It’s ten years after the Lehman failure and twelve years after we started this blog, in anticipation of the crisis to come. Not nearly enough has changed. Yet at the same time, it’s more clear with every passing day that pressure is building up on many fronts: in the financial markets, in politics, and in too many people’s daily lives, as the effects of tooth and claw capitalism metastasize. Confident elites do not built family-compound-sized panic rooms in New Zealand, or rockets to Mars as personal limousines out of trouble.
That’s why we are still here. Join us in doing what we can to move things in a better direction for society as a whole and not just the affluent.
The elite response to the crisis was to restore the status quo ante. Rather than bring vested banking interests to heel, the Obama administration instead chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff. That meant sparing financiers the consequences of their recklessness and looting and burdening ordinary citizens instead, as many of you know from first-hand experience. In 2009 and 2010, bankers thumbed their noses at the citizens who collectively had saved them from professional oblivion by paying themselves record bonuses rather than rebuilding their firms’ capital bases. Treasury Secretary Geithner made clear the Administration only wanted to drag out foreclosures to “foam the runway” for banks, when principal modification would have stopped unnecessary foreclosures, benefitting not just homeowners, but also investors and communities. Bankers were coddled and everyone else got short shrift.
Failing to write down most bad debts and preserving a finance-heavy system produced the two-tier “recovery” that we are still experiencing today, which greatly widened the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The growing recognition that the rich and powerful live apart from the rest of us and most of them can’t be bothered to care for the general welfare has produced backlashes against the ruling order, including Brexit, the rise of Trump, Marine Le Pen, and AfD, and the resurgence of the left, personified by Sanders and Corbyn. And this political fracturing is occurring as human civilization is staying firmly on a path of creating destructive levels of global warming. We need a war-level mobilization just to prevent the worst outcomes from happening. Instead, we have leaders like Theresa May and Republicans who are on the climate-change-denialist Koch Brothers meal ticket.
Elite backlash has been fierce. Non-traditional media and those deemed too far outside the orthodoxy have been prime targets. And the “fake news” label has worked. It’s an effective way to dismiss inconvenient views. But even worse has been quasi-censorship via disparagement and downgrading in search engines. In 2016, the Washington Post would effectively accuse us of being traitors and in 2017, Vanity Fair attacked us by name. We had to fight to get a CBS News outlet and the designer of a Google extension to stop defaming us.
Google has been downgrading both left and right leaning sites deemed not to be “authoritative,” which equates to “sufficiently dependent on access journalism so as to be tractable.” In April 2018, yet another Google algo revamp delivered a big hit to search traffic of leftist and even mainstream sites like The Intercept. And Google News even uses Cold War organizations like Voice of America/Radio Free Europe as a fact-checkers!
Despite operating in an increasingly hostile environment, Naked Capitalism continues to punch far above its weight, thanks to the strength of the Naked Capitalism community. Donations, spreading the word about the site to friends and family, insightful and often funny comments, coming to meetups, and submissions of links, antidotes, and story ideas all help keep us going.
In the wake of the crisis, we’ve taken on and succeeded in providing top quality analysis and coverage on more and more topics: how technology is redefining property rights, how the financial system is again becoming precarious due to the failure to implement real reforms, the war against labor, the opioid crisis, Brexit, the wobbly Italian banks, America’s continuing health care train wreck, and identity politics as a device to suck energy out of the fight against inequality.
Our core role has long been to promote critical thinking skills. That has become even more important as the media is openly carrying the water for political and moneyed interests. We not only want to provide you with information but help you build the capability and confidence to vet what is presented to you as fact, test the logic of arguments, and parse propaganda. We do this every day, not only with our choice of topics, but in our practice when posting and commenting. Skills like these will help you educate the people you know and care for so that they can better understand the escalating power struggles as factions in the elites fight to maintain their position, as well as chart a better course for political and personal action.
By virtue of digging in hard on private equity and CalPERS, we’ve learned how to become more effective at activism. With CalPERS, we’ve broken important stories. That’s enabled to show that the issues raised by these stories were symptoms of deeper-seated problems. As CalPERS’ stumbling from one embarrassment to another confirmed our dim assessment, more and more influential beneficiaries and members of the press came to share our views, in a virtuous cycle of critique. CalPERS’ loyalists could dismiss Margaret Brown beating incumbent board member Michael Bilbrey as a fluke, since Bilbrey was only technically present at board meetings. But insurgent Jason Perez’s defeat of board president Priya Mathur appears to have jolted not just the CalPERS board and staff, but even the press. Perhaps CalPERS will finally recognize that if they don’t embrace change, it will be forced upon them.
Naked Capitalism has long been straddled a position few can occupy, providing both hot takes and near think tank-level analysis. We’d like to break more stories on public pension funds, since they are important in and of themselves and are windows onto other areas of finance that are not well enough covered in the mainstream press: our old friend private equity, the institutional investment business generally, and the looming retirement crisis. And we also anticipate we’ll be returning to looking at financial hot spots as risks continue to rise while central banks are low on ammo and austerity-deluded governments refuse to administer the adrenaline shot of aggressive fiscal spending in a crisis. And Lord only knows what new craziness we’ll see after the midterms….
We’d like to do more. We’d like to do it even better. We’ve managed to punch way above our weight with pretty meager resources. Just imagine how much trouble we could cause if we ever got our hands on some real money!
Please support our efforts. Give whatever you can, whether it’s $5, $50, or $5000, via our Tip Jar. Even a small donation helps us meet our fundraising goals. And if you aren’t in a position to give right now, you can help by linking to our posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, and telling friends, family, and colleagues about the site, as well as contributing to our comments section.
In our accompanying kickoff post, we identify specific things that your donations will fund and will tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals. Our first goal is $19,000 for digital infrastructure essentials. That may not sound very sexy, but this is our plumbing. I’m sure you know from your own experience that when your plumbing is not working, you feel its absence acutely. We have a large nut due both the size of our database (over 1.1 million comments and over 21,000 posts) and rising security threats.
You can give via check made out to “Aurora Advisors Incorporated,” sent to:
Aurora Advisors Incorporated
903 Park Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10075
Please be sure to let us know if you have sent a check so we can include your contribution in our fundraiser tally.Please send an e-mail with the subject line, “Check is in the mail” with the $ amount, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also use the Tip Jar to donate by credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Please note PayPal allows you to use your regular credit or debit card. If you are allergic to PayPal, checks are always welcome!
Finally, if you are relatively well off in frequent flier miles but cash stressed, Yves can also accept some frequent flier mile transfers for American Airlines or Delta. Please e-mail her at the address above if this applies to you. Any donations of this sort will go for flights to meetups.
Again, we hope you’ll support our work in ways big and small. You’ve helped us build a community, and with your continued backing, we aspire to make it even better in the coming year.