As the destruction from the latest Wall Street firestorm spreads around the world, we find the weekend guests of our storied city at the annual Montana Democratic Party gathering, will be Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Not that there are a lot of votes in the state but Butte is the one place in the Big Sky that is, was, and hopefully, always will be Democratic. So it is fitting that if the candidates come to Montana, it is to a place where cowboy hats and Republicans are seldom seen.
As for the stetsons and the copycats, wherever they are in the majority the wages are low and the GOP rules. Which is why the last time George Bush was in Montana (2005), he fell over himself gushing about all the cowboy hats in the hand-picked Republican audience before he went on to push Social Security privatization. So with the memories of Junior in mind, it is to be hoped that our visitors understand they are in Butte and not just anywhere in the state.
That said, hopefully the candidates will speak like real Democrats and in a manner similar to a speech Harry Truman delivered here on a summer night in 1948 at Naranche Stadium when he said that as far as big business and the Republicans were concened, “the everyday man and woman can go hang.”
And that is what we in Butte should we thinking about,
Or better yet, what Hillary and Barack should be thinking about in the mining city with its long and sometimes bloody history of conflict, where in the past working people paid a great price by standing up to the plundering and looting of the Wall Street owners of the very dangerous but very profitable mines of the Butte hill.
And with all respect to Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf, it is seldom mentioned these days that two of the original stalwarts of FDR’s New Deal came from Butte. They were Burton (‘Bolshevik Burt’) Wheeler as he was named by the Wall Street owners of Montana and Big Jim Murray who combined, served a total of 50 years in the United States Senate. And while Hillary and Barack are still light-years away from being a match for Truman, Wheeler or Murray in serving the public rather then the corporations, we can always hope they will see the light. (When Murray died in 1962 many newspapers across the country described him as ‘the last of the New Dealers.”)
The latest Wall Street outrage – So how about a little tale of our time?
A tall tale of high finance shall we say.
Let us say I am in the beer business. And I am very big in the beer business and we call ourselves the New Economy Brew Corporation.
And things were going pretty good back a few years ago and reasonable money was being made. But as you know, reasonable is never enough. So some of the Ivy League and Stanford University high-flyers in our corporation thought there might be an even better way of both making beer more profitable and gaming the stock market.
Turns out these whiz kids found an outfit called Quack Limited where they could get some substantial price cuts on wheat, barley malts, all the ingredients that go in our beer. We tried it and it seemed like it would get by, if barely. But as I said, there was a lot of money to be made if this flew.
Next we have to get some ratings guys to grade this stuff and then do the right thng because if they don’t say it’s real good then it won’t fly. So we put it in some fancy packaging marked prime premium dexuxe quatlity grade -AAA. And the ratings agencies buy it and it flies. It was sort of like printing money for a while.
Of course, others started copying us in using these same subpar ingredients. And there were some customer complaints but we are making so much money on just selling the beer and getting so much good publicity on Wall Street for our new business plan that nobody cared. You see nobody cares about the product anymore, just the profit. That’s the secret.
And then there was the real jackpot, an even bigger bonanza from our initial sales windfall which is what our corporate whiz kids were counting on. You see, we made a real killing on all the stock exchanges around the world because we are able to play a lot of insider games with our stock whose value kept rising because everybody wanted it at the same time. Needless to say the opportunities this presented for financial gain by fine tuning our own shares to the winds of the market brought many transfers of wealth from the markets to our corporation.
As you can guess, eventually the fizz faded as there was more and more competition with more and more selling the same subpar stuff we were selling but we were still going strong in the profit side of the business. So sure enough, these special ingredients ended up in all the beer of the world. But the stuff doesn’t effect all the beer, only about 24 percent. Maybe more, maybe less, maybe none you just don’t never know. In a 12 pack you might one or two or none. You just don’t know.
Of course back in those days there was always a very slight possibiity the government might make you take your subpar goods off the market, No problem.
Before there were any problems from customers complaining we took care of that possibility with a tried and true solution to any situation brought on by liberal do-gooders who might start spouting off about decency or some regulation or standard on the books somewhere.
We just upped our contributions to both political parties and hired some big powered media flaks to start screaming about the sacred free market and how it was in great danger. And we also threw some serious money around K Street which brought many of the individual members of the now outraged congress to their feet yelling about government threats to the freedoms bestowed on us by the market.
Alas, nothing lasts forever and eventually there was another problem, a big one. Soon enough, all the beer in the world was either infected with the toxic stuff or suspect. And then some customers started dying and that did it.
Not that a lot of people died. Maybe a few thousand or so around the world but that was enough to start the media hysteria and you know how they overblow things like that, even quoting Ralph Nader and those types.
So we came to the point where we couldn’t sell our product nor could anybody else sell their stuff and we went bankrupt and so did our competitors. Not only that, the hysteria spread to Wall Street and estimated losses from the New Economy Brew bubble may run above a trillion or two.
In fact, people are so frightened of these financial implications that suddenly much of the world’s cash flow has stopped just because of some trillions of gallons of bad beer or sub-prime products as they are being called. Not only that there is a coming litigation crisis unless something is done. Stores will be sued for selling it, banks for financing the product, brokerages for selling our stock, rating agencies for approving it and on and on.
And that’s it. The business may have turned out to be a god-damn mess but I must confess that we made so much on just the buying and selling of the stock that I dont really care. I have no regrets and I smile when I think about the early glory days. As for the courts and all the debt, long ago we started moving money off-shore.
And if we in the industry keep crying long enough about our losses, the White House, the Treasury, the Fed and the congress will help us recoup those losses but we still get to keep our earlier profits. And you can’t beat a deal like that.
End of tale.
And so it goes in the world of high finance.
And the moral of this tale:
Remember these are the kind of guys and gals who want to take over Social Security and everything else they can get their hands on. And they never change. Again, like Harry Truman said, as far as most Americans, and even having a roof over their head, are concerned, “the everyday man and woman can go hang.”
So hopefully this financial crisis and its evil roots are the subject on which Hillary and Barack will speak of Saturday night in the old mining town.
And we can further hope both will refrain from the stale beer and slogans of the present campaign and honor the memory of Truman up at the old stadium by giving Wall Street and the rest of the evildoers hell on another Butte night in 2008.
And the candidates can do that by taking to the disturbing economic events surrounding us with candor and honesty on Saturday night at the Butte Civic Center.
And a good place to start.
What about what nobody is talking about? And that is rewarding those responsible for high financial crimes against the public good.
Between the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and now the Federal Home Loan Banks system, the Federal government has given, not loaned, $730 billion to the reckless and greedy Wall Street investment banks since January 22 of this year.
JACKIE CORR lives in Butte, Montana. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org