The book Can Jokes Bring Down the Government by Metahaven deconstructs the origins and effects that jokes and memes can have on politics, society, and culture. The book argues that jokes are “the highest form of power” (pg 56), easily accessible, and gaining traction in modern society. This is increasingly common with how quickly trends can spread through the Internet nowadays. Should a post go viral it could be seen by thousands, if not millions, of people overnight. Political jokes have been around for a significant amount of time, going as far back in just America’s history to May 9, 1754, when the political cartoon “Join or Die” was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette and then reproduced in newspapers throughout the colonies. From that point onward, images and designs have become effective vehicles for expressing an idea quickly. And, as the book says, the familiarity of these memes can evolve to the point where they do not even need all of the meme’s original elements to get the idea across, as long as there is a partial indicator that connects to the original meme.
I personally have seen a number of political memes in recent years online and on television. For example, there was no shortage of memes during the recent 2016 election. Memes were even utilized by political campaigns in hopes of swaying younger voters to one side or the other (though this was arguably unsuccessful as often times memes are considered “dead” once they are adopted by politicians and corporations). Another instance of this was when memes made appearances at protests and marches. These memes did spread on social media and make people pay attention to what was happening, even if they did not change their opinions. Memes have no trouble grabbing attention, but whether they are persuasive is debatable.
I have included a link to an article that goes more in depth in describing how memes are replicated and spread. It does this by likening a meme to an “infection” in a “competitive environment” (the Internet). The article defines memes as an immediately recognizable image/video/etc. that has been copied a number of times. I have also included a link to an article about how Russia recently banned any memes that portrays a prominent political figure in a negative way. Both of these articles show how memes have affected the spread of information and opens a debate about whether memes have any real political power.
- Middle-class Americans bore the heaviest weight of the 2008 Financial Crisis.
- Wall Street banks faced mostly symbolic consequences and individuals made gains.
- Legislation in response to the crisis has failed to equally distribute the consequences of the financial collapse.
“The bank bailout cost US taxpayers nothing? Think again” by Moira Herbst (The Guardian)
- The article points to a report from the Congressional Budget Office that states the 2008 bailouts actually costed US taxpayers $21 billion instead of $24 billion
- Goes on to say that we have still not held the banks accountable for their actions
- Points out that in the last three years banks have spent around $1 billion to lobby against the Dodd-Frank Act created in 2010
- Weighs likelihood of another bailout in the future
- Suggests, should there be another bailout, the banks should create more jobs and return a percentage of profits to the public
- Also considers breaking up the banks as an option so the consequences of a bank failing will not be too severe
Thesis: The article argues that the bank bailout, in contradiction to repeated assurances, cost the taxpayers a significant amount of money and jobs. In addition, it warns that the consequences for the banks were not severe enough and, if something is not done, the US could wind up in a similar situation in the future. A few suggestions are added at the end of the article as potential solutions or at least issues to think about more in depth. Links are included in the article to various reports.
Herbst, Moira. “The Bank Bailout Cost US Taxpayers Nothing? Think Again.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 May 2013, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/28/bank-bailout-cost-taxpayers.
“Financial Crisis Cost Tops and $22 Trillion, GAO Says” by Eleazar David Melendez (Huffington Post)
- The loss of US homeowners totaled $9.1 billion
- Federal agencies spent around $1.1 billion to enact the Dodd-Frank financial reform
- Better Markets placed the cost of the financial crisis around $12.8 trillion
Thesis: This article states the perceived cost of the financial crisis. It also mentions the Dodd-Frank financial reform and how there is concern over whether it will help fix the economy. At the end, it criticizes Wall Street for focusing on the the reform rather than taking responsibility for how their actions influenced the largest crisis since the Great Depression.
Melendez, Eleazar David. “Financial Crisis Cost Tops $22 Trillion, GAO Says.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 14 Feb. 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/14/financial-crisis-cost-gao_n_2687553.html.
“Recession’s True Cost is Still Being Tallied” by Eduardo Porter (NY Times)
- Includes a link to a report by three economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas who attempted to figure out how much the financial crisis cost
- The report says that at a minimum, the crisis cost nearly $20,000 for each person in the US, though the effects on taxpayers’ well being could raise the price even more
- Talks about how banks are attempting to block pieces of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, arguing that regulations would cost jobs
- The crisis has greatly affect the growth of the economy, and there are immeasurable other costs, such as people’s physical and mental health
- The International Monetary Fund estimates that the federal government’s debt to the public sits at around $12.6 trillion
Thesis: This article attempts to tally how much the financial crisis would cost each American citizen. It includes links to a number of other resources and reports to show how it reached certain numbers. In the end, it estimates approximately $120,000 per person, though this number could be less than the actual amount as it is impossible to calculate the cost of human suffering from poverty, crime, and unemployment.
Porter, Eduardo. “Recession’s True Cost Is Still Being Tallied.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/01/22/business/economy/the-cost-of-the-financial-crisis-is-still-being-tallied.html.
Synthesis: Each of these articles attempt to calculate the true cost on US taxpayers that the financial crisis of 2008 had. In addition, they criticize the banks’ attempts to block or at least soften the regulations that laws such as Dodd-Frank would impose on them. Also, many admit that the true cost of the financial crisis is incalculable due to the fact that one cannot place a cost on human suffering from the rise in unemployment rates.
According to the report titled “Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse”, a piece written by the U.S Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Investigations, the financial crisis of 2008 was a result of four key factors: the banks taking on high risk lending with subprime loans, the failure of regulatory agencies like the Office of Thrift Supervision to keep banks in check, the misleading credit ratings that encouraged investments in high risk home loans, and the investment banks that knowingly sold poor quality assets that were likely to lose value. For each of these points, the report included examples and statistics that were the result of a two-year investigation.
In the article “The 2008 Housing Crisis” by Colin McArthur and Sarah Edelman for the Center for American Progress, the blame is placed mainly on the predatory lending practices of the banks. In addition, the article focuses on discriminatory lending policies that had reintroduced segregation by making it harder for people of color to attain homes in wealthier areas. It goes on to try and exonerate the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) of any significant contributions to the eventual financial crisis. To do this the article shifts nearly all of the blame to Wall Street’s demand for mortgages, which resulted in high risk lending with insufficient oversight. The authors do try and back up their argument with a number of examples, though it is clear that the article is biased in its approach.
Upon examining both of these articles, it is clear that both find predatory lending practices to be the prominent cause of the financial crisis. The main area where they differ is how much blame should be placed on the government for the the crisis. The report states shortcomings on the government’s part in addition to those of the banks, but the article from the Center for American Progress is focused on absolving federal housing programs from any blame. Failure to acknowledge any organization’s shortcomings is not helpful and will not encourage better policies or oversight in the future to prevent an event like this again. I believe that, based upon my reading of both articles, the government is in no way free of responsibility for the crisis, but the major factor that led to the collapse was the predatory lending.
I found a video from Crash Course particularly helpful as the visuals and audio helped me learn more than just reading. The video spends a majority of its time explaining the financial crisis and its causes with the end part delving into how it affected our current society. Though there are pieces missing from the video (specifically the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the financial crisis), there is a good amount of debate between the causes in the comments below it. That being said, one should always exercise caution when reading through a YouTube comments section as while some people are genuinely trying to understand the financial crisis’ cause and and consequences, there are a number of unhelpful comments. There are a number of viewpoints and articles though that might be helpful when considering alternate views on this issue.
In addition, I have included a link to a short article written in 2008 by an author in the UK. It was interesting to read to see what the financial crisis looked like to other countries around the world.