We’re Winning, Even If We Have to Put Up With Ben Bernanke Naming His Book “Courage to Act”

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By a DC insider

It may not feel like we’re winning because the institutions arrayed against would never admit that, and they control the media megaphones. But we are winning. And Naked Capitalism is one of the key pieces of the puzzle. That’s why your donations matter, not just because this is a good community and information source, but because it’s a useful, a dangerous, a powerful network and information source. So dig deep. Support it. Give.

The reason this site matters is because of the focus on the details. The bad guys, the 0.1% and their retainers, win when the public is absent, when it’s too boring to join those multi-trillion dollar discussions. like how a bloated financial services industry increases inequality and is a drag on growth, or why our health care system performs like a Trabant when Americans pay Mercedes prices, or why austerity is good only for the capitalist classes. In other words, they win when the corporate press, owned and operated by Wall Street, ignores the machinations of big money except on the insider tip sheets only read by pros. But because of Naked Capitalism, you are there. And as surprising as it may seem, a relatively small number of people casting a skeptical glance really has an impact.

Here are two areas when you have made a real difference. First, private equity. Private equity general partners are the robber barons of our era. They own. They consolidate. They control. And they shackle us, as Brandeis pointed out, in golden fetters made with our own gold. They take our money through our pension funds and insurance companies and use it to buy our companies and fire our friends and family. Yves is throwing sand, slowly but surely, into this entire enterprise. She’s going at the heart of the beast, not just at the wolves themselves, the general partners. They are predators, and predators do what they do. It is the protectors that have failed.

Yves went at the Securities and Exchange Commission. She got the SEC’s Andrew Bowden, the man who was supposed to protect us, to resign. She caught him talking up the virtues of the business, and even joking about his son getting a job in private equity. He was a servant of the barons, tasked by the public to constrain them. And now he is gone from that role. Good. Yves did that. We did that.

And Yves is going at the managers at CalPERS, the giant pension fund, run by fiduciaries that are supposed to manage our money. They failed to protect not just their beneficiaries, but the broader economy. They failed with junk bonds, even back in the 1980s. They failed when they invested in Enron off-balance sheet vehicles. They failed when they invested in CDOs, buying the risky tranches so toxic that AIG and the monolines wouldn’t dream of touching them, and at the very time when banks were not just desperately dumping them before the subprime market shut down for good, but when banks like Goldman were going short. They failed with hedge funds. Even though Yves pointed out in 2006 that they’d pretty much admitted that, it wasn’t until last year that CalPERS announced it would stop investing in them. And they now fail with private equity. And Yves is shining a spotlight, once again on players like CalPERS, who have failed at their task of constraining the barons and have instead become their servants. This is good. It will work. Remember, a key advantage the other side had maintained is a monopoly on information and legitimacy. It’s a massive monkey wrench in their well-oiled operation when independent sites like this one blow up their model of discussing how they will loot quietly with no one else in on the conversation.

So give. Because we’re winning. Scott Alvarez, the Fed’s general counsel and the moving force behind anti-regulatory policies, is sitting on his heels, quiet now and under intense scrutiny. There’s increasing discussion of what needs to happen to shift the ACA (thanks Lambert), not due to knee-jerk opposition from the right but from an actual understanding of the problems faced by people going through the system. There’s real interest in private equity now among insiders, and this will splash out soon over tax policy and eventually other forms of legal shackles. Hillary Clinton produced a plan on Wall Street, and even she had to emphasize sending financiers to jail and putting stronger constraints on the banks. This is not to say she’s sincere, only that she put forward a “reasonable” plan and it was laughed at by reformers. That shows how far the conversation has moved. Bernie Sanders is actually a real candidate for President, and he’s injecting these ideas into the discourse. Even Donald Trump is talking about how hedge fund managers are paper pushers, and he’s still leading the Republicans.

The institutions are still arrayed against us, and they are fighting dirty for everything they can get. But the public is with us. The public is there. They just need the information ammunition. That’s what this site provides. And it’s only a matter of time before the institutions start changing their positions. We are already seeing that with CalPERS. That’s when the magic happens.

So dig deep. Give.

It may not always look like it or feel like it (and believe me, that’s one of their advantages), but you’re making a safer, saner, more just world.

And, if for no other reason that hedge fund consultant Ben Bernanke named his book “The Courage to Act” and you want someone to actually tell the truth about what he did, give.

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  1. Eric Patton

    I’m not sure there’s a better web site right now than NC. I have been reading left-wing propaganda for 25 years, so I feel qualified to have an opinion.

    It is a fact that there is no one right now anywhere who is doing what Yves is doing. No one. That’s not to say there aren’t other valuable sites and other valuable writers.

    But at this moment, there’s no place better than NC.

    And finally, private equity truly needs to become extinct. The damage it has caused in people’s lives is calculable only by a divine power.

  2. Vatch

    “The Courage to Act”

    Maybe “Act” refers to stage acting, as in a play, movie, or television show. You know, like Kabuki!

    1. lambert strether

      In this kabuki, random audience members are actually assaulted and dismembered by the actors (and the black-clad fixers). The tip jar is to your right.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Nice, except Bernanke is a “Keynesian” about as much as I’m going to vote for the Donald.

  3. JIm

    So, DC insider, you state above that in your opinion “the protectors have failed.”

    Do you see yourself as one our protectors? What exactly is a protector?

    Yes, the great strength of this site is a focus on detail. Yes, the focus on private equity is right on target–but is it accurate to say that we are winning when “protectors” acquire enough “information ammunition” to disrupt a model of how they(private equity) will loot quietly when no one else is in on the conversation.

    Could you spell out in more detail your strategy of political reform?

    Is a break-up of centralized private and public power necessary?

    Is such a break-up a precondition for democratic rule?

    What is the role of the protectors in democratic rule?

    1. Lambert Strether

      Hmm. I read “protectors” is a synonym for regulators (like the SEC); those who are supposed to protect the public.

      The strategy in brief for this site is as the poster said: “The public is there. They just need the information ammunition. That’s what this site provides.” That’s your answer within the scope of this post, and within the scope of what this site does.

      For the rest, I’m not sure this is the venue for interrogating a poster? All of us will have our own answers in any case. In the same way “nobody expects the Spanish inquisition,” “nobody expected the French Revolution.” What we had (simplifying horribly) was a some aristocrats, some sans culottes, and ton of provincial lawyers, a lot of meetings, and a zillion manifestos….

    2. Tammy

      These are good questions, Jim. I would add:

      Will we like what takes place in the void caused by decentralization?

      1. flora

        is a break-up of centralized private and public power necessary?

        I interpreted that line as a break-up of the public/private power centralization – as in business pretty much owning/running the govt. See Wall St. banks. Breaking up that cronyism is necessary, but doesn’t mean decentralizing govt. It means cleaning up govt. My 2 cents.

  4. Lambert Strether

    I’ve been blogging daily since 2003, mostly on politics of one sort or another, more recently on political economy. Obviously, I’m not an organizer, or a candidate for anything, or I’d be doing those things, and not what I do.

    That said, from the perspective of one who has been processing immense amounts of “news” and data daily for years, rather in the mode that a blue whale scoops up krill, I’ve never been more optimistic; the discourse is shifting toward, dare I say it, sanity (and shifting the discourse takes an immense amount of labor*). An avowed Socialist running for President and polling well? Who supports single payer? Who’d a thunk it? So I agree with DC Insider.

    NOTE * And not nonsense like the forces of history, or anything like that. Work, hard work, by a lot of people. Not to say that there won’t be reaction, because there will be…

    1. Ed Walker

      Winning is hard to see at first. It takes a long time to dig out from under the garbage the rich piled up on us, particularly in economic theory and the intellectually dishonest SCOTUS majority. It’s easy to bamboozle people by repeating 250 year-old economic and legal gibberish repackaged to hide the underlying racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and religionphobia that dominate the reptile brain.

  5. craazyman

    whoa! everybody’s missing the big confession. He admits he was acting! The play was “The Money Doctor Goes to Washington and Hands out Drugs” by TINA Bordello and he played the Fed Chairman. It was live theater, I guess that is courageous in a sense, since lots of people wouuld get intimidated acting in front of a live audience like that.

    Well, money is all pretend make believe anyway so why should this be shocking. I guess because everybody thought they were watching reality but it was really a mass suspension of disbelief that constitutes poetic faith in a very specific narrative. That’s the only way it all keeps going, And If you don’t believe in the fairy dust they think you’re a wacko, but they’re the wackos. because they believe only in the validity of their own fictions and not alternative fictions that have every bit as much narrative structure. Evidently professor B is in on the joke though. He just admitted it in his book title!

  6. RBHoughton

    I will check the index of his book for any reference to the Florida Legislature’s petition to GS that their banks be allowed to continue laundering Mexican drug money to maintain the state’s prosperity. If its not there, I shall not be reading it.

  7. Will

    Yves, have you considered having one of the fundraising goals be dedicated to you so the people who benefit from your work could support you in the way we do with Lambert’s water cooler, rather than just paying expenses of the site?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Lambert gets a very large payment every year out of the fundraiser. and our Guest Blogger target was clearly in large degree for readers to support his work.

      And if we do not pay for expenses on the site, there is no site. We have to cover those in order to function at all.

      I am trying to give readers an idea of why we need the level of contributions we seek by breaking down our targets. As I explained in footnotes to our kickoff post, the fact that some of the fundraiser proceeds goes to necessary site costs should tell you that our ad revenues don’t provide enough to fund the site. That is in part due to the fact that we reject a lot of higher payout ads (most video ads, all horrible picture ads with clickbait, those actually pay very well which is why you see them everywhere, ads inserted within the text of articles, which you see virtually everywhere, from Salon to Alternet and even at Wolf Street). So it really bothers me that you effectively say that having this site be in a position to operate isn’t worth supporting.

      Thus I can’t honestly tout raising money for particular writers when the basic overheads of the site have not been covered. You may not like hearing that, but you can’t have a dinner without having a kitchen to cook it in. That means paying for stuff like plumbing, electricity, lighting, pots and pans, a basic supply of spices, before you get to buying the ingredients for the meal you want and the chef who cooks it. And how much the site can afford to pay for anyone depends on how much we get to cover the site’s needs for the year ahead. That meant it would not be honest to the donors to raise money in the manner you suggested. I’ve already done something which I believe no other site does, which is allow people who come to the site to pay Lambert directly, with no cut to NC at all, through HIS Tip Jar in WC. So people who like his work and want to pay only for it can do so now, and frankly in a manner that is to the site’s detriment, since it skims off revenues without making any contribution to overhead (and I have no manner of knowing how much Lambert gets from his Tip Jar, so it is not as if we huddle and figure out if a reallocation is merited).

      And we have fundraiser-specific costs I haven’t even mentioned that get deducted from the gross proceeds: the 3% that is taken off the top of credit card, debit card, and PayPal payments, the cost of the service we use for the associated e-mails, the cost of our tech guy for extra work related to the fundraiser.

      I don’t mean to dump on you, but your comment indicates that you have utterly no appreciation of the fact that Lambert and I are running a business (remember he also is in charge of Corrente) in addition to producing virtually all of the content you see here, and managing and participating in the comment section. Readers have no idea of how much donkey work is involved behind the scenes. It also suggests that we are foolish to be as transparent about our economics as we are, since all it seems to do is lead readers to second guess how we operate, when working journalists and academics routinely tell us they can’t begin to fathom how we manage to produce as much as we do. For you to begrudge us our necessary tools, which is our overheads, is deeply demoralizing.

      1. Nell

        Hi Yves, don’t be too hard on Will. He is, like all of us, acculturated to individualism rather than collectivism. So rather than seeing Naked Capitalism as a community enterprise that needs support, he fixates on the leader of the community and wants to show his appreciation for the ‘leader’. It is tough to break out of a cultural mindset.

        I like your fundraising by target approach precisely because it makes clear all of the background expenses that are incurred in running a highly rated blog. A big thank you to everyone involved on Naked Capitalism from me (and a donation).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Thanks for the kind note, and sorry if I seemed rough. I know readers have certain things they like and would like do see more of, but I feel obligated to let readers understand why we need what we need, and it appears that the effort to give more information works against us, which I find frustrating.

          1. Nell

            Any time Yves. You guys are really shining a light. I just wish we had something as good here in Europe. The real world economic blog is good – but aimed more at the economics profession than the financial industry. Christ knows what Osborne and his mates are getting up to in the financial sector in the UK. It can’t be good.

            1. larry


              What Osborne is doing in the UK isn’t good at all. He is attacking the poor through their tax credits and he is considering slashing funding for renewable energy, one of those things that Cameron promised he would support. He is also suggesting ring fencing the banks rather than breaking them up, which won’t work, but will temporize his supporters, the 1%. We need attacks on economic policy, as the financial sector falls under it.

              1. Nell

                Yes. That is what is in the news – but we all know there is more to it than gets into the mainstream media.

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