvard or Wharton Business School, pursue an MBA, and present yourself to Wall Street as the next big whiz kid with new ideas on securitizing assets – any assets.

Credit derivatives are so old hat, as is deliberately securitizing for loss. Let’s bet on the bet – on the bet – and continue to call such casino capitalism “banking.” There is no end to the possibility of making  money by the shipload, especially with sleepy and budget-deprived regulators on watch – and if things go sour, not to worry. Bailouts are still in the picture, thanks to the successful stalling tactics of our highly effective lobbyists in D.C.

Dodd-Frank? Imposition of the Volcker Rule? Keep stalling. There are big commissions (and bonuses) out there, just waiting for us to harvest. How dare the government deprive us of federally insured funds or demand that we increase our reserves for the risks we take in our crapshoots (albeit with someone else’s money)? Why, that’s just un-American! The dirty socialists!

As for the masses, give ‘em the ol’ free enterprise routine. Free for whom? That’s our secret. Business TV and papers feed on that mythology, so we will get a lot of free play, and after all, propaganda costs are deductible to us as “business expenses.” Those dumb clucks are even paying for their own brain-washing! Is this a great country or what? Where else can one commit public larceny and still be looking in instead of out?

Seeking higher education is not bad in itself; indeed it can be good, depending upon the end to which such an education is aimed. Nor is one’s desire to better one’s self financially. However, when higher education is pursued with the aim of joining in the business of bilking the public (and one another) in joining organized moneychangers on Wall Street, London and Berlin, then, from the point of view of a public to be served, it is bad (unless, like some, you think bilking is a good practice in the marketplace).

There are those who have diligently pursued higher education with other purposes in mind. One of my ten most favorite people, Albert Schweitzer, is one. He held multiple doctorates in music, theology and medicine. He was regarded in his day as the world’s foremost interpreter of Bach on the organ. He gave  concerts in Paris, Berlin and London and could have been a multi-millionaire (which was a lot of money in those days) had he decided to profit on his enormous musical ability and the fame that went with it. What did he do?

He went up the Congo River in central Africa and established a hospital in the jungle in Lambarene, where he provided medical and surgical services to penniless and illiterate natives of the region, only coming out on occasion to play concerts in Berlin (and elsewhere) for money, which he took back to improve the facilities and expanded medical offerings in his jungle hospital. He had little interest in money beyond what he could do with it for others. Compare that mentality with the avaricious state of mind of the whiz kids en route to Wall Street, and tell me who is the greater contributor to humanity.

Merkel in Berlin persists in turning down Keynesian policies for recovery in the euro zone in favor of austerity economics which protects bondholders and leaves massive numbers of the unemployed on their own, policies which are causing the continuing downturn in such economies in the euro zone with no end in sight. The consequent listlessness in European demand has reverberations; the rest of the world’s economies are slowing as euro zone aggregate demand heads south (a  downside of the wonder of globalization). One buys few imports when broke and unemployed.

London has its problems as well, as pointed up by a recent transaction of the JP Morgan Chase Bank (and I use the term “bank” rather than “casino” with considerable reservation). A so-called “whale” (the name of the trader on the bank’s trading desk in London) lost over six billion dollars in a (you guessed it – in a credit derivatives trade – the same “asset type” whose sales nearly ruined the world in 2008). The CEO of the “bank,” Jaime Dimon, signed off on the trade, and his board of directors really roughed him up: board members cut his bonus in half, all the way down to something over 12 million dollars. That’ll teach him!

Biblical writers wrote of moneychangers in the temple with great scorn and distaste. I think their observations then were accurate and I share their view yet today. These people, educated or not, in a temple or in our marketplace, are little more than parasites, and we the people need to deal with them as such. It is past time to let them know in no uncertain terms that this is our economy, not theirs, and that it is ours to design, modify and regulate, not theirs.

They may have a seat at the table, but it is our restaurant and we will write the menus. They should also be advised that our restaurant is not for sale.  GERALD  E


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