t byfield on Thu, 3 Dec 1998 18:32:17 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> short-term capital

   Praise to Alan Greenspan, for Protecting the Rich
   by Michael M. Thomas
   This column is being written in advance of the Great American Holiday
   of Thanksgiving, but won't appear until afterward. Still, the sentiment
   is there. Herewith, a few chestnuts which, in a just world, would be
   stuffed up the orifices of the turkeys concerned. 
   Let us give thanks for the good fortune that enabled (so reports a
   well-placed Greenwich, Conn., source in disgust) various, perhaps most
   partners of Long-Term Capital Management to move key assets into their
   wives' names before the firm's collapse. The sort of assets that keep a
   lad and lady climbing in and out of limousines, the funds necessary to
   call for the check opening night at Daniel, the golf club
   subscriptions paid up, the Costa Ricans assiduously clipping the
   manicured hedges and lawns, the money that lets the partners' wives
   keep shopping without missing a beat. For His bounties to such as
   these, thanks be to God.
   Let us also give thanks for the New Deal, which set the precedent for
   the Welfare and Family Assistance programs to which the immediate
   victims of Long-Term Capitals failure can thankfully turn this holiday
   season: the firms secretaries, its clerks and back-office help,
   including the boy who made sure the caviar in the executive
   refrigerator was the proper temperature (before the sturgeon eggs were
   hastily redistributed along Round Hill Road, that is). For His mercy
   in looking out for the little people, thanks be to God. 
   Let us raise our voices to give thanks on behalf of these people, and
   their families, and the banks that hold the mortgages on their modest
   houses in Pelham and Stamford, and the issuers of their credit cards.
   They are probably in no mood to celebrate Thanksgiving themselves, in
   no mood to rejoice that through the miracle of sheer good timing, the
   children of John Meriwether's partners will still get their holiday ski
   trips and BMWs while their own will go toyless (try explaining to a
   7-year-old that food stamps under the tree is the way Christmas is
   supposed to work in a proper postmodern capitalist economy). But it is
   the will of God, as we have been told since 1982, that the rich set a
   motivating example to the less fortunate. Such is the gospel of
   Comparative Advantage. For giving even to the least among us the eyes
   to see that it must be so, thanks be to God.
   Let us give thanks for a system that permits the fat cats to strut in
   Armani after failed trillion-dollar desperation bets on
   mortgage-backed securities, and the bankers who financed those bets
   with money backed by the taxpayers to get in their Thanksgiving paddle
   tennis in Locust Valley, while the little people who availed
   themselves of the mortgages that back those securities may lose their
   houses, along with the (Van Heusen) shirts off their backs. No risk,
   no reward: ah, yes, thanks be to God.
   Let us give thanks that we don't have to trouble our own digestions by
   demanding certain knowledge that we ought to have. Such as (this time
   I'm going to put it in capital letters): WHAT DID GREENSPAN KNOW AND
   WHEN DID HE KNOW IT? Or this one: Why has no list of the investors in
   Long-Term Capital, the true beneficiaries of the bailout, been
   published? Might anyone or any institution affiliated with The New
   York Times or other major media have been an investor in Long-Term
   Capital? For seeing that our minds not be clouded with such questions
   (let alone the answers), or by silly, misleading terms like
   "fraudulent conveyance," thanks be to God.
   Let us give thanks indeed for our great media. An uninformed polity is
   the key to global capitalism and those who pluck the sweetest
   harmonies from its strings. People who know nothing can be made to
   believe anything. The mystic chords of memory must be raised to a
   frequency only dogs can hear. Such is the gospel of postmodern
   capitalism, its Beatitudes and Commandments, as vouchsafed to Alfred
   E. Newman as he slouched toward Bethlehem on his skateboard to be
   born, unworried to the very last. Such is the gospel our media go
   forth to spread; Such is the work of the Lord--apparently. There is not
   one among us who should not daily kneel and say: For Barbara Walters
   and our anchor people and our talking heads, for Peter and Tom and Dan
   and Jerry (as in Springer), for newspapers that give us the skinny on
   the latest in vulval depilatory fashions while children grow hungry
   and white-collar criminals gorge, thanks be to God.
   Let us indeed give thanks for the wisdom and vision of Alan Greenspan.
   Is it thanks to Thy enlightenment, perhaps visited upon him in a
   moment of awful clarity, as he paused from licking the boots of Wall
   Street and raised his face to heaven, that he alone was vouchsafed to
   gaze upon the secret, terrible face of the sibyl? That, alone among
   men (and that race of beings we call "economists"), he was given to
   see that it is possible to have inflation in the face of a worldwide
   capacity glut? That the way to keep highly contingent inflation out of
   the goods and services sector, and thus out of the statistics
   confected for public consumption by an administration of charlatans
   and liars and bought men, is to get the money out of the wallets of
   the middle class, those greedy, inflation-inspiriting purchasers of
   goods and services, and export it into the private banking accounts of
   the well-to-do? That his mission on earth was to export the world's
   wealth from the paychecks of the humble to the portfolios of the rich
   by creatingwith the connivance of the media--a stock market which must
   seduce the groundlings into pouring their treasure into it? For the
   blessings of Thy wisdom, selectively bestowed, and on behalf of those
   who especially enjoy His mercies (and Alans), thanks be to God.
   Let us also give thanks that Thou hast seen fit to outfit the Blessed
   Alan with the tongues of men and angels, so that he might go up the
   marble mountain and speak to the people thus: "Some members [of the
   Federal Reserve Board] were concerned that [the Oct. 13 interest rate
   cut] might be misread as indicative of a degree of concern about
   prospective developments in financial markets or the economic outlook
   the easing actions under consideration were more likely to help settle
   volatile financial markets and cushion the effects of more restrictive
   financial conditions on the ongoing expansion."
   What is spoken in the tongues of angels is intended only for angels to
   understand, but let me give it a try. "The economy is tanking, which
   is exactly what is wanted by the Street and the other big players, who
   have nothing to do with jobs (jobs are something that clerks and
   secretaries have; players have accounts). A decelerating economy means
   easier money with which to leverage the Streets plays. Keeping those
   plays solvent and liquid is the main, if not sole, job of the Fed; I
   am Central Banker to the people in the same spirit that Bud Selig is
   Baseball Commissioner to the fans.
   "Besides, I sure as hell don't want any responsibility for the bursting
   of the stock-market bubble my easy-money policies--targeted, through the
   banks and brokerages, to end up in the right pocketshave brought
   about. When, as will surely someday come about, they start to draw up
   the passenger lists for the tumbrils, I don't want to see my name at
   the top!" When the clarification has to be almost as incomprehensible
   as the gobbledygook that produced it, we are in the presence of true
   genius. For the visitation of such genius upon our humble house of
   state, thanks be to God.
   Let us give thanks for blessings still to come, or so we are told by
   million-dollar-a-year anchor people whose Federal Communications
   Commission-"comped" networks pick up their Visa bills. When the Fed
   cut rates again recently, the evening news anchor people predicted
   that the cut will soon show up in "our" credit card statements, auto
   loans and mortgages. Don't hold your breath: It will show up in the
   rate the Kohlberg Kravis Robertses and Forstmann Littles and Long-Term
   Capitals pay on their leveraged investments, which are fully
   tax-deductible, incidentally, as yours and my auto payments, credit
   card finance charges, etc., are not. It will enhance the Long-Term
   Capital bailout. But it will be a cold day in speculator heaven when
   it shows up on your and my Visa bills. For giving us the patience to
   endure this state of inequity without shooting someone, thanks be to
   Finally, let us give thanks that we the people have been blessed by
   God with a forgiving kindness like unto His own, so that we stand at
   all times ready to look beyond the quirks of our great men and women.
   A people less godlike in their mercy might not forgive a President who
   is a liar, a cheat, a philanderer and who probably sold military
   secrets to the Chinese in exchange for campaign contributions. Or a
   Central Bank chairman who is butt-boy to the rich and connected, and
   who conducts bailout transactions with the Peoples Money without
   telling the People what's going on. By forgiving these men, we forgive
   ourselves for putting up with them, and thus bolster our collective
   self-esteem. Such is the wish of the Lord, as read in the exit polls:
   for which, thanks be to God.

   This column ran on page 1 in the 12/7/98 edition of The New York

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