The Blame America Never Crowd

« February 2008 »

Memo to Scott Burns: NO. Also, YOU ARE DUMB.

Here's my advice to anyone living in the Dallas area. Do not, under any circumstances, follow the business advice in the columns of Scott Burns. Because while I cannot be certain if the Scott Burns who writes business columns for the Dallas Morning News is the same Scott Burns who wrote something incredibly stupid for MSN Money, I'm concerned that even if they're two different people, the MSN Money article is so stupid that it might be affecting ALL people named Scott Burns, not just the author.

Allow me to present you with the question I started this column by answering, a question posed in the headline to Burns' MSN Money column. "Did terrorists cause the U.S. housing mess?"

Oh, just fuck off right there. I can understand it, even though I think it's wrong, when the U.S. government labels everyone it drops a bomb on in Iraq a member of Al Qaeda. I can understand it, even through I stridently disagree, every time someone mistakes a bearded guy on a plane for a member of Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda engineering the mortgage crisis? That's the kind of premise that ought to get you laughed out of... anywhere, really. The MSN editorial offices, the Federalist Society, Al Qaeda headquarters, and the corner of the bus station that smells like pee.

And don't think that maybe Scott Burns is bringing this up to debunk it because some other crazy motherfucker had the idea and Burns, in a moment of weakness, dignified it with a response. No. He puts this forth as a valid idea, based on... ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"We were in the second year of a brutal three-year stock market decline when radical Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center. Even so, borrowed money wasn't dirt cheap. The U.S. federal funds rate, down from nearly 6% during the Internet boom years, was 3.65% in August 2001. It fell to 1.75% within weeks of the terrorist attacks. Policymakers struggled to keep the economy from coming to a standstill."

In other words, the economy was going into the shitter, so the government lowered interest rates to keep Wall Street happy, because that's what they do. We panicked because a couple of buildings blew up, so they did it some more. At this point, you could maybe, MAYBE see Osama Bin Laden thinking he might get the Fed to cut rates by a couple of points. Maybe. If you're not that bright. But that was 2001. Where's the link to the housing crisis?

"The U.S. federal funds rate continued to drop, hitting a low of 0.98% in December 2003... U.S. home buyers discovered that very ordinary paycheques could now buy extraordinary homes... Interest rates on home mortgages dropped fast enough that the U.S. National Association of Realtors' housing affordability index showed that almost anyone could buy a house somewhere in America.. As a practical matter, borrowed money was virtually free... Buying and owning a home was literally a cheap thrill."

Now we start to see a hint of the crazy stupid, as filtered through someone who looks at everything from the standpoint of the financial world. If you follow his logic, then Al Qaeda's fiendish plot boils down to, at this point, blowing up buildings so that lots of Americans would be able to afford expensive houses. For, I might add, with a brief pause to point out the misuse of the word "literally", a CHEAP THRILL.

That's it. That's the whole of the argument. There is no more. Buildings fell, interest fell, people bought houses, house prices rose... HOUSING CRISIS. Oh, wait, there is one paragraph that attempts to dismiss the entire contents of that ellipsis in his desperate attempt to pin the failings of a greed-centered, unregulated, robber-baron American financial system that conjured fake wealth out of thin air by pretending it existed and then seeing how much stuff they could buy before anyone found out it didn't on a bunch of guys with AK-47's hiding in caves. And that paragraph is a fucking doozy:

"We could, of course, blame the U.S. Federal Reserve for keeping interest rates too low for too long. We could also blame Wall Street. Or mortgage lenders and their brokers. And we could blame the borrowers for being foolish. We certainly can't take any pride in the greed-driven decisions that fuelled the problem. But one big fact remains: None of this misery would have happened if Sept. 11 hadn't happened first."

Um, Scott? That's not a fact. You can't put "fact" and "would have" in the same fucking sentence. What you think "would have" happened in some fictional Earth-2 where the planes missed the World Trade Center and crashed harmlessly into Redding, CT is not actual reality. Especially when you sum up by adding INTENT to the mix:

"As opponents, the terrorists have played the U.S. painfully well. They bleed Americans internally with financial upheaval. They bleed Americans externally with the cost of oil and military expenditures. Leaders -- political and business -- have underestimated both America's vulnerability and the strategic smarts of opponents."

Could there be a more blind example of the doctrine of American exceptionalism? Even when we fuck up our own economy, rip people off, create a giant Ponzi scheme and call it "innovation in financing", and suddenly realize that it is, in fact, biting us right on our collective economic ass, it cannot POSSIBLY be the fault of the fucked-up priorities, lack of morals, and pursuit of ridiculous profits that got us here. No, it's September 11's fault. Even Rudy Giuliani didn't have the balls to go that far.