I’m done with the market.
Individuals are the suckers as in “The Suckers Money.”
The truth is out: Lehman Brothers? They were liars. Morgan Stanley? Whoops, they were liars too. Michael Lewis’s astonishing new book “The Big Short,” lays it all out. The banks’ greed was such that they packaged and repackaged mortgage-backed securities until there were no more borrowers. Then they repackaged the ones they’d already sold and sold them again as different derivatives. A small handful of really attentive people saw what was going on and got the banks to give them a way to bet against this market, and thus were born Credit Default Swaps, a kind of insurance policy with a fixed low premium and no-limit payoff. (That’s what killed AIG.) Joe Nocera in the 4/17 New York Times makes it plain that what Michael Lewis discovered was indeed true, and that Morgan Stanley was bundling and marketing crappy loans on purpose, expressly to provide a “Don’t Pass Line” for the giant craps table that is Wall Street. Customers wanted a way to bet against the house. They provided it.
The sophistication of the Wall Street banks’ complicity in the offenses that led to the economic tragedy that I presume we will refer to in the future as the Great Recession, stands in stark contrast to conservative talk host Neal Boortz’s default setting, which is to blame the victims.
I was listening in the Fall of 2008 when Mr. Boortz blamed the economic crisis that was unfolding in the form of a crashed stock market and a frozen credit market on the poor who, he opined, had no business taking out all those subprime loans.
I mention this because character assassination is Mr. Boortz’s stock-in-trade (along with an irrational hatred of liberals). And, it’s a bit personal. A few months ago Mr. Boortz chose me as his target. He took grave offense at an interview that I gave Vanity Fair where I stated the factual case that conservative talk hosts like him and Rush Limbaugh preach to an aged crowd. I made the point, using Arbitron statistics, that the average conservative talk radio host is addressing an audience of septuagenarians. Apparently (I did not hear Mr. Boortz’s rant, was only told it about it in the aftermath), he took exception to my speaking on any aspect of talk radio (never mind the fact that I have spent my life around newsrooms and in radio), and characterized me as a failure both personally and professionally. I guess he talked about my stupidity in starting Air America Radio, and said something to the effect of my never having done anything worthwhile in my life and that I am just a pathetic loser.
Now, I am unquestionably a pathetic loser in plenty of ways, and I know he’s mad at me because Al Franken caught him in a lie and then, as is Al’s wont, refused to let it go. But I never thought he was so angry that he would resort to such a public drubbing. It is not as though I expect Neal Boortz to sing my praises. I don’t expect him to mention my successful history of entrepreneurial endeavor, like the fact that I was a radio station owner/operator at 32, or that I operated a thriving radio consultancy for the 25 years before Air America, or on a personal level, since he chose to get pretty nasty about my personal failings, the fact that I am happily married and have a great and easy relationship with all four kids.
I will not cast any aspersions, I will only ask, where’s the failure? Or, maybe I should ask, who’s the failure?
It turns out the story of the Collapse of 2008 is a lot more complicated and interesting than Mr. Boortz’s knee-jerk blame-the-victims would ever in a million years reveal. Interesting and complicated are two things not generally associated with Mr. Boortz’s show. What they share is a vile crassness that plays on people’s worst instincts. In any event, I’m done with the market, and I’m done with him too.