Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, by Charles Ferguson (a presentation)

Released: May/2013

Pages: 384

  Versão em Português aqui

 

            Following up his Academy Award-winning documentary film “Inside Job”, Charles Ferguson brings us now an explosive new book in which he exposes the network of academic, government and congressional influence helping to keep the criminals in charge in the USA as they are in Brazil – maybe would be more accurate to say that they are in charge in Brazil following the example and influence of the Matrix; same thing, more or less, is also happening in all Latin America colonies as well as in many European quasi-democratic countries such as Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Spain.

            Ferguson lays out the problem and postulates some solutions; mainly he is clearly dissatisfied with Barack Obama’s administration that, he had expected, could bring USA back to re-regulation of the financial sector. As he made clear in his documentary film, all deregulation began with Ronald Reagan as president. Different from Noam Chomsky, in the left wing of the political spectrum, Ferguson on the right is for the concentration of wealth since the new (even filthy) rich – in his view – deserve it, is to say, if they had produced something new; somehow contributed to improve technology or has some scientific achievement allied to administration skills; granted that they do not plunge World economy in any crisis, pay their taxes and so forth. At the beginning of the book he says that “this is not how the present USA elite got there”; they got rich, he says “by being well connected and crooked (dishonest)”. Same happens in Brazil. When I was young, parents told their children that, “to become wealthy, you have to study and work hard”; nowadays, we must recognize that this way does not leads to any wealth at all. To become wealthy in Brazil today, as so in the USA, one has to be “well connected and crooked”. I wonder… Is that what parents are teaching their children?

            The cornerstone to the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression was laid in the 80s under Ronald Reagan, who, in allegiance with the financists, switched the power to decide how the economy goes from the White House to Wall Street and since then, increasingly, practically all decisions are made by the gamblers of the Stock Market, not for the politicians people think they voted for. Deregulation – particularly of the financial sector – has plunged the country – hence, the whole world – in successive crisis, culminating with the one of 2008, provoked for the crooked financists in charge and not only whose effects are still in effect but the crisis itself is also still in place.

In Predator Nation, Ferguson exposes the network of academic, government, and congressional influence in all political administrations; both great political parties in the US (Republicans and Democrats) follow the same path on de-regulation that has being creating what Ferguson calls a “canopy-economy”. In Nature, canopy ecosystems are those composed by huge trees that virtually keep all solar light (their main resource) from going down, so small plants cannot thrive. In the recently created canopy economy, less than 1% of the population keeps the most of all that is produced while the bottom 99% of the population watches their lives going down the road.

A Canopy Ecosystem

            In painful details, Ferguson explains how, little by little, the financial sector took over the power in the US, creating some stock market bubbles that made them even richer by lending money to people unable to pay. So organized, the agencies in charge of evaluate risks, several times gave “Triple A” to people and companies clearly not able to honor their debts. And the predatory lending kept on going; Alan Greenspan, former president of the Federal Reserve, backed up by the brokers and banks, convinced the US people that they were sitting in a fortune. All they had to do was to make a mortgage on their homes and get money to also speculate and thrive as the ones in the top of the canopy economy were thriving. Banks accepted two, three, in some cases even 5 mortgages for the same house that was insured for up to 50 different people. The borrower could not afford to pay their debts (it was clear from the beginning, as some investigations concluded) and the insurance company could never pay 50 times the value of one house to all people that made an insurance policy, and that’s one of the main reasons AIG (American International Group), the largest insurance company in the world, had gone bankrupt and, in the sequence, has being bailed out under the excuse to prevent a global crisis that was already in place – precisely because of actions such as those of AIG among other huge companies.

            We are presented with the new terms used by the so called “economists” in the academia, such as “credit default swaps”, “CDS”, “derivatives” and such – seemingly exoteric financial tool that were allegedly created to improve security in economy, but accomplishing the opposite; in practice, we now know that those were (and still are!) ways to pick the pocket of the gullible transferring the income from the productive to the financial sector, as it became clear in the 2008 crisis.

            Ferguson is upset because none – NONE – of the responsible for the crisis was ever punished or even had to give back what they took from the productive sector and worse, many times receiving massive bail outs from the puppet government of the moment (no matter if Democrat or Republican, they are all accomplices of Wall Street decisions regarding not only US, but World Economy). Education in the US has plummeted with only the children of the wealthy having any chance at all to succeed in life: and not for their personal merits, but for being children of the wealthy crooked that took over US. That was, he claims, the main motivation to write this book. 

            In one of the most brilliant and clear summary of the main motives that lead to the crisis, Ferguson writes: “The economic disaster was driven by a combination of very low interest rates, pervasive dishonesty through the financial system, massive lending fraud, speculation, demand for high yield securities, and not insignificantly, a squeezed American consumer desperate to maintain living standards, and told by everyone – including George Bush and Alan Greenspan, the brokers and the banks, that home borrowing was the way to do it. Maybe it was not by mere chance that Mr. Lula da Silva in Brazil makes the same alliances with the financial sector and keeps urging people to get credit and so, the predatory lending by the banks keeps up to now creating unemployment, low incomes, personal bankruptcies, suicides and despair. People are waking up, though!

            Ferguson’s book is superior to those who also dissect the economic crash of 2008, chiefly because he is following up the mess created by the financial sector since the making of his awarded documentary so, he gives a more accurate and advanced version based on the insights he gained since the production of “Inside Job”.

            Deepen the understanding of where we are now, Ferguson lays out the consequences of his discoveries: besides the fact that the bad guys have gotten away with crimes, “the rise of predatory finance is both a cause and a symptom of a broader and even more disturbing change in America. The financial sector is the core of a new oligarchy that has risen to power over the past 30 years, and has profoundly changed American life.”

            Everybody with something between their ears other than hair agrees that take away political corruption and the stranglehold the banks has on a country system is crucial.  A sad point is in Ferguson’s quite naïve solution. He postulates, as many authors constrained by the same limitations in his or hers possible consciousness, is to say, that US has to keep a capitalist nation with some regulation but the main sources of wealth may stay in the hands of the few. So, when time seems to call up to more radical solutions, he still “believe in the American Dream” and his proposition goes no further than “a third-party” or “we have to take the money out the control of the politics”. More accurately would be to take back the power of issue and make money circulate to the people; banks need not only “be regulated”, they have to be deprivatized if we are to have a sustainable future. It’s never too much to remember that the moments and places where countries have grown sustainably it was when things such as education, health care, security, infrastructure, the basis of a country’s economy in short, is PUBLIC and well managed. Other than that, we are doomed to keep spinning in Max Weber’s “Iron Cage”

Lazaro Curvêlo Chaves – 30/10/2013

Updated: 1/10/2014