Sunday, October 31, 2010

Understanding the financial mess

Several months ago I read another informative, amusing, and at times exciting book by Michael Lewis: The Big Short. This is all about the economic crisis brought about by the securitization of subprime mortgages. It describes how a handful of people saw through the fraud and instability of the new financial "derivatives" and were able to make a lot of money by betting against most of Wall Street -- mostly by using Credit Default Swaps. (These are akin to insurance policies on securities, and were disastrously issued by companies like AIG.)

Mr. Lewis is the author of other enjoyable and instructive books on finance, including MoneyBall and Liar's Poker. I highly recommend them.

Also, today's NY Times has a column by Yves Smith pointing out that it is the self-inflicted wounds of Wall Street and investment banking -- in particular, the rapacious mortgage and mortgage securitization profiteers -- that is largely responsible for the current skyhigh unemployment rate. Big money apologists have been trying, as usual, to "blame it on the victims" by declaring that the unemployed are simply unqualified to hold down jobs in the "new economy." This invention of "structural unemployment" is as phony as a $3 bill as Mr. Smith points out.

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