Edited by: Mark Tanner
Publisher: Level Press
David Malone is a British documentary film maker. The book Debt Generation is a compilation of the comments he wrote on the Guardian newspaper’s website from July 04, 2008 to May 11, 2010 in response to news stories on the global financial crisis. Since the comments were written in real time without an organized narrative, the book reads like a diary.
The book reflects David’s anger and frustration at the response of the Governments and Regulators in the US and the European Union countries to the crisis. Using non financial jargon, David writes how the financial sector benefited from the actions of the authorities at the expense of the tax payers, how the financial sector influenced the authorities to take actions favourable to the financial sector, how the financial sector aided and abetted the authorities in countries like Greece in hiding the debts, how the financial sector profited from market changing events brought about by themselves and how the financial sector decoupled itself from the rest of the economy so that greater profit is made to pay themselves greater bonuses.
The picture that emerges from the book is how a captive political class does everything demanded by the financial class in the grand project of privatizing profits and socializing losses.
In fact the political class did more than what was required of them as was evident in the bailout of the American Insurance giant, AIG. Most financial transactions are contracts between two parties. When AIG was on the verge of default in its credit default swap (CDS) contracts with counterparties such as Goldman Sachs, Deutsch Bank and other financial institutions, the US Treasury bailed out AIG by paying the counterparties. Under the guise of saving the global financial system the US Treasury paid the counterparties 100 cents on the dollar without any negotiations, although AIG had already posted funds as collateral with the counter parties as required by the CDS contracts. In other words, the counter parties got more than 100 cents on the dollar as settlement on unregulated CDS contracts at the American tax payers’ expense. If AIG had been led to fail like Lehman Brothers, in a bankruptcy court administered restructuring of AIG, the counterparties would have got much less than 100 cents on the dollar.
The explosion in the number of CDS contracts started following the passage of the “truly non partisan” Commodity Futures Modernization Act passed by the Republican dominated Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in the 90s. CDS is a guarantee against default of a debtor in a “contract” between a creditor and a debtor. The buyer of the CDS promises a stream of payments to the seller, in return for which, the seller will pay out the value of an “underlying credit” if the aforementioned “contract” fails, due to the default of the debtor. Unlike an insurance contract which is regulated, a CDS is a swap and not technically insurance with no requirement for the buyer of the CDS to own the “underlying credit” or have “insurable interest” in the underlying credit. AIG’s CDS contracts obligated AIG to pay Counterparties the value of the “underlying credit” when certain mortgage backed securities failed. AIG had written a truck load of CDS based on mortgage backed securities which failed spectacularly with the collapse of the US housing market.
AIG’s bailout followed the failure of Lehman Brothers which was not saved by the US Treasury. On the AIG bailout, David wrote:
“Between Lehman and AIG, the US Treasury chose AIG. That is a measure of how much more important the insurance of the debt is over the debt itself. The insurance is the veneer of respectability plated on the tin beneath. Take it away, and the nakedness of every banks’ assets are exposed. That’s why they saved AIG”.
David’s book is punctuated with many more telling punch lines. Some examples:
On how the new deal saved the nation then and how today the political class is dismantling the safety nets to please the financial class:
“It was said in the Great Depression the market was sacrificed to save the country. Today we risk sacrificing the country to save the market”;
On the future prospects for the taxpayers:
“The good times are over. Debt fuelled consumer capitalism has been knocked out cold and neither Maynard Keynes nor Milton Friedman can revive it”;
On the banks trading for their own profits using techniques such as high frequency trading:
“And that’s what markets do: they trade volatility. They make it. They get others to make it for them. They try to get inside knowledge of who will make what waves. Those who get to know ‘front-run’ events. They cheat”;
On the unproductive casino economy promoted by the financial class:
“What we will have is a paper recovery in the financial sector; what we won’t have is a recovery made either from consumption or manufacturing”;
On the Plutocratic/ Oligarchy:
” There was no debate! Our political class has been captured, both intellectually and morally, by the financial class and its ruling ideology. They could only ever see one solution: a solution that meant the rich kept their wealth at the expense of everyone else.”
The book is available on Kindle. In the Kindle version, the references and notes are very good, with hyperlinks to papers, books, audio of speeches and video of films and documentaries.
David wrote the last comment on May 11, 2010. He continues to air his views on his blog Golem XIV (www.golemXIV.org). David wrote his comments in the Guardian under the name Golem XIV.