Regular readers may recall we suspended our 2012 fundraiser, which started right before Hurricane Sandy. We want to express our deep appreciation to those of you who have donated thus far.
Many of the things we talked about when we launched our first fundraiser last year are still true: the elites, who have shown little regard for how their misrule has hurt ordinary citizens, still have a firm grasp on the reins of power. The global financial crisis imposed tremendous costs on investors and society at large, via unemployment, a housing bust, plunging tax revenues, cuts in government services and increasing political discord. No one in a position of influence before the crisis has been punished or even suffered much. In fact, as Matt Stoller has pointed out, the rich became even richer, with 93% of the gains in income under Obama going to the top 1%.
So it isn’t surprising that what passes for leadership in the US is gearing up to provide us with more of the same, since it has worked out so well for them. Obama, after winning a supposedly populist mandate, is moving smartly towards executing what Bill Black has aptly called a Grand Betrayal. Obama intends to weaken critical safety nets for the aged, Social Security and Medicare, despite the fact that the public overwhelmingly wants them preserved. Even worse, well respected analysts, including budget experts at the Federal Reserve, dispute the forecasts used to rationalize this attack on the middle class. But billionaire Pete Peterson and his allies on Wall Street, who have long sought to gut these programs so as to force people to put more of their savings into securities markets, continue their plutocratic land grab.
And this isn’t the only looting program underway. We’ve described how financiers are using state and local budget budget pressures to push for a “privatization” of public assets like roadways, which is tantamount to selling the family china only to have to rent it back in order to eat dinner. Similarly, private equity investors are moving in as large-scale absentee landlords of single-family homes, taking advantage of housing market stress and stepping in front of local investors, many of whom are being shut out of bidding processes. And as ugly as things are in the US, misrule by finance in Europe has succeeded in shifting power from elected governments to a technocratic elite, which is driving the continent into a depression and periphery countries into social disintegration, all to avoid exposing the insolvency of French and German banks.
What I believe has brought many of you here is that you recognize that effective propaganda is a big part of what has blinded the public to what former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson has called a “quiet coup” by financiers. They depend on the ignorance and acquiescence of the general public to succeed. That’s why a mere two month old movement, Occupy Wall Street, which was depicted as nothing more serious than directionless dirty hippies, evoked a coordinated, 17 city paramilitary crackdown. The “we are the 99%” message had penetrated the media fog and brought new focus on the issue of income inequality and the failure to reform Wall Street. That alone made them dangerous.
Trained passivity is a low cost way to hobble people who have been wronged. Keeping people isolated, thinking they are alone in recognizing injustice and abuses, is another. This site focuses on finance and economics, but it is really in the business of promoting critical thinking. I have also come to see the value and strength of having a community, of sharing information and expertise. By creating coalitions among people who have invested the time to understand how increasingly irresponsible elites are working against the interests of ordinary citizens and honing how we communicate what we find, we can shift how the public at large views these issues. And as the impact of a mere tag phase, “the 99%” has shown, changing the discourse has disproportionate impact.
But it does not yield gratifying, high profile successes. It require tenacity to persevere in the face of concerted opposition. As Richard Kline wrote:
The nut of the matter is this: you lose, you lose, you lose, you lose, they give up. As someone who has protested, and studied the process, it’s plain that one spends most of one’s time begin defeated. That’s painful, humiliating, and intimidating. One can’t expect typically, as in a battle, to get a clean shot at a clear win. What you do with protest is you change the context, and that change moves the goalposts on your opponent, grounds out the current in their machine. The nonviolent resistance in Hungary in the 1860s (yes, that’s in the 19th century) is an excellent example. Communist rule in Russia and its dependencies didn’t fail because protestors ‘won’ but because most simply withdrew their cooperation to the point it suffocated.
The first step in this process is in getting past the lies sold by elite financiers and their allies, which have been carefully crafted and packaged. But getting the truth is not free. It take time, effort, expertise, and resources. We’ve been very fortunate in attracting a talented group of writers here, as well as allies at other sites with whom we collaborate. And perhaps most important is our engaged and informed comments section. Not only is the NC readership quick to jump on and debate breaking news (and, ouch, pounce on our miscues!), but it has also led us to stories before they were in the headlines, from the role of the hedge fund Magnetar and CDOs in the crisis, to the problem of large scale servicing fraud and chain of title issues, to the private equity rental housing grab, to on-the-ground reports from SoPo (South of Power) during Hurricane Sandy.
I want to make this blog more effective. But that means I need your help. I am stretched way too thin. As the readership has grown, it takes more to support it, including keeping on top of the comments section and my overloaded inbox. In addition, the nature of blogging has changed in the wake of the crisis. As reader and sometimes guest blogger John Bougearel aptly described it, the crisis was like a massive rock landing in a seemingly placid pool. The rings from that initial impact keep widening. There are now more threads to follow, and many of them take a certain amount of digging to get right. As I look over my archives, my posts have become more analytically intensive over time. Bringing on other writes who have relevant expertise has helped a good deal, but that also imposes more managerial demands on me. So I’m often juggling a tradeoff among figuring out what is most newsworthy and how to cover it, doing more thorough investigation on major topics, and getting posts out.
I feel fortunate to have a cadre of talented and expert contributors like Lambert Strether (who also does a great deal of behind the scenes work, like troll patrol), Matt Stoller, Philip Pilkington, Satyajit Das, Michael Crimmins, Michael Olenick, and Richard Smith. We are also glad to have well-regarded writers like Bill Black, Michael Hudson, Yanis Varoufakis, Tom Ferguson, Steve Keen, Lynn Parramore, and Wolf Richter cross posting on Naked Capitalism.
What you get here is something I honestly believe you do not find anywhere else on the Web in the finance and economics sphere, and certainly not in the mainstream media: a willingness to question institutions and individuals in power, and get behind skillful sloganeering to uncover sloppy thinking, bad practices, intellectual capture, corruption, and destructive policies. We name names and get granular. This is a role that traditional journalists aspire to play, but shrinking news budgets, accelerating news cycles, the native complexity of finance-related material, and the collusive game of access journalism have defanged the press. We know this sort of hard-hitting, skeptical coverage is something you value; the caliber and thoughtfulness of the comments section proves it. So we hope that those of you who are able will invest in this site in a more tangible way.
So here is how the fundraiser will work. Our target is 1000 donors over the fundraiser; we’ve already gotten over 170 so far thanks to our early responders.
We are looking to get broad-based participation. So if you are a student or took a financial setback in the crisis and can only make a small contribution, we’d still appreciate that, because we also have readers who cam make much bigger donations.
We will also put forward specific things we intend to do with your donations and will tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals. We’ve already met our first goal, which was $6700 for higher touch hosting and ongoing site configuration tweaking (WordPress is a very bad actor on high traffic sites, and our active comments situation puts even more load on this remarkably breakage-prone package).
Our current goal is a really really big thank you to the guest bloggers, particularly Lambert Strether. Lambert provided five months of detailed daily campaign coverage, culminating with his election features, including his inspired “make your own jokes” and election live blogging. He has also regularly been doing the unglamorous work (of his own initiative) of fixing bad links and typos, plus he has listened to me fulminate about my tech woes and spent some time vetting vendors and designers.
The foregoing is not to minimize the work of other important contributors. Matt Stoller has provided penetrating, original, and skeptical political and economics related commentary, to the annoyance of the Democratic party hackocracy. Philip Pilkington has interviewed influential economists as well as provided his own writings on economic history and MMT. Richard Smith has gotten credible threats of violence as a result of his exposure of international con artists. Michael Olenick has parsed housing data and unearthed local and larger patterns of chicanery, bad policies, and misleading reporting. Mark Ames and Yasha Levine have included Naked Capitalism in the release of some of their breaking stories, including their project S.H.A.M.E., an initiative to expose conflicts of interest in prominent media figures.
We are a bit over $5000 towards our goal of $15,500 for our guest bloggers. Please give them a really generous “thank you” for all their diligent and valuable efforts!
There are multiple ways to give. The first are here on the blog, the “Donate” and “Subscribe” buttons in the upper right, both of which take you to PayPal or the button lower in the right column which will take you to WePay (for all of them, the charge will be in the name of Aurora Advisors).
You can also send a check (or multiple post dated checks, if you want to spread out payments) in the name of Aurora Advisors Incorporated to Aurora Advisors Incorporated, 903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10075. Please also send an e-mail to email@example.com with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ en route in the message) so we can count your contribution in the total number of donations.
Finally, I feel guilty that the volume of donations means that I won’t be sending individual “thank you” messages. This is symptomatic of the state of my life. I hope this fundraiser will help me to a place where I have the bandwidth to express my gratitude to each of you properly).
Thanks again for your interest and generous support!