Venice, Ca. January 31st, 2012- Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC thinks the current economic situation is dire. Three years after the financial crisis, the economy is growing, and boasting 200k new jobs, but Mr. Ratigan says the economy remains bleak. His new book, Greedy Bastards: Corporate Communists, Banksters, and other vampires who suck America dry, explores his ideals.
Many believe the economy has improved since 2008, but Mr. Ratigan questions that perception and the tools we use to measure economic success. For example, if observers measure the stability in the credit market and whether large ventures can receive funding, the situation today is vastly improved from 2008 when financial institutions cut off this type of lending. Likewise, investors are funding the global economy by investing in emerging nations.
Are the right tools being used to measure the U.S. economy?
But are we using the right tools to measure the quality of the US economy? Specifically, are we differentiating between extractionary growth-slash-activity... that is a function of removing capital then skimming rent off that capital removal, or growth? Growth that is a result of people investing, such as those who have an idea to create and sell a product and work together to achieve that goal.
If we look at the percentage of America in poverty and the collapse of social mobility, the picture is not rosy. Our social mobility is less than the populations of England and France. Americans often look down on Europe as a classist, monarchist society, and yet American’s social mobility has decreased at a far greater pace than Europeans’ mobility. Ratigan argues that although we have the optics of growth, those who measure GDP fail to differentiate between production and extraction. Therefore, GDP gives the illusion of growth, while in reality, individually, we are losing value.
The 6 Vampires sucking America dry
Ratigan talks of six vampires or systems sucking America dry. The financial sector, an obvious target, is one vampire. But he also names trade, health care, education, defense, and energy as vampires.
His premise is remarkably simple, and permeates across the board. Using finance as an example of a vampire, if the interests of an investor and an entrepreneur or customer are not aligned, the investor will seek to do transactions that are not in the entrepreneur or customer’s interest. Ratigan says this happens because of the lack of capital requirements in the financial system, whether it is the lack of down-payment requirements or whether it is the lack of collateral put into the credit defaults swaps market by triple-A financial institutions. That same misaligned interest (a huge problem in a $700 trillion swaps market) is a similar problem at different scale in every industry.
Ratigan believes the interests of the government, the employer, the individual and the medical and health professional are not aligned. Using the medical profession as an example, he believes doctors harbor a distorted incentive. Doctors are incentivized to do three or more tests per patient to avoid the potential of a lawsuit, an incentive that far outweighs their Hippocratic oath. It is these sorts of misaligned interests that create recurring biases in decision-making that we are all suffering from in America.
The goal of Greedy Bastards is to help identify system breaches and create a forum for discussion. Dylan Ratigan has enjoyed an illustrious career at Bloomberg and CNBC. He has met and interviewed numerous bankers, capitalists and entrepreneurs. Ratigan cherishes the positive lessons they taught him: Capital aligns with entrepreneurs; they collaborate; they create value. The role of the financial press is to facilitate a public debate about what is the best thing to do with money and which idea garners the most merit, to facilitate money infusions into in the financial system. Ratigan considers that central to creativity, to innovation, to the very culture that we aspire to.
But there was a moment in Ratigan’s career when he realized something was amiss. He realized that this incredibly noble debate of how to allocate capital, ideas and development is little more than a thin layer of icing on top of a hollow core consisting of the central bank, the reserve currency, the triple-A financial institutions and their explicit ability to issue or invent money as if they were the federal reserve (such as AIG, inventing money without having to incur their own financial risk). That was the moment he realized the urgent need to expose the greedy bastards at their game.
Ratigan hopes to inspire people with the knowledge that we hold the keys to our system. We have been through these problems before. They are not as insurmountable as they appear. We have restructured our debt in the past. We have restructured our healthcare system. If we can put a man on the moon, we can have energy independence. It is easy to obsess about the problems. But on the other side is an opportunity to improve our education, our health and the way we manage energy efficiency. People do have succinct plans to solve these problems. He hopes Americans will participate in helping them.
For greedy bastards, it is much more profitable to take money out of America than it is to invest money in America. It’s not a matter of American ingenuity or willpower. We have that. It’s a matter of Americans coming together to confront unpatriotic greedy bastards whose goal is profit with no regard for America, our people, our resources and our way of life.
For more information on the Greedy Bastards book, click here.
For more information on Dylan Ratigan, click here.