Wired, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born September 24th, 1896 on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul, Minnesota. I wrote a post last year celebrating his birthday. When I reread it last week, I made a note to drop a comment there, a Happy Birthday wish. Then I watched Bill Moyers Journal last weekend, and the short comment took a longer turn.
Moyers began the Journal by quoting a few lines from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, about his protagonists, the Buchanans:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.
The characters were fresh for me. I saw The Great Gatsby at the Guthrie Theater a few summers ago. Moyers continued:
It’s happening all over again, except this time Tom and Daisy are the titans and speculators on Wall Street who took the money and ran. Their bubble burst, as it did in the roaring twenties, leaving the mess for you and me, our children and our grandchildren, to clean up. The big bad government — so despised in Wall Street boardrooms and beltway think tanks — has stepped in, hoping to save capitalism from the capitalists…
Here we are — cleaning up the mess. I was reminded of our recent Writing Topic, Where Do You Go In Times Of Crisis?. We are a two-tiered culture, steeped in debt: a wealthy culture that privatizes gains and socializes losses; a poorer culture of working class, middle, and lower income people, forced to take more and more personal financial risks to stay afloat.
Bill Moyers Journal digs into some of the deeper social issues behind the current financial crisis. And how everyday people — people like us — are going to pay a heavy price. I’m not good with numbers. I don’t understand the details of financial wizardry. But his words made sense to me, and inspired critical thinking about the future of finance in this country.
Fitzgerald, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
Who wins and who loses? New York Times financial columnists, Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris shed some light on that question. And Moyers interviewed former Nixon White House strategist, and political and economic critic, Kevin Phillips on the “7 sharks in the tank with the economy.” Phillips, author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, said financialization has made us dependant on an industry that’s lost half its marbles, and strapped us with debt unprecedented anywhere else in the world.
The experts also talked about how the state of our money union does not play politics. Reaganomics may have started the economic downslide. But Democratic and Republican administrations have both contributed to the problem. According to Phillips, “the flush of the Democrats (the labor movement) carries a lunchbox; the new soul of the Democratic Party wears a pinstripe suit.” And neither of the current candidates is addressing the reality of the situation. Campaign promises are not going to bail us out this time.
Face To A Name, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota, October 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
The show has the perfect climax — a personal essay on the decision to tear down Yankee Stadium. How the new stadium will be subsidized by the public with tax-free bonds. How the greed and disregard for local community trickles down to neighborhoods, cities, and towns across this country:
And so this Sunday evening we will bid farewell to dear old Yankee Stadium, and await the new colossus to rise from its ruins. It will cast its majestic shadow across one of the country’s poorest neighborhoods, whose residents will watch from the outside as suburban drivers avail themselves of 9,000 new or refurbished parking spaces. Never mind all the exhaust, even though in this part of town respiratory disease is already so high they call it “asthma alley.”
I thought of the new Twins stadium in Minnesota, the same stadium that we the people voted over and over again not to build. Its skeleton now rises like a Phoenix from a giant parking lot behind the Target Center, and towers over a small downtown shelter that feeds and houses the homeless.
I can’t help but wonder — is anyone going to step up and take responsibility for all this debt? How have American lifestyles and personal debt contributed to the problem? Where are our priorities? When will we get back to supporting what is important and vital to a culture – community centers, education for children, the Arts, having enough food on the table, and enough money to live through old age.
Have you been able to save for the future? How is your retirement growing? It might not surprise you to know — not all of us are struggling. (Are we really entertaining a bailout?) I was stunned by this list from Moyers:
- Lehman Brothers – in the last 5 years of his tenure, CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld, Jr. earned $354 million
- Merrill Lynch – the current chair who has been on job for 9 months, John A. Thain, pocketed a $15 million dollar signing bonus. His predecessor, the retired E. Stanley O’Neal, pocketed $161 million after the company reported an 8 billion loss in single quarter.
- Bear Stearns – former CEO James Cayne sold his stake for more than $60 million after the Bear Stearns stock collapse
- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – former heads, Daniel H. Mudd & Richard F. Syron, received 24 million combined in severance packages on top of their salaries
Retreating back into their money. I think there are more than 7 sharks in the tank with the economy, and someone has surely lost their marbles. The question is — who’s counting?
Face, West, The Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul, Minnesota,
October 2007, all photos © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey.
All rights reserved.
So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
-last sentence of The Great Gatsby, inscribed on the tombstone of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre at their grave in Rockville, Maryland
BILL MOYERS JOURNAL – Headlines of Gloom or Doom? Wall Street Woes Around the Globe – September 19th 2008
KEVIN PHILLIPS – discussion with author of Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, and former Nixon White House strategist and political and economic critic (great sense of humor)
WINNERS AND LOSERS – segment with New York Times business and financial columnists Gretchen Morgenson and Floyd Norris as they discuss who wins and who loses in the financial turmoil
YANKEE STADIUM: A BILL MOYERS ESSAY – great essay on the demise of Yankee Stadium and how it relates to the current economic situation
-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, September 25th, 2008