Reading Response 2 – Katie Schallick

I thought these two chapters made some pretty cool points about comedy as a weapon, especially considering our current political climate where normalcy is nonexistent. The thought posed, “Jokes are an active, living an mobile form of disobedience.” (p55) is most prominent to me by the rise of political commentary coming from The Daily Show alums John Oliver, Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah. These people are comedians—but now they have immersed themselves in the business of making us laugh about the rampant corruption in our government, while also getting us pissed enough to do something about it.

While older generations trusted well-known anchormen such as Walter Cronkite, these comedians have become trusted voices amongst younger Americans. Personally, I see them as free-agents, not tied down by heavy regulations from major network contracts. For the most part, it seems Comedy Central and HBO let these guys say what they want, and therefore become reliable and trusted voices. Many times John Oliver’s program ends with a seemingly pointless bit, re-enforcing the idea that “Responding to a sensical question with a meaningless answer is an effective tool to negate the politics of the frame in which the question was posed; and politics has become so dispiriting and tiring that it inspires a dadaist troll mentality.” (p58)

Moving forward to this idea of connecting our current trend of memes with Dadaism, I read the article a while ago, “‘Neo-Dadaism’: Absurdist Humor and the Millennial Generation” by Megan Hoins. What an amazing title that somehow didn’t steer me away. This article really gave meaning and validity to the ‘art’ of meme-making, “Both the artists and the consumers are largely composed of millennials, the current younger generation…This generation is fueled by a similar desire to that of the Dadaists: to address the disillusionment of our generation in relation to all of the current events we are witnessing, particularly within the United States.” That thought is spot on—it almost seems like every episode of John Oliver’s show he’s trying not to lose it. At the conclusion of the 2016 Election, he dubbed it, “I thought I wanted it to be over but now that it’s over I wish it was still going because it turns out the ending is even worse twenty-fucking-sixteen.” It is comforting that there are voices out there saying, “Yeah, it’s crazy out there right now.”—because that’s what everything feels like, and instead of curling into a ball and weeping, laughing, seems to be the way we’re coping.

John Oliver’s alternative title to the “Presidential Election of 2016”

While I often feel memes are a sort-of “poor-man’s” humor and often disregarded by my parents, Hoins’ article gives memes a sense of validity, “Past generations have enjoyed family sitcoms as their sources for humor, for example, implicitly identifying their cultural values as having to do with family and spending time with them to connect and form lasting bonds. The millennial generation, in contrast, enjoys the absurd and the weird, implying that they may value the willingness to profess one’s viewpoint, or perhaps the ironic or satiric approach to viewing life and the problems we all face on a daily basis.” This thought ties in with the concluding thought of the Metahaven’s text, that a designer’s role isn’t necessarily pushing their opinion, or another entity’s opinion, but that in our current political and social state, individual voices and opinions are highly valued, “Designers may sometime be creating such tools and spaces: not so much designing their content, as making room for other to invent a new use, a new message, a new meaning within.” (p77)

Cited Source:

Megan Hoins. Medium. ““Neo-Dadaism”: Absurdist Humor and the Millennial Generation” Feb 23, 2016. https://medium.com/@meganhoins/neo-dadaism-absurdist-humor-and-the-millennial-generation-f27a39bcf321

Secondary Research, Dispossession of Wealth – Katie Schallick

1. “The Big Bank Bailout”

Mike Collins, Forbes. “The Big Bank Bailout” July 14 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikecollins/2015/07/14/the-big-bank-bailout/#56d005ea2d83

Forbes is an American business magazine, it’s motto “The Capitalist Tool”. Mark Collins was a VP and GM at a Machinery Corporation and writes for Forbes. This article is relatively up-to-date, written in 2015 after the passing of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Data Points

  • $700 billion that the treasury department used to save the banks during the financial crash in September of 2008
  • The Special Inspector General for TARP summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with the $4.6 trillion already paid out.
  • 12 largest banks now control 70% of all bank assets.
  • $7.7 trillion of the secret emergency lending was only disclosed to the public after Congress forced a one-time audit of the Federal Reserve in November of 2011
  • $5 billion in restitution from Standard and Poor’s for its part in falsifying ratings.
  • American Division of the HSBC bank did money laundering for Mexican drug cartels to the tune of $881 billion according to the Justice Department. The penalty to this bank for blatant corruption was $1.9 billion and the New York Times laments that HSBC was too big to indict. Nobody goes to jail.
  • JP Morgan was fined $296.9 million and Goldman Sachs was fined $550 million for actions
  • An important part of the Dodd Frank legislation was the Volker Rule, which was to bar banks from proprietary trading or making trades using customer funds. The legislation was scheduled to go into effect in 2012 but lobbyists have successfully stalled the bill until at least 2017.

Thesis

The Bank Bailout, while successfully keeping the country and global economies from crashing in 2008, was a ‘quick-fix’, allowing banks to continue to grow and make riskier deals predicated on their ‘too big to fail’ status that offers a safety net in the face of another financial disaster.

2. “Neil Barofsky on the “Broken Promises” of the Bank Bailouts”

Jason Breslow, Frontline. “Neil Barofsky on the “Broken Promises” of the Bank Bailouts” August 1 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/neil-barofsky-on-the-broken-promises-of-the-bank-bailouts/

This piece is an interview with Neil Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor and once a special inspector general of TARP (Trouble Asset Relief Program). Only four years after the bailout, Barofsky, a long-time Democrat, finds fault with the Democrat-backed Dodd-Frank Act. 

Data Points

  • They [JPMorgan Chase] took hundreds of billions of dollars of deposits backed by the United States government and made incredibly risky bets that blew up [—a loss of $6 billion]. That’s a direct function of too big to fail.
  • TARP was supposed to help homeowners, and that was part of the very bargain that was struck in order to get TARP passed. … We had a housing program that was an utter failure by any definition if you look at what its original goal was — up to 4 million homeowners helped, and today it’s around 800,000, 20 percent of that goal.
  • On the Washington side, in addition to that, you have the problems of regulators who often have incentives not to be really good regulators. The curse there again is partly the revolving door.

Thesis

Four years after the government bailout, banks have received the most financial assistance with continual lack of regulation, and promises to homeowners and tax payers have fell short and have been disregarded.

3. “What Was the Bank Bailout Bill?”

Kimberly Amadeo, The Balance. “What Was the Bank Bailout Bill?” May 18 2017. https://www.thebalance.com/what-was-the-bank-bailout-bill-3305675

Kimberly Amadeo is a economic and business news writer. She has appeared on Fox News and typically leans conservative. The Balance is an online news source about financial empowerment.

Data Points

  • The House finally approved that version on October 3, 2008. President Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 into law within hours.
  • The bill established the Troubled Assets Relief Program.
  • It increased Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation limit for bank deposits to $250,000 per account. It allowed FDIC to tap federal funds as needed through 2009. That allayed any fears that the agency itself might go bankrupt.
  • The taxpayer was never out the entire $700 billion. First, Congress only authorized $350 billion to be lent out in 2008.
  • Obama never used the TARP funds for more bank bailouts. Instead, he launched the $787 billion Economic Stimulus Package.
  • By 2012, banks had repaid $292 billion of TARP funds. That left only $120 billion still outstanding.

Thesis

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 brought relief and stability and was the most inclusive solution to the looming crisis, and contrary to popular belief, the entire $700 billion burden did not fall entirely on taxpayers.

Synthesis Statement

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 is met with much criticism. While it did provide immediate relief and calm, it hasn’t changed the financial system and has only encouraged banks deemed ‘too big to fail’ to continue to deal even riskier loans and to continue to grow in size.

Reading Response 1 – Katie Schallick

The 2008 Housing Crisis was a disaster that had early tremors but once it began, could not be controlled. After reading the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “Wall Street and the Financial Collapse”, it can be concluded that the 2008 Housing Crisis was caused by hazardous lending practices by large investment banks that were poorly regulated by government programs. Conversely, Sarah Edelman and Colin McArthur’s, “The 2008 Housing Crisis. Don’t Blame Federal Housing Programs for Wall Street’s Recklessness” suggests claims that the Financial Crisis was caused in part by government programs (such as the Office of Thrift Supervision), meant to encourage home ownership, are erroneous, and should not lead to the dissolution of said programs. While these two texts offer slightly differing conclusions, I believe while there is no question that the banks practiced reckless lending tactics that led to the 2008 Housing Crisis, the role of government programs and the consequences they face continue to be under scrutiny.

The Subcommittee on Investigations notes four root causes of the financial crisis: high risk lending practices, regulation failures, falsified credit ratings and toxic financial products. Based on these root causes, it can be observed that the Subcommittee looks to give the banks and credit rating companies (Moody’s, S&P) the larger portion of blame in the causation of the financial crisis. The Subcommittee’s action plan involves strengthening federal regulations on financial institutions. The Center of American Progress’ piece, however, finds major beef with any suggest that the government is to blame for the crisis. While reading this piece, I was coming across a lot of bias—or at least, the author was not hiding their opinion or thoughts on conservative viewpoints. The CPA’s piece urges the reader to see the importance of government programs and place sole blame on predatory lending practices. This all seems like a game of pickle, though, because while the practices of the bank were, by no doubt, shady and predatory, where were the regulatory government institutions to observe and stop these practices? While, the CPA argues, these government programs are essential to the American Dream of home ownership, they also have a job to do—and in the case of the 2008 Housing Crisis and the years prior, were not doing their job.

After listening to This American Life’s special episode, recorded in 2008, on the Financial Crisis,  there was no doubt that the banks’ predatory practices were the wheels of the crash, as shown by the creation of CDOs—

Clip from: This American Life, “The Giant Pool of Money” May 9, 2008. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/355/the-giant-pool-of-money

 

This episode includes interviews from two bankers on different levels of their companies, both dealing subprime loans and witnessing the crisis unfold. Their stories confirm the shady practices of the banks and the greed fueling these loans. These interviews, however, do not mention government regulations—therefore I feel a lack in sufficient evidence from these three sources to conclude that the government regulatory groups were committing any sort of fraud that would cause them to bear the brunt of the blame. What is very evident to me, however, is the blatant greed and unsafe practices by the banks, and the many people who knew the banks were acting without responsibility.