Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The way the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed, and taken most of it into their own hands, is as good as Stalin or Hitler.

Mario Batali

(Image: Nation Books)Though I receive a great deal of fan mail, I blush to admit that I very rarely write it—despite holding many authors in the highest regard.

Why so? I’m really not sure. It just wasn’t a habit I got into when I was young. I guess I was too busy reading the next book; chasing the next woman (extremely time consuming); or learning how to write (even more time consuming).

Either way, I regret it now. As I have learned firsthand, fan mail means a great deal to an author. We write—mostly in solitude—so it is truly wonderful thing to receive direct feedback from a reader.

Fortunately, I have received many thousands of fan e-mails—and I have tried to reply to all personally. As for writing to writers whose work I admire—and they are many--I am trying to mend my negligent ways (within the limits of having enough time for creative writing).

In that spirit, I did write to Nomi Prins, a former Goldman Sachs executive, author and journalist, who has done more than most to reveal the reality of the ABM (American Business Model). What is more, she wrote the most charming reply.

Was I influenced by her looks? I plead guilty—she is a striking-looking woman—but that is not why I wrote to her.

I wrote to her because she is an exceptional talent with the experience and expertise to identify and explain how the ABM is rigged to favor the few at the expense of the many.

Free enterprise? You jest. The American Business Model has been deeply corrupt for generations.

The following is a brief extract from a recent interview with Mark Karlin of The whole interview is well worth reading—and if you are new to the content—it is mind-blowing.

TRUTHOUT: Reading your new book, I get the feeling that the privileged few in the private sector who control most of America's money, de facto, don't really give a whit about democracy.  What they are focused on is free markets for the plutocracy like a laser.  Is that your perspective?

NOMI PRINS: The notion of free markets, mechanisms where buyers and sellers can meet to exchange securities or various kinds of goods, in which each participant has access to the same information, is a fallacy.  Transparency in trading across global financial markets is a fallacy. Not only are markets rigged by, and for, the biggest players, so is the entire political-financial system.

The connection between democracy and free markets is interesting though. Democracy is predicated on the idea that every vote counts equally, and in the utopian perspective, the government adopts policies that benefit or adhere to the majority of those votes. In fact, it's the minority of elite families and private individuals that exercise the most control over America's policies and actions.

The myth of a free market is that every trader or participant is equal, when in fact the biggest players with access to the most information and technology are the ones that have a disproportionate advantage over the smaller players. What we have is a plutocracy of government and markets.  The privileged few don't care, or need to care, about democracy any more than they would ever want to have truly "free" markets, though what they do want are markets liberated from as many regulations as possible. In practice, that leads to huge inherent risk.

Huge investment risk, indeed! The track record of unregulated financial markets is that they invariably lead to malfeasance and collapse because they offer too much temptation for human nature to resist. That happens again and again with the government being forced to step in because the consequences of financial collapse are so dire for the population as a whole. So who pays? In most cases, not the people who caused the collapse, but the taxpayer—especially in the U.S. In effect, the major financial institutions can—and do—gamble without consequences. And, where the Great Recession was concerned, the situation—as far as the Big Banks were concerned—was no different. In fact, because they were allowed—with the aid of government support—to swallow up their smaller brethren—they ended up even bigger.

Those responsible rarely lose their jobs, are even more rarely prosecuted—let alone imprisoned, are paid far more than they would receive in the real economy, and are shielded from the consequences of their actions by the politicians of both parties—at the expense of the average American.

I would like to be able to write that such behavior is un-American—but the truth is that such manifest corruption is—today—as American as apple pie. It underpins the current ABM (American Business Model).

To make matters worse—and it is hard to believe they could be much worse—recent research has revealed that such financial institutions, since they are deemed too important to be allowed to fail—can borrow money more cheaply. In effect, being implicitly backed up by the government, they receive an annual subsidy in the $80 billion range. Over 10 years, that constitutes the bones of a trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, the earnings of the typical American are in decline.

So what do we all do about it? Mostly—nothing.





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