This book attempts to explain our economic problems primarily by using the analogy of fantasy baseball. That's a very good analogy, I think, and does help us visualize how a relatively small amount of defaulted mortgages turned into a multi-trillion dollar mess.
Unfortunately, the author has a very liberal slant that will utterly annoy and anger conservative readers. For me, it's right on target, but my conservative friends will see a lot to dislike. That's too bad, because the explanations of how all these mysterious financial shenanigans actually work is very good. It's the laying of blame that will cause anger in the conservative ranks - I may agree completely with his analysis, but nobody who likes Fox News will.
I wish he had avoided the politics and stuck with simple realities. It is undeniably true that the middle and lower class have lost purchasing power as money has flowed to the very wealthy. I don't think many conservatives will argue about that; the problem is that they see that as a good thing - it's the "trickle down", "a rising tide floats all boats", "concentration of capital creates jobs", "greed is good" mentality.
Of course they are right, at least to some extent. We need concentration of capital - some things just can't get done without it. Greed is good, at least when not carried to excess. But that's the problem, isn't it? Greed has been carried to excess and the disparity between the rich and the rest of us is far too great. Unbridled greed is what made this mess, and I think the author does make that argument very convincingly.
I think it's fairly easy for both liberals and conservatives to agree that putting purchasing power in the hands of the middle and lower classes is good. Certainly that's the goal in the "rising tide" theory, isn't it? Having a healthy working class lowers welfare needs, makes for more stable families, increases purchases of real goods and increases the overall tax take of governments. All that seems pretty obvious - where we get into shouting matches is how we should go about getting there.
I like the wage cap idea this author (and others) suggests. That says that no executive can be paid more than X times the lowest wage paid in the company (wages, benefits, stock options, bonuses - full compensation). Set X wherever you want - 50 times, 100 times - wherever you set it, the cap will have the effect of raising the wages of workers.
I realize that's bitter poison to strict conservative ideology. I also recognize the argument that such a cap might drive some highly talented people right out of the country. It may be a too simplistic solution. Fine - let's hear some other ideas - it's obvious what we have been doing is not working.
This is the dialog I am trying to have with my conservative friends. We have a mess, and putting billions in the hands of Gates, Soros, Buffet and the rest plainly hasn't done us any good - it has swamped boats rather than raising them. If we can get by the liberal/conservative blame game, maybe we can agree on some path forward that will perhaps improve things.
I certainly hope so. Oh, and sure, buy the book. If you are a wooly-headed liberal like me, you'll love it. If you are grinding your teeth at the mere thought of interfering with billionaires life-styles, this will be hard for you to stomach, but you may still find the explanations helpful.
No matter where you sit, please, let's try to find some common ground. It's our only hope.
Tony Lawrence 2009-07-03 Rating:
Order (or just read more about) The Looting of America from Amazon.com
Got something to add? Send me email.
More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence
I always knew that one day Smalltalk would replace Java. I just didn't know it would be called Ruby. (Kent Beck)