The documentary Inside Job does a very good job of explaining what happened in a relatively short period of time and in an accessible way. The film also has compelling villains and outrageous behavior that is bound to engage and enrage viewers. It’s basically an overview of the financial crisis of recent years, which we are still recovering from. The thesis seems to be that the regulations that were put in place after the Great Depression have been systematically dismantled since the Reagan years (powered by Wall Street lobbyists) which played a pivotal role in this meltdown and lesser ones in previous years. And very little is being done to fix this faulty system and the ones who should be held liable are not and still filthy, filthy rich and very powerful. The most breathtaking fact is that the arrogance, greed and corruption that these people exhibit and the fact that none of them have been indicted for fraud and violation. This film not only makes me angry but also furious.
This shows concept of capitalism at its worst. It is not about right, left, democrat or republican nor the failure of capitalism, it was about pure greed and corruption. What happened and continues to this day is not capitalism. It is corporatism I think which is also known as fascism. If it were truly capitalism, there would be no such thing as “too big to fail” and there would be so many fines and prison sentences handed down it would hugely dwarf the savings and loan scandal.
This film portrays lots of psychopaths that only care about one thing: furthering their own personal gain and the ends justifies the means is their mantra. Over here psychopaths means the people who are over obsessed with money and they just want more and more. There is a lot of wrong doing which is not ethical but legal because the American government helped them to make it legal like CitiGroup acquiring Traveler. Why does the financial system have to grow more complex, in the sense of allowing high leverage, moral hazard, opaqueness, and brittle interconnections to flourish? Of course panic will continue to exist and be unpredictable.
But the system itself needs to be transparent, properly capitalized, compartmentalized, and policed, so bankers don’t extract mountains of money in good times and then have it go down in flames in bad times every few years. If we can build a robust Internet or electrical grid, we can build a robust financial system. They should all be able to get bigger and more capable without being at risk of constant collapse. You can’t eliminate risk of failure, but you can keep it reasonably small. There is simply no excuse for building a system which can collapse in its entirety without government bailouts.
And ultimately, that’s what makes the financial crisis so scary. The complexity of the system far exceeded the capacity of the participants, experts and watchdogs. Even after the crisis happened, it was devilishly hard to understand what was going on. Some people managed to connect the right dots, in the right ways and at the right times, but not so many, and not through such reproducible methods, that it’s clear how we can make their success the norm. What makes me sad is that our key systems are going to continue growing more complex, and we’re not getting any smarter, or any less able to ignore risks that we know we should be preparing for.
In my opinion, the movie has a bright side and a dark side. I enjoyed seeing known people talk about the economical crisis and giving their side of the story. I enjoyed seeing witnesses given in Washington by bankers accused of their shameful practices. I think the movie put my attention on the deep problem of lobbying, which results in inefficient regulation and creates a threat for the whole system. The big problem with the movie, however, is black and white approach it takes. It presents 10% of a complicated picture and makes one to believe that it is 100%. For example, deregulation is widely accepted as one of reasons for the economical crisis. In the movie, it is represented in such a way that it looks ridiculous how a law on deregulation could pass – corrupted officials is a hint.
The facts are well presented in the movie. Some of them are true like: 1) Banks want to be Too Big To Fail because they know that if they’re too big, they’ll be bailed out. 2) The progressive deregulation of the financial sector since the 1980s gave rise to an increasingly criminal industry. 3) The industry has made more money since the crisis. 4) The average salary of a Goldman Sachs employee is $600,000. 5) AIG paid Goldman Sachs $13 billion in taxpayer money. 6) AIG’s Joe Cassano made $315 million after the company took at least $85 billion from taxpayers. But some of the facts shown were not true.
Like the one where it says Dick Fuld earned $485 million, on the other hand it was less than $310 million. It also says that in 2008, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and AIG triggered the crisis. But that is not true as the origins of the crisis can be traced back even further, to the implosion of two Bear Stearns hedge funds run by Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, the Bear Stearns High Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund and the Bear Stearns High Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Fund. It actually all started back in early 90’s.
I don’t fully understand the working of the derivatives and credit swaps we’ve heard so much about. But I’m learning. These are ingenious, computer-driven schemes in which good money can be earned from bad debt, and Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe pocket untold millions while they bankrupt their investors and their companies. The crucial error was to allow financial institutions to trade on their own behalf. Today, many large trading banks are betting against their own customers.
In the real estate market, banks aggressively promoted mortgages to people who could not afford them. These were assembled in packages. They were carried on the books as tangible assets when they were worthless. The institutions assembling them hedged their loans by betting against them. When the mortgages failed, profits were made despite and because of their failure. There is no moral justification for how Wall Street functions today.
One of the most fascinating aspects of “Inside Job” involves the chatty on-camera insights of Kristin Davis, a Wall Street madam, who says the Street operated in a climate of abundant sex and cocaine for valued clients and the traders themselves showing themselves as psychopaths. She says it was accepted parts of the corporate culture that hookers at $1,000 an hour and up were kept on retainer and that cocaine was the fuel.
There’s a lot to dislike about Wall Street that I have generated after watching this film mainly the pay, the culture and in many cases, the people. A lot of observers understood we had a housing bubble — Dean Baker, for instance, had been sounding the alarm for years — but few of the housing skeptics saw everything going on behind the bubble: That the subprime mortgages had been packaged into bonds, that the bonds had been sliced into tranches, that the formulas being used to price and rate the tranches got the variable expressing correlation wrong, that an extraordinary number of banks had purchased an extraordinary amount of insurance against getting that correlation wrong from AIG, that AIG had also priced the correlation wrong and would be unable to pay its debts in the event of a meltdown, that a meltdown would freeze the mostly unregulated shadow market that major financial institutions and players used to fund themselves, that the modern financial system was so fragile that an uptick in delinquent subprime mortgages could effectively crash the global economy.
What’s remarkable about the financial crisis isn’t just how many people got it wrong, but how many people who got it wrong had an incentive to get it right: journalists, hedge funds, independent investors and academics regulators. Even traders, many of whom had most of their money tied up in their soon-tobe-worthless firms.
I don’t think anything can change my views about US markets. After watching this movie and my own views from reading day by day news articles and after President Barack Obama again reelecting those people to run the government who got us into this mess.
Courtney from Study Moose
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