I’ve said it before and, obviously, I’ll say it again: economics is not going to solve the problem. Economics is the problem. But I’ll go further today than my usual bashing of money and math. Today is about the psychology of capitalism and my belief that the business mentality is actually a mental disorder.

This morning I read two pieces that caught my attention. The first one, written by pseudo-intellectual and conservative apologist Ben Stein in THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR is entitled “A LETTER TO THE LAZY” in which he expresses his disagreement with the current Occupy protests now growing all over the world.

“…the overwhelming majority of the people on Wall Street get up early, work an incredibly long, hard honest day, mostly trying to make money for your parents and grandparents and for the endowments of your universities — and for a very few wealthy people who often leave their money to your schools.

To tar all of Wall Street with the same brush is outrageously unfair and false.

Look, many of you have educations. If you want to fight the evil you see in finance and industry, get to work reading the corporate filings, see if there has been fraud, and where you find it, report it to the SEC or write about it or blog about it.

But don’t just whine and beat drums about people you don’t know and don’t mock the best political and economic system there has ever been. Do something specific and constructive, and if you are willing to work as hard as the people on Wall Street, you might just accomplish something.”

Stein, like many in the conservative media, is still completely bewildered by these protests. Why? Because they live in an alternate reality in which they are all wealthy and successful because they worked hard and honestly. That’s cool. I live in an alternate reality where I’m a superhero who gets blowjobs all day. So while I can sympathize with the delusional nature of Stein’s views, I have to express my hope that he finds the mental help he needs because it’s never easy to watch someone slip away into the twilight of the mind. Even if I don’t agree with him. That poor, poor man. My heart goes out to his family.

I’m not going to “get to work reading the corporate filings” because a) they’re written by corporations and I doubt they’re going to be open and honest about the shit they’re doing and b) to do so would require some kind of faith in the system or that a system even exists. Shit, man, I can read the rulebook to DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS all I want. It’s still fucking make-believe.

The other was a piece by Jack Hough who writes about money in the THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (I know, what a pioneer, right? Way to think outside the box, Jack). Hough reveals his own mental disorder with the very title of his piece. During the worst recession in anyone’s lifetime, when most people are struggling just to survive one day to the next and hardly have a penny to their names and are now facing the real possibility of a second wave of economic disaster, he feels that “IT’S TIME TO BUY THAT HOUSE”

“…the math is turning in buyers’ favor. Stock-oriented folks can think of a house’s price/rent ratio as akin to a stock’s price/earnings ratio, in that it compares the cost of an asset with the money the asset is capable of generating. For investors, a lower ratio suggests more income for the price. For prospective homeowners, a lower ratio makes owning more attractive than renting, all else equal.

Nationwide, the ratio of home prices to yearly rents is 11.3, down from 18.5 at the peak of the bubble, according to Moody’s Analytics. The average from 1989 to 2003 was about 10, so valuations aren’t quite back to normal.

But for most home buyers, mortgage rates are a key determinant of their total costs. Rates are so low now that houses in many markets look like bargains, even if price/rent ratios aren’t hitting new lows. The 30-year mortgage rate rose to 4.12% this week from a record low of 3.94% last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. (The rates assume 0.8% in prepaid interest, or “points.”) The latest rate is still less than half the average since 1971…

…A fresh look at the numbers suggests Detroit and Miami are plenty cheap for buyers, with price/rent ratios of 5.6 and 7.7, respectively. New York and San Francisco are more expensive, with ratios of 17.6 and 17.2, respectively. The median ratio for 169 markets is 10.7.”

Sure, you can afford a nice house and live the American dream… if you’re willing to move to Detroit or Miami. And why in the hell are we listening to anything Freddie Mac has to say? Didn’t he and his brother Bernie get us into this mess to begin with? What’s more, exactly who the fuck is Freddie Mac and why is he telling me to buy a goddamn house? Oh yeah. Because they make money by convincing people to spend all of theirs. Got it.

As for the rest of Hough’s piece, well, the numbers and economic terms he uses are pretty flashy and impressive. It’s all gibberish, of course, because none of it is based in reality. But, it sounds great and boy is it a beautiful dream. Kind of like the existence of heaven or the notion that women have sex drives.



  1. October 19, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    Nice piece. Re: Stein, that fuck hasn’t said anything useful since he stood up on a studio lot somewhere before a camera and uttered the deadpan words “Buehler….Buehler.” Robert Reich has a great piece about the disintegration of our society, and how it tends to pull out of it for the better after social upheavals against the uber haves:

    The Rise of the Regressive Right and the Reawakening of America

    “Listen carefully to today’s Republican right and you hear the same Social Darwinism Americans were fed more than a century ago to justify the brazen inequality of the Gilded Age: Survival of the fittest. Don’t help the poor or unemployed or anyone who’s fallen on bad times, they say, because this only encourages laziness. America will be strong only if we reward the rich and punish the needy.”


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