This cartoon by Pulitzer prize winning Tom Toles first appeared in the Washington Post in 2007 – it brilliantly anticipated the global financial meltdown that we’re now experiencing. Coming in the wake of confirmed global warming, it is a double whammy.
America has been hit hard by the sub-prime crisis. The social and human cost of financial failure has been enormous. An epidemic of home repossessions has left thousands of houses abandoned and boarded-up: whole suburbs are falling into disrepair and dereliction.
Financial institutions in America and in Britain had poured billions into investments backed by these mortgages. As more and more people have defaulted on their mortgage repayments, financial markets have collapsed, causing a crisis that has rippled across the Atlantic, sending the City of London into turmoil and pulling the plug on one now infamous British bank.
Some call it a financial tsunami not been seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s….a crisis that has forced the US government to step in and save the financial system after trillions were wiped off global stock markets and once revered institutions were swept off the face of Wall Street. Is the US intervention too little, too late to save the economy?
In fact, just a few days ago, the People’s Daily of China warned that a “financial tsunami” was approaching, which recalled the Great Depression in the US. It said: “As the contemporary economy has been integrated globally, American consumption and currency exchange rates will directly influence countries dependent on the US as the main export destination for economic growth and employment”.
The Chinese Communist Party organ complained that the US had unleashed financial “weapons of mass destruction” on the world economy in the form of subprime debts and related financial derivatives.
The world’s media have been scrambling to cover these rapidly unfolding events. In fact, many have been caught napping, or worse, been uncritical cheerleaders of the march of capital and credit. Most of them – even the respected financial journals – just didn’t see the crisis building up…or ignored the tell-tale signs that constituted an inconvenient truth.“This didn’t just happen in the course of a usual business cycle,” insists the American investigative journalist and media analyst Danny Schechter, who has been tracking this issues for many months on his influential News Dissector blog and the MediaChannel that watches and critiques the media.
In his new book, aptly titled Plunder, Danny offers an in-depth investigation into the decline of the economy that’s causing millions to lose jobs and face foreclosures and across-the-board price hikes.
He says: “You wouldn’t know it by relying on our media, but the subprime scandal masks massing looting by Wall Street firms using carefully calculated predatory lending schemes enabled by regulators who don’t regulate and a media that looked the other way. We have lost trillions and dislocated millions with no relief in sight. Every American is paying for the greed of our financiers in the grocery store, gas pump and unemployment line. Bank robberies are not new — but banks doing the robbing is.”
In 2007, his film IN DEBT WE TRUST was the first to expose Wall Street’s connection to subprime loans, predicting the economic crisis that this book investigates.
I have been watching various news media analysis of the current crisis and want to share two that stood out from the rest: Inside Story by Al Jazeera English, and Dispatches by UK’s Channel 4.
In a special show from New York, Inside Story looks at the financial turbulence that rocked the US last week. Will the emergency measures by the US government be enough to stabilise the markets or has the financial system in the US been changed forever? The introductory report from AJE’s Washington correspondent Reynolds is particularly illuminating – he also writes the story for their website.
Inside Story – The US financial crisis – 21 Sep 2008 – Part 1
Inside Story – The US financial crisis – 21 Sep 2008 – Part 2
From the other side of the Atlantic comes a more investigative, one-hour special that was produced and broadcast in March 2008, when the early signs of the banking crisis were beginning to show – for anybody who cared to notice.
As Channel 4 introduces it: “This is a story about the destructive power of finance: what happens when banks are driven by short-termism; when bankers are rewarded with vast bonuses, free to operate under inadequate regulatory supervision, and with the complicity of a government too in awe of big business to step in.”
Dispatches: How The Banks Bet Your Money UK & US – part 1
In this edition of Dispatches, private equity financier Jon Moulton delivers a stinging rebuke to the banks for causing this financial meltdown and explains why the British taxpayer will now pay the price.
Dispatches: How The Banks Bet Your Money UK & US – part 2
Dispatches: How The Banks Bet Your Money UK & US – part 3
Dispatches: How The Banks Bet Your Money UK & US – part 4
Dispatches: How The Banks Bet Your Money UK & US – part 5