Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inside Joh

Inside Job, the documentary about the culpability of the big banks for the current recession, made by Charles Ferguson, a less confrontational documentarian than, say, Michael Moore, is a thoughtful movie exposing the power of the old boys' network of greed and willful ignorance, the utter amorality of the guys who made and are still making enormous amounts of money from the unregulated activities of the big banks, investment brokers and insurance companies. This is not a movie that will appeal to most Americans as it exposes a social level they cannot in any way relate to.

The pervasiveness of the economic buccaneering was exposed. I knew about the greed but I didn't know that it went into the universities where major economics professors do not have to reveal their conflicts of interest in their papers -- that they are paid to write glowing reports [perhaps of the economic stabilidty of Iceland -- ha! -- by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce] whereas if a research M.D. fails to mention that he is on the review board of a drug company and is touting their latest drug, he is seen as a very low worm indeed. [Although his $50,000 retainer is a pittance beside the Board of Directors' payments given to many university professors who do not reveal their conflicts of interest in their papers.

The movie did not spend much time on the smarmy side, the prostitution, drugs, huge houses, corporate jets, enjoyed by the Big Guys. Elliot Spitzer was often quoted in his prosecutoreal role and his own moral shortcomings only referred to in one ironic note. I found a "guys will be guys" attitude but can't blame Ferguson for choosing to concentrate on the move toward deregulation through the last 15 years. I was horrified as the movie came up to date and revealed that Obama is relying on the same Band of Brothers in financial crime who have been running the banks for years. I had thought he surely was a little more insightful. Has the chain of bribery gone that far? It's profoundly unsettling.

No, the average American will not see this documentary. Those who bought ridiculously expensive homes with almost no credit have been shafted by the big guys, but they were also greedy, eager to move into their McMansions despite their lowly incomes. As Yeats wrote "the center will not hold..." he wasn't thinking about bankers and money but finally it's money that drives most people. And they really don't know what they're doing and tend to trust blindly whatever they read.

I had a neighbor who, during the Internet bubble used to call me and say, "guess how much money I made today?" And I would say, "I don't want to know. I just think you should cash in and put the money under your mattress." He didn't of course. He listened to the pundits on TV -- and then one day he said, "I've lost ..." And the next day ... and all the time I had said he might as well be at Las Vegas playing roulette and that the house always wins. Greed. It hit the little guys like my neighbor. The big guys, at this point have won; the little guys have lost. Was it ever any different?

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- I read an article not to long ago exposing the ties between medical journals, pharmaceuticals, and studies. Your article about universities hanging with the corporate world to get the desired results appears to be similar in false reporting. Teachs me to believe only a small part of what studies say or maybe not at all.-- barbara

June Calender said...

The movie emphasized that the economics and business profs at Harvard and Columbia [in particular] are the very same guys who let the banks go crazy with derivatives and subprime lending and they continue teaching students those attitudes.

Economics seems very removed from we normal people and medicine feels much closer and scarier. I think actually economics run wild will do us and the world more harm than the medical conflicts of interest. Medicine has less financial greed ;pay may be a lot but not compared to the banks] And there is an underlying morality - everyone believes the "do no harm".