Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nicholas von Hoffman on Kevin Phillips’ ‘Bad Money’

Book Review
By Nicholas von Hoffman

"Americans, rich or poor, have consciously or otherwise bought into the master-nation proposition that really bad things do not happen to the USA. We might suffer setbacks and commit a blunder once in a while, but we are too big, too rich, too smart, too powerful and too blessed to be visited by a national catastrophe. That the whole goddamn economy could melt right out from under our feet is an unimaginable event, an occurrence out of history when crackly voiced recordings captured President Franklin Roosevelt talking to the Okies.

Such disasters may overtake Argentines or Malaysians or Bulgarians or Russians or even, occasionally, the English, but not the red, white and blue über-nation. Yet in the space of a year the U.S. has gone from über-nation to under-nation, or at least a nation under water as hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, been tossed out of their homes and seen the savings of a lifetime decimated......

Beyond Wall Street’s suffering for Wall Street’s crimes, Phillips describes the American descent into a debt-dependent economy in which the most important activities have been building subdivisions and erecting malls with money borrowed from abroad. The middle-class masses drive home to the houses they cannot afford and zoom off to overly hypothecated malls, using oil they have no means to pay for, in order to incur additional debt on their credit cards......

“Bad Money” was finished before Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination, but the points Phillips makes about the connection between Wall Street and the Democratic Party are still germane. Robert Rubin, an oft mentioned Obama adviser, was Bill Clinton’s secretary of the treasury and is an ex-CEO of Goldman Sachs and presently in top management at Citigroup.....

This is not the message of rebirth and hope of the Obama campaign, but Phillips has a long track record and a good one. He is no man to ignore. "

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