Who, Exactly, Is Getting Screwed? And How?

As Steve Benen points out, the GOP’s strategy of "no cooperation and we win" isn’t exactly a winning strategy.  And yet, here we are.  

Quite the stage for tonight’s Obama address to Congress, isn’t it?  No pressure.

After CNBC’s mouthy stockboy, Rick Santelli, ranted his way into fleeting teevee infamy last week, I hoped some real think pieces on the hows and whys of the housing mess, the excesses of avarice from fraudulent lenders and imprudent borrowers, and the regular folks caught in the middle would surface.

We haven’t seen much of that.  Until now.

CJR’s Ryan Chittum walks through of public anger, industry greed, press failures and some of the root issues involved in this mess.  In his first piece, Chittum addresses the CNBC rant and its underlying inaccuracies.  In the second piece, Chittum talks about press failures and the resulting public misconceptions about a lot of this mess.

However, Chittum fails to suss the role politics, talk radio and editorial slant have in sometimes deliberately misleading a segment of their listeners/readers.  And he doesn’t detail needed policy reforms.  

But Chittum does point to why ignoramuses like Santelli do so much more harm than good.

To get a feel for why better reporting and full discussion on these issues will be essential in order to push for any needed reforms, one only needs to read the comments of Ryan’s two posts. Highly instructive tour of what the likes of Limbaugh, Norquist and Gingrich hath wrought.

As Joe Klein succinctly put it yesterday regarding Gov. Jindal’s abysmal recitations of conservative catechism as a rote prayer for power:

Jindal–the alleged voice of the GOP future–had absolutely nothing new to say. And what he did say, about the stimulus, was purposefully misleading. I’m not sure how well the Obama stimulus, banking and budget plans will work. No one does. But I do know how the philosophy and the misleading politics that Jindal offered today has worked in the recent past. 

It’s been a disaster.

Yes, it has.

Just ask 90 year old Addie Polk. But she can’t answer your questions these days because she shot herself rather than face foreclosure from a predatory Countrywide loan. There are real people’s lives and livelihoods at stake.

In order to do better, though, we have to be honest with ourselves on how we got here.  It’s time for everyone involved in this mess — investors, brokers, banks, borrowers, politicians, lobbyists — to own up to their own share of the blame instead of trying to pass it off on someone else.

That includes Rick Santelli and CNBC.

Hilzoy takes a stab at some of the causation and reform analysis, and also on idiocy pushback.  Well worth a read.  

(YouTube — a quite kinky Guinness commercial from Britain. Made me laugh out loud. Mostly at the thought of this ever airing on American television.)

36 Responses to "Who, Exactly, Is Getting Screwed? And How?"
Jkat | Tuesday February 24, 2009 08:38 am 1

ooohhh .. nasty comments section on that first article …

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 08:42 am 2
In response to Jkat @ 1

Absolutely. Nice snapshot of a slice of America, isn’t it?

diablesseblu | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:38 am 3

You know…….for the first time in my life I have actively been avoiding the news. I find so much of it to be simply Kabuki…… a la the run up to the Iraq war.

Many of us in NYC knew this was coming….hell, even I knew. They just had their fingers in their ears, their eyes closed, and were singing lalala.

My move from NYC to this rural backwater has been instructive re our financial choices/consequences. I remember telling a family member (Wachovia employee) that his bank should not acquire Countrywide.

The Sandlers would not have parted with “their baby” had it not been in trouble. But those investment banks loved the fees that came from doing deals…even dumb ones. Now that same family member works for Wells Fargo and dreads going to work every day lest he lose his job.

There are small locally owned businesses closing everywhere I look in this area. Credit for them to operate normally has just disappeared. Tax revenues are way down and state and local services are being slashed. And this is an area generally without the foreclosure problems afflicting e.g. CA, AZ, FL.

There are solid (if sometimes somewhat simple) people around here. Most of them have no idea how much wealth others accumulated during this period. They just know that their lives have been turned upside down. They’re angry and frightened…….and don’t tell them it’s their fault and that they asked for it.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:40 am 4
In response to diablesseblu @ 3

Same exact thing here, too. It’s one of the things that has me most spooked, actually — WV is usually months behind whatever curve is ongoing. That we are in the thick of it in terms of closures and uncertainty makes me incredibly nervous about how bad things really are going to get.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:42 am 5
In response to diablesseblu @ 3

WHile I’m thinking about it, how is your mom doing these days? I can see a slow decline in my FIL from day to day — it’s so tough to watch, isn’t it? How are you holding up with the caregiving?

AZ Matt | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:51 am 6

Great commercial and, ya, don’t think we will see it here. Teh wingnuts would go nuts or more so) with that.

cobernicus | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:52 am 7

I see your Guinness and raise you a Foster’s

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:53 am 8
In response to AZ Matt @ 6

Sure would be an amusing Superbowl aftermath, though, wouldn’t it? *G*

diablesseblu | Tuesday February 24, 2009 09:56 am 9

An example of all this in bas relief. The local Benjamin Moore dealer just rented space inside the Ace hardware affiliate. I was relieved to find him …. although he says his business is way down.

The paint guy had tried to renegotiate his rent. The rightwing nutjob who owned his building refused to even discuss it. The space is, of course, still empty.

I discovered all of this because I went to Ace instead of Lowe’s. You can buy individual bolts, screws etc. at Ace rather than Lowe’s blister packs. As the Ace guy said “why buy more than you need?”

My (our?) new mantra.

AZ Matt | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:03 am 10

From the Joe Klein piece:

Bobby Jindal is a very smart fellow. Back when he was in Congress, I’d try to check in with him every six months or so, just to see what he was thinking about. At first, we talked about health insurance–his specialty. Then, about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina (he was appalled). He was fairly relentlessly conservative, but sometimes quite creative and always intellectually honest.

In short, a different fellow from the one who appeared on Meet the Press today. This Jindal was relentlessly conservative, but not so intellectually honest. …

This illustrates that to be a leader of the GOP honesty is not required.

diablesseblu | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:04 am 11


Thanks for asking about my mom. Am seeing the same decline…and also more clearly of late. Had thought the idea of the only granddaughter’s upcoming wedding would rally her a bit….but not so far.

She’s had two bad falls since Christmas (both in her bedroom) and I’ve done the reorganizing a la your sunroom. She’s also forgetting some — which is new. Her mind is usually sharp as a tack. Plus we have to go down the hearing aid path before the wedding. Most of my friends report that their elderly parents balk more at that choice than about any other.

I am struggling a bit. Need to get in “mother of bride shape” plus we’re behind in the planning. However, will miss PUAC this weekend as I’m headed up to meet with the planner at the wedding venue. Things are so anxious at law school these days, even the happy couple is a bit subdued about wedding planning. My daughter threw an Oscar soiree the other night just to get classmates out and focused on something where the talk would not revolve around loans, jobs, futures.

AZ Matt | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:04 am 12
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 8

It keeps your eye on the bottle wondering what will happen. Hard to ignore.

BargainCountertenor | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:06 am 13


In the previous thread you asked how things are in our neck of the woods. Here in New Mexico, it’s a little scary but not too awfully frightening. On the other hand, when you live in place where people have seriously discussed changing the state’s motto to Gracias a dios por Mississippi do you have very far to fall?

We’ve been told to plan for a 2.5% budget cut for FY 2010 (beginning July 1, 2009.) Since a University’s primary cost is payroll, that means our operating budgets are going to be hit pretty hard. I don’t know what the folks in brain trust intend to do, but from the sound of it, we’re going to go slow on filling any faculty/staff lines that open up. No one is talking about layoffs yet. We’re engaging in cost-shifting to the students by doing not-quite-apparent things like posting handouts on websites, etc.

Basically, it could be a lot worse. Our neighbors in Arizona are looking at cutting contingent faculty positions, and taking furlough time on top of that. My favorite thing about how they’re handling faculty ‘furloughs’ is that faculty will be ‘furloughed’ on days when they aren’t scheduled to teach. What happens if your teaching schedule is MTWThFS? I have one colleague on that schedule (she’s fixing to retire and teaching Saturday on an overload). Does she get furloughed on Sundays?

I’d really prefer that they call it what it is, an involuntary pay cut, rather than lying to people by calling it a furlough. Of course, telling the truth honestly probably has ramifications all through the personnel system.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:08 am 14
In response to diablesseblu @ 11

We helped my MIL purchase hearing aids right before she got sick and went in the hospital. She never really wore them before she got sick — but she couldn’t hear and desperately needed them. Balked at getting them adjusted for her hearing, and then got sick and was hospitalized.

Long story short, somewhere in all that mess of months in the hospital and then rehab and then sickness again, she lost the hearing aids. They never really got worn more than maybe two times.

Sorry to hear that your mom is failing, too — the memory issues come and go here, depending on the way he’s feeling, amount of sleep, etc. We just try and make him as comfy as possible and get some healthy food in him from time to time. The way I see it, what else can you do? It’s family…

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:09 am 15

Good morning from sunny (and wet) Kawliforya, home of the Bank of Italy (BofA).

I was so gratified to hear of the NYT poll yesterday which reflected the sentiment that Americans think Obama is doing a great job of reaching out, trying his hardest with the stim bill, and the GOP is just jivin’.

Putting Bobby Jindal out to give the GOP response tonight is going to be like a rerun of Gene Wilder “acting black” in Silver Streak. The shoeshine man watches Gene practicing his schtick in the restroom and gives a wonderful response “you must be in a lot of trouble, son. But for god’s sake, learn how to keep time!”

oregondave | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:09 am 16

Q: Can you find what’s wrong with this sentence from today’s NYT:

The aura of good will surrounding Mr. Obama at this stage of his presidency is similar to the one that benefited Ronald Reagan as he led the nation out of economic gloom

That’s right — Ronald Reagan led us out of economic gloom. And created 3 trillion dollars in national debt along the way (but, hey, who’s counting when we feel GOOD about ourselves?). Couple that with the revisionist lie that the New Deal was a failure, and there are some destructive memes that NYT and most of the MSM are perpetrating.

As Christy writes, “in order to do better, though, we have to be honest with ourselves on how we got here.” Exactly.

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:11 am 17

expensive items like hearing aids tend to grow legs in hospitals. Unfortunately.

funny/sad story: My friend’s FIL had an extended stay in the hospital and his dentures, hearing aids, and eyeglasses were all stolen. He was rendered blind, deaf and mute in one fell swoop.

AZ Matt | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:12 am 18
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 13

This was in the AZ Republic today, the nuts cut the universities’ budgets but don’t want them cutting the nutters’ favorite pet university project:
Tentative agreement made to restore programs at ASU West

West Valley legislators, politicians and business leaders confronted Arizona State University officials in a closed-door meeting last week to demand a reconsideration of painful cuts proposed for the West campus.

By the end of the meeting, held in the office of state Sen. Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, some master’s programs were restored – tentatively – and even the change of the campus’s name to New College was back on the table.

“There was a feeling that (ASU West) was being relegated to second- or third-level status,” said Sen. John Nelson, R-Litchfield Park, one of the campus founders.

Nelson and other West Valley legislators have heard plenty of distress calls from constituents. The university announced on Feb. 10 that all the master’s programs would be cut and the campus would become an undergraduate college.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:13 am 19
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 13

I think pretty much every university/college and public or private school I know of is scrambling to cut back on costs. It’s so stressful — especially because February tends to be when school boards begin making personnel cuts each year. And I have a feeling this year is going to be an especially bad one for that for a number of reasons…

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:18 am 20
In response to dosido @ 17

I can easily see why, given how stressed out everyone was just trying to keep track of my MIl and FIL — they were both in the hospital at the same time, but in two different facilities. Mr. ReddHedd and his brother were run ragged trying to check on both of them and follow-up with various doctors and tests. Who has time ot do an inventory of possessions every day, too? It’s no wonder things get lost in that shuffle from ICU to step-down to rehab to wherever else and back again.

Honestly? I have never been so relieved to see a year go out the door as I was 2008. Whew…

AZ Matt | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:18 am 21

Speaking of nutters:
Gee, where is the contradiction in this?

Kyl to Host Controversial Anti-Islamic Dutch Politician

@ 9:43 am by Michael O’Brien

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) will play host this week to a controversial Dutch politician accused of being anti-Islamic.

According to multiple reports, Kyl agreed to a request to invite Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament (where he is a party leader) to screen his short film “Fitna,” which is said to compare Islamic terrorism to Naziism.

The film will be screened for members of Congress and their staff on Thursday, and is sponsored by the “International Free Press Society” — which pressed Kyl for the screening — and the Washington think tank Center for Security Policy. The screening will take place in the LBJ Room, but is closed to the media.

Wilders has said he would ban the Quran, the Muslim holy book,

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:19 am 22
In response to oregondave @ 16

Sadly, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that actually happening. There is so much fault on so many sides of all of this and so little willingness to accept any responsibility by anyone. We’ve become a nation of “look, over there, shiny object!”

BargainCountertenor | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:19 am 23
In response to AZ Matt @ 18

And I thought UNM was dysfunctional. The ASU West thing has been horribly mis-managed from its inception.

Actually, in terms of making the sorts of cuts that the AZ Lege is demanding, converting ASUW into a two-year completion campus makes a lot of sense. The main campus isn’t that far away, and it’s a comprehensive campus. But I guess folks in Sun City want to be able to get additional master’s degrees without hauling themselves to Tempe.

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:20 am 24

yep. it’s so chaotic. I hope everything is much more stable for your family now.

diablesseblu | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:21 am 25

Time for some belt tightening. The credit markets are frozen for ordinary Americans but not for the NBA.


Pretty much says it all about our priorities.

AZ Matt | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:24 am 26
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 23

Their golf carts don’t have the range to get from Sun City to Tempe.

BargainCountertenor | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:24 am 27

Oh yeah. In education your primary cost is personnel: faculty and staff salaries and fringes. Operating costs cannot be cut to zero — there are computers that have to be purchased, copies that have to be made, etc.

I gave an exam yesterday, and did something I’ve never done before. I duplex copied it (front/back). It’s much less convenient to grade, and somewhat less convenient to take, but the cost is about 60% because of the reduced paper use. I suppose the next thing will be stop copying the two forms on different color paper.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:25 am 28
In response to diablesseblu @ 25

Well, there’s the answer then. Sports franchises for everyone! *g*

BargainCountertenor | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:27 am 29
In response to AZ Matt @ 26

What? No LiON or NiMH cells? Jeez-o-pete.

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:31 am 30
In response to diablesseblu @ 25

did you see the story at NYT about the art collateral people? A lender that will accept works of art as collateral for loans. Annie Leibowitz signed over ALL rights to ALL her work for millions to pay off her mortgages, etc. It. blew. my. mind.

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:32 am 31

Oops, maybe I should explain that Leibowitz isthe Rolling Stone photographer? Nah, you guys knew that.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:35 am 32
In response to dosido @ 30

Oh wow. I didn’t see that. That blows my mind, too — holy crap. Annie Liebowitz is having problems getting decent loan refinancing terms? Jeebus, we are in a world of shit…

BargainCountertenor | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:36 am 33
In response to dosido @ 31

If I was Annie Leibowitz, that would make a bunch of sense. I could always make more … and the last thing the rights holders (on the old work) would want is for her to stop. The more notorious/famous she becomes, the more valuable their holdings are.

McCartney did much the same thing when he sold off NorthernSongs (NorthSongs? I forget). He retained the right to perform the works without paying royalty, but I’m sure he figured, “I can always write another silly love song.”

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:36 am 34

Old Masters at the Pawnshop.

Last fall, Annie Leibovitz, the photographer, borrowed $5 million from a company called Art Capital Group. In December, she borrowed $10.5 million more from the same firm. As collateral, among other items, she used town houses she owns in Greenwich Village, a country house, and something else: the rights to all of her photographs.

dosido | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:40 am 35

You know, this is the thing. All Americans are getting hurt big time by the bad bank behavior, including Republicans.

My hubby said a long time ago that the wheels came off when banks decided to go into the investment business. They saw how much more money the sexy stuff got and decided they wanted to be sexy too, instead safe and secure.

diablesseblu | Tuesday February 24, 2009 10:45 am 36
In response to dosido @ 30

I did not see that. Thanks so much for the heads up.

Leibovitz has been having financial troubles for years but had no idea that things had gotten this bad. It sounds like she needs some comprehensive legal and financial planning help.

Reading the article reminded me of a phenomenon I have witnessed in recent years….one that runs counter to history. That is, people like Schnabel and Leibovitz trying to live in the style that their “customers” do. Not a good idea.

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