Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Straw Men? Hollow Men? You Decide......

Exposing the Hollow Men
The hollow men are not here to serve you or me. They are here for their masters. And it has been that way since at least 1913.
Speaking of the Fed and their ilk, my colleague Adam Lass calls them "the gray men."
In a slight twist on that idea, I think of them as "the hollow men," in keeping with T.S. Eliot's 1925 poem. Others have certainly made the comparison before yours truly - but that is because it fits so well:
We are the hollow men

We are the stuffed men

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw.

Alas!Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grassOr rats' feet over broken glass

In our dry cellar- "The Hollow Men," 1925

Quiet and meaningless whispers. Voices like wind in dry grass. Rats' feet on broken glass. Is this not an apt description of Washington from the perspective of the average American, the average small-business owner, for whom no help whatsoever has come?

Serving Their True Masters
William Greider is the author of Secrets of the Temple, one of the best books ever written on the Federal Reserve. He is also an active journalist.
One week ago - on Aug. 6, 2010 - Greider published a long piece in The Nation titled "The AIG Bailout Scandal." If you wish to read it, you can do so here.

Via the findings of three government investigation panels - the Committee on Oversight and Reform, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) - Greider details, with a focus on the COP report specifically, a pattern of shady dealings and highly questionable intents Taipan Daily first clarified via "The AIG Connection - Far Worse Than You Think" back in April 2009.
The first paragraph of Greider's piece - late to the party though it is - is worth quoting:
The government's $182 billion bailout of insurance giant AIG should be seen as the Rosetta Stone for understanding the financial crisis and its costly aftermath. The story of American International Group explains the larger catastrophe not because this was the biggest corporate bailout in history but because AIG's collapse and subsequent rescue involved nearly all the critical elements, including delusion and deception. These financial dealings are monstrously complicated, but this account focuses on something mere mortals can understand - moral confusion in high places, and the failure of governing institutions to fulfill their obligations to the public.
Bingo. Whether or not one agrees that AIG is the hub of all deception, dirty dealings protruding from it like spokes, the truth of the matter is that the intent of the hollow men - their sense of "obligation to the public" - is nothing like conventional wisdom makes it out to be. Taipan Daily has been pounding that critical message home ever since the crisis began. It is good to see others picking up the thread.
A Century-Old Franchise
To wit, the hollow men are not here to serve you and me. They are not here for the good of the country, or the health of the financial system, or any other justification so sentimental and naïve. Their mission is singular - to serve their true masters. That's all.
When the creators of the Federal Reserve got together on Jekyll Island in the years leading up to 1913 - the year the Federal Reserve act was passed - they represented, by some estimates, a quarter of the world's wealth in just one room.
And while one can never know the deep-down personal influences of those men, it seems safe to say they were not motivated by pureness of heart.
In seeking to safeguard the financial workings of the U.S. economy, the plutocrat fathers of the Fed were likely as unsentimental in their aim as dairy farmers, hoping to secure a herd of cows for the productive value of the milk.
What grew out of Jekyll Island, then, was a sort of brilliant trick. Not only did the Federal Reserve insinuate itself into the very warp and woof of U.S. economic fabric, it did so in such a way that extraction became impossible over time.
And thus now we have to heed warnings of "systemic importance" when dealing with the too-big-to-fail financial institutions, because the warnings are more or less true. The Federal Reserve system was designed to aid and comfort the banks first and foremost. To ensure the permanent longevity of that arrangement, the major banks positioned themselves like a cancerous tumor embedded in the spine - too dangerous to cut out for fear of paralyzing the patient.

Walking Away
What can be done about the hollow men? Not a whole lot, unfortunately.
In addition to parasitic systemic importance, the whole edifice of self-dealing and deceit resides behind an opaque smoke screen of complexity (as William Greider notes). Many Americans struggle with the basic concept of balloon payments on a mortgage, let alone the mathematical hocus pocus used by Wall Street to cover up its tracks. And besides: Who can truly expect the public to keep watch, when they are too busy watching American Idol?
In another theme that has long run through these pages, your humble editor's solution is to focus on the small things, the personal things... to opt out of the system in as many ways as possible.
For yours truly that means no mortgage debt, no credit card debt and no auto loan debt. It means no financial accounts at major banking institutions, instead using independent brokerage houses, smaller local banks, and megabank alternatives like EverBank. It means a readiness to profit from systemic breakdown, via the shorting of exposed financial players and/or the purchase of silver and gold. And, in general, a habit of minimizing accidental patronage of the system to as great a degree as possible.We may not be able to stop the hollow men. But we can recognize them for who and what they are, and we can walk away. And we can encourage others to do the same. Maybe with enough critical mass, fueled by crisis powerful enough to wake the man in the street from his slumber, there can one day be change.

No comments: