Have you ever watched I Love Lucy?
Sometimes when Lucy wanted her way, she’d create a situation that would in turn create the need for whatever she wanted to do. Inevitably, it would backfire, we’d all have a good laugh and move on.
When I was in my first year of architecture school, I had just left a stellar architecture prep program at the GSD at Harvard where neither money nor budget were much of an issue for anyone. I arrived at the State University at Buffalo (which, for the record, is a fine architecture school, and has over the years, hosted more than a few Harvard faculty as “visitors” in its ranks) and as a newly minted GA, the chair of the department (who for reasons you’ll read in a moment, will remain nameless) told me: “Rest up. We have a big day tomorrow. Come prepared.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, until I arrived the next day to find him on the 3rd floor of the studio building throwing furniture — throwing all the furniture — out of the window, literally. At the time, I thought he was crazy anyhow (I’ve since realized that he’s quite intelligent), and thought that like many things in architecture school, this was just another highly peculiar thing to get used to.
I asked him what the big idea was, and he explained. In a state school there is, practically speaking, no budget for, well, anything. In order to “get” anything (like new furniture), you had to create an emergency — because in an emergency, things happened quickly, and you always got what you needed/wanted. He was right, in less than a week, the university had purchased and delivered all new (very nice) furniture for the studios. In my own mind, I always thought of this crazy way of business as “the Lucy Scheme” — you create an emergency or diversion, and you get what you want.
A good idea for someone like me (a Leo); create an emergency and you get your way. Hmm.
A few years later, I was immersed in researching my dissertation, and I received a review copy of a book in the mail that changed my life. The Shock Doctrine was the Lucy Scheme writ grand. Imagine that instead of a henna-head schemer, or a crazy/genius departmental chair, the schemer is a government. The book was — no pun intended — shocking. Chapter by chapter, Klein outlines one government scheme after another — often in the wake of a natural, political, or military disaster — to economically rape a targeted population. [if you’re too lazy or “busy” to read the damn book, at least read the summaries here] or if you’re even too lazy or “really busy” to do that then watch this:
OK. Thanks for doing that. By now you’re thinking, she’s really liberal… very left. I believe, rather, she’s very right. She understands and was able to articulate that governments are good at making emergencies to get what they want.
Think about this: Since the Bush administration has taken office, we’ve spent nearly $1,000,000,000,000 on a war in a country the size of California. In so doing, we’ve ruined their economy, killed upwards of 500,000 (over 1,000,000 by some estimates) of their citizens, and thrown our own country into a financial tailspin (more on that later). Not to mention how many of our own citizens have died as soldiers in that war — and not to mention all of the private soldiers (that aren’t even counted) that our country has hired to fight for us.
The resultant financial meltdown that has been occurring piecemeal over the past month is an economic apocalypse. It’s the financial doomsday that forecasters have been forecasting for decades. It’s here. Now, and shockingly it’s an “emergency” — no one saw it coming.
Consider that the AIG failure is a financial disaster 10x the size of Enron — that to it’s point in history was the largest bankruptcy on record. Enron’s failure has been eclipsed 6 times in 6 weeks by (cumulatively) more than 100x. Oh my. Someone has to do something and quick! It’s a financial EMERGENCY! Oh no.
Slowly, the government is taking control. They have implemented the shock doctrine. The U.S. Government now owns one of the largest insurance companies in the country and the 18th largest in the world, backs most U.S. held mortgages (meaning it owns a larger percentage of homes than anyone or any entity in this — or any other — country), and is about to “bail out” most any bank that needs it. This bail out will essentially mean that the government will control most every bank or financial services corporation in the country by one degree of separation or less.
On Thursday of this week, the US government forced the Federal Reserve Bank — in conjunction with the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the European Common Bank, the Swiss National Bank, and the Bank of Japan — to flood the markets with cash to prevent a further financial meltdown [read it here]. Apparently, the situation must be beyond emergency if the bureaucracies that controls the most powerful national and international banks in the world moved within hours to coordinate and react to the melting U.S. economy. In addition, there must have been a substantial threat to their economies as well. Act now, think later (kind of like buying stuff from an infomercial late at night, always seems like a good idea at the time…)
After being briefed on the economic situation earlier today, Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Chris Dodd (D) CT, said the U.S. is “days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system” [read it here] and that after he was briefed (along with other very senior leaders, including Bush) that it was like “someone sucked all the air from the room.”
Things are bad, or so it seems.
Actually, things will get worse. Much worse. What next? Where does the government draw the line on bailing out corporations? Why is it acceptable to bail out AIG, but not pour money into education or health care? Why is it that when someone can’t afford cancer treatment, education, retirement, or a first home, that the government doesn’t step in to bail the average citizen out? Why are corporations different? In the meanwhile, American automobile giants are lining up for their share, and I’d argue that the airlines aren’t far behind, as consumers grow more and more fearful, will retail and service sectors be far behind that? When, where, and why will it end, and where’s the line for me to get into?
Why is all this happening now? Why has no one connected the dots? Who’s to blame? Why are things happening so quickly? Why do big deals and mergers (like Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Bear Stearns) always happen on the weekends when everyone is occupied with Project Runway or football? Who is making these decisions if the Chair of the Senate banking committee doesn’t even know what’s going on?
Compound that with the fact that both Dodd and Bush today said (almost exactly and nearly at the same time) that the “time for finding blame will come, but the time for solutions is now.” Oh really? Act now, think later.
Could it be possible that this situation has been engineered? Is it a coincidence that oil has quadrupled since Bush took power in 2000? Isn’t it odd that this happened and he’s a former oil man? Isn’t it peculiar to anyone that the major oil companies have made record profits because of the higher oil prices… which means, that they are simply charging more to make more profit?
Just like with big oil, someone — and some corporations — are going to make millions if not billions or trillions from this current financial mess, and the average person, retiree, recent college graduate, and hard worker are going to lose. Meanwhile, we’ve reverted past the days of regulation to the days of government control of the economy (wait… wasn’t this why we fought the cold war?)
The tragedy of the situation isn’t the fact that it’s happening. It’s that it’s happening and no one cares. Nearly everyone I speak with is business as usual, most know “something happened with AIG” but don’t know much of the remaining story, or why the AIG collapse is of any importance. Most everyone I speak with is more concerned with more important things, like the football game this weekend, or that The Gap is offering 30% off of jeans this weekend, or the I Love Lucy marathon this weekend on TV Land.
Unfortunately, this time around, it’s no laughing matter. Engineered or not, the shock doctrine has arrived on your doorstep, kids, and this time, like every other time [read the book], it ain’t gonna be pretty.