In a talk that aired recently on Alternative Radio, Rolling Stone/Real Time with Bill Maher reporter Matt Taibbi brought his fresh and incisive approach to today's issues.
After two years intensely studying the mortgage crisis, he said he could sum it up like this: “Has anyone here ever smoked marijuana? [giggles] The mortgage crisis was banks pouring oregano into plastic baggies, and selling it to idiots as really good weed.” They created derivative instruments that allowed them to take say 1,000 high risk mortgages, chop them up and repackage them and call up a Chinese sovereign wealth fund, or a Dutch trade union and sell it. “What’s the first thing you do when you figure out you can sell oregano as marijuana? You grow more oregano.” They cooked up credit scores to put meth addicts in $500,000 homes, so they could resell their mortgages.
He found parallels between what was happening in the U.S. and what he had seen in Russia, where he said he went after spending a lot of time smoking pot. In 2001 there were 13 billion speculative dollars in the commodities market, he reports; by 2008 it was over 200 million. It was a speculative bubble betting on the rise of commodities. Goldman Sacks was the primary campaign contributor to the Obama campaign, and pressure from Taibbi and other reporters resulted in them taking smaller bonuses after taking bail-out money.
In answer to a question from the crowd, Taibbi said, "Our bicameral press system makes it easy for pundits to make a lot of money by feeding meat to their demographic. You have to make a conscious effort to do more than that. Journalists used to be working class people, a thorn in the side, and not Harvard-educated types. Candidates have learned to punish journalists by denying them access to them and their advertising dollars. It’s on the minds of editors and news directors and the journalists internalize the values of their bosses. It’s going to get a lot worse now that there’s so much more money in politics." Our "very relaxed regulatory regime" has to do with campaign contributions, he rightly states.
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