Complicated Instruments

Last night, while packing in my hotel room in Shelby, North
Carolina, I happened to catch BILL MOYER’S JOURNAL on television. He
interviewed two men who wrote a book called 13 BANKERS. It’s about the
financial crisis. Coincidentally, yesterday the SEC filed civil court
charges against Goldman Sachs, so they addressed that topic as well.
They showed lots of clips from the Financial Crisis Commission
hearings headed by Phil Angelides, with testimony from heads of
various financial institutions. It was lots of older white guys
apologizing, while denying responsibility. It sounds a bit like
Christian Rock, “I’ve done wrong, but it was God’s will.” Everyone of
them says that the financial instruments involved are very
complicated. Even the phrase ‘financial instruments”complicates things
a bit. It sounds vaguely surgical, like something that they’ll say
you’ll only feel a little pinch from, but when it’s inserted, you howl
with pain. I believe them about the instruments being complicated,
though I can barely understand a word of it, although I have heard the
phrase “sub-prime mortgages” more than a few times. Those got tangled
up in some of the loan packages that were sold, and appear to be a
major spoke in the whole debacle. My ears perk up every time I hear
the phrase “sub-prime mortgage.” No doubt they complicated the heck
out of everything, but I don’t know why anyone would buy a “sub-prime
mortgage.” You wouldn’t buy a “sub-prime” steak, would you? I think
the name itself should have thrown up a red flag. I guess it didn’t,
I must have been the luckiest viewer on the planet last night,
because after Bill Moyers, the Public Television station I was
watching had Charlie Rose, and he had a panel of people on to talk
about the Goldman Sachs case. I love Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers. I
wrote to Charlie Rose once to ask him to have me on his show to talk
about my book. My letter must have gotten lost in the mail. I watched
the whole show, listening as carefully as I could, and I still don’t
exactly understand. I’m often distracted when I watch Charlie Rose,
though, because I’m watching his body language and expressions
carefully to try to tell if he got my letter yet.
When Charlie Rose signed off, I turned on my computer, and went
to The News Hour With Jim Lehrer, which I keep the link to on my
bookmark bar. Of course the Goldman Sachs case was featured there as
well. That’s three shows I watched on the same subject, and I still
can’t say I understand it very well. I was behind when I started,
though. When I first heard that Fannie Mae was having trouble, for
example, I thought they meant the candy company. I didn’t support the
bailout at all. I could see lending a hand to Hershey’s, but I don’t
even like Fannie Mae chocolates that much.


  1. flora ramey says:

    I have heard several reports that indicate that batches of risky loans were re-sold to the Chinese. So maybe you can batch up just about anything and sell it in order to keep trading vigorously. Otherwise, you probably don’t look like you know what you are doing.
    Some middle-aged lady economist a couple of years ago who predicted the financial crisis based on her assessment of the practice of derivitive trading was ignored by the smarter guys

  2. BGryphon says:

    A great book that explains what’s happening with all those things is “The Looting of America” by Les Leopold. It’s written for those of us who don’t have an MBA and it’s around 200 pages; covers everything you need to know without going on and on.

    And here’s a hint; the problem isn’t with the mortgages.

  3. CO2 says:

    Amazing! You were just on Wait Wait from Chicago & now we’re going to see you in downtown Troy tonight. Either you’ve mastered time travel or they use tape delay. I sometimes wish we all could use those tools in our daily work. (What a thought, check in to the local Holiday Inn Express, go to the portal at room 316.5 and walk out rested in another city.

    (I bought my wife, daughter & her boyfriend tickets to tonite’s show also, so were all coming from a goumet feast at Jose Malone’s (a local mexican / irish restaurant, now there’s a mix) to the show.
    My wife is giving me heat though for finally bringing her to the “acoustically perfect” Troy Music Hall to hear a your show. Maybe you can yodel for a few seconds so I can justify my choice as a musical event!!
    We’re looking forward to seeing you!

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