Reading Response 2 / Alisha Lee

The reading ‘Can Jokes Bring Down the Government’ is especially relevant in today’s political environment here in America. During last year’s political election, memes & the internet played a powerful part in the election, and continue to do so a year into the Trump administration.

In fact, comedy played a very large part in allowing Trump to get elected in the first place, something that many comedians realized after the surprise results of the 2016 election. Late night comedy shows played a large part in the divide that continued to become increasingly obvious over the course of the election season. An article in the Atlantic from May 2017 points out Trump has long declared that he views the media as the enemy, and with almost all late night comedy shows using Trump, his supporters, or conservatives as a whole as the butt of their jokes, it becomes easy to see how those viewers would come to see major media as against them, as every major cable channel has a version of a late night comedy show. It also becomes easy to see how these shows may have played a role in getting Trump through the first part of the primaries, as they portrayed him as a fool, a clown, and an oaf rather than an actual contender for the highest position of power in America. We’ve acted similarly with leaders from other countries as well, namely Kim Jung Un and Vladimir Putin. Because we view these leaders as a joke, it becomes a lot harder to empathize with the people of their respective countries, which, in the case of North Korea, are facing food shortages and human rights violations.

Now that Trump has been elected, jokes, memes, and the Internet have continued to play a large part in how America interacts with his administration. Trump has become notable for his use on Twitter, and this has often been used as a source of jokes, such as ‘Covfefe’, which went viral back in May. A Wired article written after the strange tweet went viral noted that a sad joke going around after his election was that ‘America had just elected a meme as president’, and noted the truth in that statement with the examples of ‘Trump & the glow orb’ and Pope Francis’ face upon meeting Trump. However, the current administration is also notable in their negative reactions to jokes about them, with SNL often receiving critical comments from the White House on their portrayal of Trump and various people within his administration, such as Ivanka, and Sean Spicer. Trump has called Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of himself ‘terrible’ & ‘unwatchable’, often commenting on ratings, etc.  Kathy Griffin in particular received enormous backlash after she made a joke involving a fake Trump’s severed head, which led to an investigation from the Secret Service and the loss of her job with CBS.

With the current administration having such a thin skin, comedy has become a powerful double-edged sword. While it may be able to point out problems with the current administration, it also is what enabled it, and it’s important that we keep that in mind when we say that jokes can bring down a government.

How Late Night Comedy Fueled The Rise Of Trump

The Internet Defines Cofveve

Secondary Research/Alisha Lee

Thesis: Since millennials came of age at the start of recession, they don’t spend as freely as earlier generations, seeing how their parents struggled. In addition, they often don’t have as much money to begin with, since they have large amounts of student debt and incomes haven’t increased.
  • 7 out of 10 students graduate with student loan debt.
  • The average amount of debt that students graduate with is $30,000, which does not include those who take out loans and don’t graduate.
  • Around 1/3 of millennials don’t have money in their savings accounts
Thesis: The Millennial generation is more likely to spend their (limited) funds on experiences, which means that traditional higher-priced physical markets are struggling.
  • 75% of millennials feel the political and economic state of the world impacted them heavily
  • 71% of millennials cite that experiences are the most important thing in their lives
  • Vacations – 43% of millennials are ‘work martyrs’ where they feel guilty for taking time off, also don’t have funds to go on vacation
  • marriage- millennials marry less and later-more debt, living with parents or roommates longer, pushing marriage until financial stability
  • homeownership-can’t afford down payments, stagnant wages and rising home prices
  • diamonds-companies cutting prices, millennials prefer experiences rather than expensive, exploitive goods
Thesis: Millennials and their high student debt are affecting society due to its far-reaching consequences.
  • Americans owe more than a trillion dollars in student loans, millennials carry most of it
  • 41% of millennials are putting off buying a house
  • 31% are putting off buying a car
  • 17% are putting off marriage
  • 31% putting off having kids
  • Average bachelors degree holder takes 21 years to pay off student debt

Reading Response 1/Alisha Lee

The piece “Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: An Anatomy of a Financial Crisis”, places much of the blame for the financial crisis on private-sector lenders and lack of regulation from the federal government. It also serves as a recap of how different pieces within the US economy interacted with each other in the years leading up to the crisis, and how all seemed to ignore risks in order to profit in the short-term. Thrift banks like Washington Mutual, which in 2008 was the largest thrift bank and the sixth-largest bank in the US, sought to increase profits by creating and securitizing high-risk mortgages worth hundreds of billions of dollars. WaMu leaned more towards a high-risk lending strategy because high-risk mortgages and loans sold for higher prices on Wall Street. By selling these low-quality loans, WaMu wasn’t immediately linked to the increase of these mortgages falling through, because WaMu didn’t own them anymore. The Office of Thrift Supervision identified problems with WaMu’s lending strategies repeatedly, but relied on WaMu to police and enforce itself, without going in itself to enforce correctional practices. No punishments were ever given for WaMu’s failure to follow through on the requested corrections. In addition, OTS butted heads with the FDIC, resisting FDIC pressure to impose stronger punishment on WaMu, such as by downgrading their safety and security rating, and refusing to work with FDIC officers by providing them with access to office space and bank records. Before the crisis, credit rating companies like the two named in the piece, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, were giving many of the securitizations created from high-risk loans/mortgages ratings that insinuated that they were investment quality, and were safe investments to make. This continued through 2006, even as those high-risk loans and mortgages began to default in large numbers. By 2007, Moodys and S&P began to reverse the ratings they had given to these high-risk securitizations, which meant that companies like pension funds and insurance companies had to quickly sell their investments, as by law they aren’t allowed to hold low-rated securities. No one would buy these low-rated securities, and any new securities created were given these low ratings. Since no one was buying, everyone had these investments that were now worth nothing. The main determined cause for the large amount of inaccurate ratings given was because it was not in the interest of short-term profits. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs are named as players in the financial crisis due to their promotions of these high-risk securitizations, even as they knew they were a liability to their clients, and profited from their sale even when their clients were losing money.

The piece “The 2008 Housing Crisis” by the Center for American Progress places the blame for the financial crisis even more so on the private sector. It absolves federal programs of any blame, even painting them as victims of the financial crisis. While they by no means caused the financial crisis, absolving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of any blame does not acknowledge that they still participated in the same actions as many other financial institutions before the crisis. As Wall Street increased its percentage of ownership of securitizations, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lowered their standards in order to keep shareholders from panicking, purchasing many of those same high-risk loans and mortgages as other financial institutions, and lowered their credit quality standards to guarantee Alt-A loans, which defaulted at high rates. While they may not have set the financial crisis into motion, their actions in chase of profit contributed just the same.

The third piece I read was published by Forbes, and written by Steve Denning. Entitled “Lest We Forget: Why We had a Financial Crisis”, this piece helps lay out the situation that allowed the financial crisis to happen how and when it did. In terms of the blame of the financial crisis, Denning agrees with the other two pieces that seeking short-term profits is what is to blame. However, he goes a step further than the other two pieces and provides a timeline of the economic background before the crisis. In 1998, the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed. Before this, only investment banks were allowed to ‘gamble’, but after this repeal, normal banks with deposits guaranteed by the FDIC were also allowed to make investments and ‘gamble’. In 2000, after the ‘dot-com boom’, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to 1%. This was great for borrowers, but cut into financial institutions’ profits. This led to asset managers seeking more profitable opportunities, such as high-yield mortgage-based securities. These securities had been given high credit ratings by credit rating agencies, so seemed like safe, profitable investments. Asset managers relied on these ratings without doing proper research into the securities. In 2004, the SEC reduced capital requirements for 5 banks on Wall Street. These names may sound familiar: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns. They ramped their leverage to extreme levels, which left little room for error. Unfortunately, this period had a lot of errors, and only 2 of these 5 banks made it through the financial crisis, those two only surviving because of the government bailout. Also in 2004, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency overwrote state laws regarding national banks, including anti-predatory laws, which allowed national lenders into these states. Back on Wall Street, rewards are given primarily for short-term profits, which led them to bundle those same high-risk mortgages. As previously established, many of these high-risk loans were created and then quickly sold off. Seeing how profitable this business was, commercial banks began rewarding their employees on basis loan volume rather than quality as well. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s market share had declined during this time, as mentioned in the article for the Center for American Progress, so they jumped in to profit as much as possible, though later. Overall, standards were relaxed for mortgages and loans in exchange for higher profits. Denning points out that though both public and private sector played a part, the public sector’s contributions were done at the behest of the private sector, which lobbied heavily.