Matt Stoller: Naked Capitalism – Your Antidote to the Toxicity of Late-Stage Neoliberalism

By Matt Stoller, author of Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy and the research director of the American Economic Liberties Project

There’s a witch’s brew of weirdness and creepiness these days, everything from the pandemic to the rise in authoritarianism and violence. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’m frightened, on Tuesday and Thursday I’m grimly amused, and on the weekends I drink.

But I always read and rely on Naked Capitalism, Yves Smith, and this community.

Yves does something that is sorely lacking in my world of politics, which is that she *pays attention to details.* This community thinks institutionally, looking into the corporations, pension funds, and government agencies that organize power.

That’s always been why Yves gets things right before other people do. She was premature on the financial crisis in 2006 because she was paying attention to the housing market on a granular level, she did the work to understand mortgage-backed securities/Magnetar, and she read the documents to recognize the foreclosure fraud crisis. I could go on and on, from her prescience about Syriza in Greece, to private equity, to Boeing, and to the Eurozone crisis. This year it was the early calls on the pandemic, which helped people prepare.

Years ago, the blogs were awesome. But these days, the internet has become a toxic cesspool of annoying conspiracy theories, some weird, some banal, and most designed to obscure the reality of the institutions that organize power. Sorry did I say the internet? I meant every media outlet there is, except Naked Capitalism.

Much of our media and the internet isn’t just annoying, in fact, it’s poison. Poison for our minds. Readers of this site recognize that putting your mind on things that matter, as opposed to bullshit, is how we keep ourselves free. That means reading, of course, but it also means, if you can, keeping this site going. So please throw some coin to Yves and her crew of merry truth-tellers. You can donate here.

If you can’t afford anything, you can still help by spreading the word about Naked Capitalism by telling friends and family, circulating important stories, posting links on Facebook and other social media. Actually, never use Facebook or social media. Just don’t. You’ll be happier.

Still, if you can afford to give, please give, and if you can afford to give a lot, give a lot. Naked Capitalism is an invaluable enterprise, though not a lucrative for Yves and the people who work with her. I can assure you Yves doesn’t bracingly fight the most powerful institutions in the world for the money. She does it because the voices in her head tell her to do so, and my guess is that those are some righteous ass voices. You can make her job a little easier by donating via the Tip Jar, which tells you how to give by debit card, credit card, or check.

Thinking about reality gets results. This year, I’m most impressed with the institutional crisis Yves has forced over at CalPERS, the California pension fund that is unaccountable, incompetent, sloppy, and corrupt. Through dogged reporting and advocacy since 2014, she showed CalPERS had no idea what it was paying in private equity fees. In a massive quality troll, she exposed resume misrepresentations by a recently hired Chief Financial Officer Charles Asubonten, which led to his departure. CalPERS kept CEO Marcie Frost on despite our documenting her extensive fabrications during her hiring, such as having enrolled in a non-existent dual degree program. which she repeated on her official CalPERS bio.

At some level, you can only mock the corruption, and she certainly does that too. But this year, Yves may have finally broken open the door to the possibility of CalPERS fixing its governance. CalPERS has been in an uproar since Chief Investment Officer Ben Meng departed abruptly after this site exposed that CalPERS had made a $1 billion commitment to Blackstone while Meng owned Blackstone stock. CalPERS staff has been forced to offer to give back some of the authority it persuaded the board to cede to it. Hopefully enough members of the board have finally woken up to the consequences of letting a $400 billion fund operate with inadequate oversight and will take corrective action.

Yves is helping to save huge sums of money with her work. Does she get a cut? No! But she’s well-paid in the satisfaction that she has supremely annoyed some very bad people. Help her keep doing that! You can donate here.

What else has Naked Capitalism done right? Well of course there’s the pandemic. I hate most pandemic reporting, because it’s lazy and designed to incite people based on their politics. But Naked Capitalism informs. This site has done important original reporting, both via Ignacio, a Spanish epidemiologist who provide posts on important topics like the role of air travel in Covid 19 spread and an analysis of different approaches to vaccines, and Jerri-Lynn, whose interviews and sanity checks with Hong Kong based SARS veteran Dr. Sarah Borwein, who described what Hong Kong and China had done right to contain Covid-19, and how their contact tracing differed from the what the US had in mind. Lambert (and Yves) have also provided extensive links to research.

Normally in fundraisers like this, I try to give a rousing ending where I talk about democracy, and how we can keep the flame alive with the bracing truth Yves delivers, and all that. And yeah, I believe it’s possible, and maybe even likely. I work on antitrust and big tech, and it’s pretty likely Google is about to get slammed by a giant antitrust suit. Even so, these days I’m mostly in a bad mood, so I get my kicks by thinking about the powerful people Yves regularly annoys by telling the truth about them in ways they have to hear.

I think that’s worth something. In fact I think that’s worth a lot. It’s 2020, and I’m going to enjoy my spite. You can donate here.Ben Meng and the rest of the former employees at CalPERS will not like it.

Fuck ‘em.

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16 comments

  1. Howard Beale IV

    Did my semi-usual donation. It’s gonna be fun watching many industries shed their own IT infrastructure and move to the cloud and get whacked when things go south…

    Reply
  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    The globalists found just the economics they were looking for.
    The USP of neoclassical economics – It concentrates wealth.
    Let’s use it for globalisation.

    Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, observed what the capital accumulation of neoclassical economics did to the US economy in the 1920s.
    “a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped”

    The problem:
    Wealth concentrates until the system collapses.

    Actually that isn’t a problem.
    Wealth concentrates until the system collapses.
    Those with all the wealth pick up distressed assets in fire sales.
    It just gets better and better.

    Milton Freidman rehashed 1920s economics and managed to pass it off as something new.
    He didn’t fix any of its major problems.

    Just wrap it in a new ideology, neoliberalism, and no one will notice its dodgy, old 1920s neoclassical economics which still has its old problems.

    In the 1920s, the markets soared, the economy roared and nearly everyone was making lots of money.
    The money creation of bank loans made the economy boom until they got a financial crisis in 1929.
    The bank loans were not going into activities that grew GDP and debt rose faster than GDP in an unsustainable way.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAStZJCKmbU&list=PLmtuEaMvhDZZQLxg24CAiFgZYldtoCR-R&index=6
    At 18 mins.
    US policymakers didn’t really know what they were doing with neoclassical economics and ran the economy on debt, until they got financial crises in 1929 and 2008.

    Reply
  3. Ignacio

    Matt, you are very kind to mention my modest contribution to NC. More importantly, your contribution to help us notice how important is funding NC is just great. Thanks for this!

    Reply
    1. Carla

      Ignacio, we all count on your comments and posts. You provide vital information and a most credible perspective to NC! Of course, Mr. Stoller does, as well. Many thanks to you both.

      Reply
  4. kate

    George Carlin: “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.” But Naked Capitalism is a broad, sane, kindly-disposed community and I AM in it. And so grateful to be. Mailing my check.

    Reply
  5. Stephen

    I come back here now and then, just a regular bloke who hopes to retire with a little more than social security and without a mortgage payment. I’m fascinated with economics and how the worlds economy churns shit out, but at times the discussion is over my head….hope the 20 bucks helps.

    Reply
  6. skippy

    So a wandering ex – fill in the blank – walks into a blog …

    Having spent almost 60 years of wondering and pondering, some socioeconomic trip wires were trod on and due to past broad spectrum searches I found NC, through previous early works by Yves Smith, in the pod cast days, whilst she was swimming upstream to orthodox economics and rank ideological PR that confused funding with intellectual or academic gravitas.

    What is so important about this blog and the intent it seeks is the means to inform and develop the tools for people to independently decide for themselves and how that might manifest it self into a better outcome for all now and into the future.

    Who are we and whom shall we be and whom dictates that agenda is the question posed and how will that shape the future for others …

    Money is means to an end to support the infrastructure that allows NC to function, but, in my opinion the most important support is spreading its perspective.

    Reply
  7. Arild

    Thank you Matt. I`ve donated. I just want to add that I have enjoyed Hubert Horan`s articles about Uber. They serve as a lens for everything around big unicorns (and now Nicola).

    Now I`m afraid there is only the eulogy of Uber for Mr. Horan to perform. Or maybe it is more proper to write an obituary With a british flair of course.

    Reply
  8. Stephen Reid

    Just a bloke that hopes to retire with a little more than SS and no mortgage payment. This site, at times is a mental stretch but incredibly informative and interesting. Hope my 20 bucks helps.

    Thanks for your work,

    Stephen in rural Nevada

    Reply
  9. Sue inSoCal

    Many thanks, for this, for Yves. Even though much of the hard economics goes over my pitiful head, this site is one of the very few I follow. I hope my small donation helps.

    Reply

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