Monday, February 7, 2011

If your bank steals your money will you still care about art?

                     Art or food for the starving is a hot topic that is going to get a lot hotter as the globe warms up.   Our $700,000 question is in the trillions now.  

                  The question we posed last week, beautiful art for a wealthy college or meals and education for  children in extreme poverty is an individual choice.  Hearts, consciences, and viewpoints will vary.  Hungry Gerald says if you balance people and art, they’ll be no art.

                   But art isn’t a moral choice, it’s an impulse, a need to see and create fresh views of the universe since we lived in caves.  I say support the arts. Or not. Art will survive no matter what.  

                   Molly got it right. Last week’s choice was between art for students who have just about everything and food and education for children who have nothing.  Having nothing leaves children prey to prostitution, militias, disease, and crime. And insures continued generations of child prostitutes, poverty, crime and suffering.  So I think that one is an easy choice for the future. But if your heart says art, go for the art. 
                  Lest these choices seem like parlor games, idle speculation on what we’d do with our excess money if only we had any, I’d say read Michael Lewis’s stunning book, The Big Short. Inside the Doomsday Machine.

                 (Lewis also wrote The Blind Side, so you know it's a good read.)

                 The Big Short is a moral tale on a national level with a stupendous and sickening effect on a great nation.   Everybody knows Wall Street runs on greed.  The surprise is how that greed has been encouraged to feed on our national treasure. How the uber-rich get more uber-rich at your expense.

                     Here’s a few bits from the last chapter.  “By late September 2008 the nation’s highest financial official, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, (a former chairman of Goldman Sachs) persuaded Congress he needed $700 billion to buy subprime mortgage assets from banks.  Thus was born TARP, which stood for Troubled Asset Relief Program.  Once handed the money, Paulson abandoned his promised strategy and instead essentially began giving away billions of dollars to Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and a few others unnaturally selected for survival. . . . 

                   Weeks after receiving its first $25 billion taxpayer investment, Citigroup returned to the Treasury to confess that – lo!—the markets still didn’t trust Citigroup to survive.  In response, on November 24, the Treasury (Paulson) granted another $20 billion from TARP and simply guaranteed $306 billion of Citigroup’s assets.  Treasury didn’t ask for a piece of the action, or management changes, or for that matter anything at all . . . The $306 billion guarantee – nearly two percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and roughly the combined budgets of the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation – was presented undisguised as a gift.

               You see the parallel here between our $700,000 choice between kids who have and kids who don’t and the national treasure lavished on the owners of a Giant Bank while the departments of Agriculture, Education, Energy, Security & etc. go begging.  

                And the parallel between one Monday this January when Congress extended tax cuts (mainly for the uber-rich) at a national cost of three trillion dollars over the next ten years.  And, on Tuesday when Congress called for much needed cuts to national programs of agriculture, education, Energy & etc. of some three trillion dollars over the next ten years.

                On that note (nobody ever said the world was fair only that it ought to be) I’m going to wander off into the woods and leave the blog to work on a couple of books for a while.  Cheers, and thanks for your time.

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