Flunking the Fed (Part Deux)

In my post of yesterday, I made the statement that “[Fed chairman] Bernanke is clearly floundering amidst the crisis that [former chairman] Greenspan spent his career postponing.” At least one commenter has wondered why Greenspan did this, given his focus should have been on the overall economic health of the country. And I’m here to tell you why:

Because he was a chickenshit.

Oh, it wasn’t entirely his fault. As the commenter in question points out, there’s no doubt that Alan Greenspan succumbed to pressure from the Prez, thereby turning what should have been the culmination of a great career into a mockery of everything that career stood for. But Greenspan was just doing his utmost to prevent an economic downturn at all costs.  Costs that included the risk of an even greater economic downturn in the future.  Thus the lowering of interest rates to rock-bottom levels across the early part of this decade.  Thus the ignition of a housing boom that rapidly got out of hand.

But that nonetheless did what it was supposed to:  propel us out of the recession of 01/02.  And something that’s worth noting about that recession is this:  it was the first in American history where our leadership denied its existence throughout its existence.  It was only after it was safely in the rearview that the dreaded R word could be pronounced at the highest levels of state.  And I would argue that there’s a sense that we never truly recovered from it:  that the housing boom constituted, essentially, a false recovery.  All we did was create a mountain of debt that’s now threatening to suffocate us.

Yet before we rush to blame Bush and Greenspan, we should take a good, hard look in the mirror.  Because that’s where the ultimate culprit resides.  Because lately the American public’s relationship with that thing called Reality has been getting pretty dysfunctional.  Something our leaders are smart enough to see . . and cowardly enough to accommodate (and, I might add, greedy enough to exploit).  The American people don’t want to be in a recession.  So . . presto . . no recession!  It’s easy, see?  We just hit the magic button and keep printing more money and your homes keep increasing in value and you can keep on fucking borrowing and borrowing and keep on buying SUVs because we know the only thing that’s as unlimited as dollars is oil and besides daddy I mean Dick Cheney said the american way of life is non-negotiable and you wouldn’t want to see what kind of electoral temper tantrum I’m gonna unleash on any goddamn commie who tells me that it’s NOT . . .

But let’s not get carried away here.  Because Dick also said use your last ten bucks to buy THE MIRRORED HEAVENS.  There’s no better way to spend it.  Trust me on this.

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3 Responses to “Flunking the Fed (Part Deux)”

  1. Brian Says:

    Hey Dave, some interesting thoughts. I think your advice that we not rush to judge Greenspan the sole culprit of the current “situation” can’t be understated. The American economy and the broader ecosystem under our influence is incredibly complex. Unfortunately, what’s been done recently in the United States is being played out in many other nations (not under Greenspan’s control), all of which aspire to greater wealth beyond their current means.

    Greenspan, Wall Street and Corporate America all move to either create new markets for commerce or fill an existing need/demand of the consumer. In so much as that is true, as (over)consumers we have to be the ones to accept the fallout of our insatiable greed for more. The Fed may have enabled some of this, but being a free market, Buyers are always responsible for any reduction in assets (money, home value, stock portfolios, etc) as they complete the transaction. Without the consumer, the seller is simply a promoter in search of a buyer.

    That said, I struggle to reconcile the growing movement of “living simply” while more shit is bought and sold in this nation than at any time in history. Perhaps it’s just another part of the collective unconsciousness of America and an attempt to escape the reality of what’s around the next corner. Not sure, but until the American consumer’s greed is throttled, the endless circling of the drain is likely to persist.

    So, Greenspan may have sold out in his final act for a Presidential Medal of Freedom (is that on eBay yet?), but much more blame is to be shouldered by those “keeping up with the Joneses.”

    Now then, as for the best $10 I could spend, I agree, The Mirrored Heavens was money well spent. So much so I did it twice. But did you really have to lump that guy who likes to shoot old men in the face in your pitch?

  2. narciso Says:

    Greenspan raised rates at least 25 basis points at a time, for a year and a half. When rates reset at that plateau; how could one expect there wouldn’t be trouble. Of course, he was too busy working on his memoirs to notice. The population has gone 200% since the 70s, yet we expect energy demand to be anywhere constant.
    So we haven’t done any major oil exploration since 1969 and no refineries or new
    nuclear reactors built in thirty years
    Now as to your novel, read it, had some good scenes, had some hard to
    conceptualize scenes, and some very unlikely premises. The America as Rome, had promise, however, a forty one year old Admiral, presumedly with special forces experience, becoming President for Life. The prospect that Russia is going to be a major power in the near future; with it’s demographic spiral, deplorable health conditions, et al The oil spike is briefly camouflaging this facade of Russian society. China’s a better bet, but the ‘wheels are likely to fall off the wagon, way before 2037; in part because of it’s demographic problems. Also there is no real projection of what would happen in the Middle East; a new attempt at a Caliphate; is suggested, however you really think those nations would wait 90 years to destroy
    Israel. South America; what would really be the point of invading South America; it’s can’t really be a question of resources. Your projections of environmental collapse make “Damnation Alley’ seem like a fairy tale, by comparison. What powers the global economy if oil is out, fusion is doubtful and even microwave beaming from solar stations are out of the picture. Actually Richard Morgan, conceptualized this mid range future better in ’13. In the end, what is the point of the travails of Marlowe & Haskell’s existence, things can’t change for the better, (that twist at the end, really collapses the whole point of the story) I don’t know how you can work your way through it in the next book. Unless there are other characters in this scenario besides Haskell & Marlowe. That was the way Gibson, followed through after Neuromancer. Hust some suggestions.

  3. David Williams Says:

    @ Narciso:

    Thanks for the thoughts . . .

    on Russia: I continue to maintain that it’s unwise to count them out. I’ve got more details/thoughts on an earlier post . . . http://autumnrain2110.com/blog/2008/05/28/russia-whats-next/
    on China: it’s not specified in the timeline what the conditions are there before full-on civil war in 2037, but they’re probably not pretty.
    on the Middle East: the Israel-Arab stand-off becomes one more front in the second cold war, in much the same way that it was in the first one.
    on America as Rome: the Throne is a colloquial/slang reference (never used in writing); really, all it is by now is a military dictatorship. Still, it sounds like it worked for you.
    on Latin America: the reason the U.S. takes over is because that gives them access to priceless equatorial launch real-estate, since the lower the latitude, the cheaper the payload.
    on the twist undermining the whole plot up to that point: hmm. rather than post a reply here where everybody can see it (and thus know what the twist(s) are), drop me a line on djw@IHATESPAMautumnrain2110.com with what you take the problem to be, and I’ll see if I can clarify.
    on the sequel: it’s already written, and I hope that your problems with the geopolitical constructs won’t preclude you from buying it!

    Thanks a ton for the detailed feedback, it’s much appreciated.