Friday, March 29, 2013

Marcus Brauchli on David Stockman's New Book

...Now, he has cast his acid eye on the country’s entire economic edifice. What the former divinity student sees doesn’t merely dismay, it outrages him morally, page after page, chapter after chapter. Stockman’s new tract, “The Great Deformation,” is a kaleidoscopic rant against people, institutions and practices he knows well. He attacks, upends, eviscerates, mocks and denigrates them all, usually with some justification, always in the brutalist prose of a manifesto.

The New Deal was a “political gong show,” and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon were “peas in a statist pod.” Morgan Stanley’s former chief executive, John Mack, is a “ruthless gambler and bully who never hesitated to exploit any avenue to make a buck.” Reagan’s defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, was “obdurate and imperious on everything within his brief.” Alan Greenspan and Milton Friedman get entire chapters dedicated to their free-market heresies.

But here’s the thing: Even as he indulges his spleen, Stockman produces a persuasive and deeply relevant indictment of a system dangerously akilter.

Over the past 40 years, the United States has become a strange fantasy land where many politicians think deficits don’t matter, regulators are closely entwined with their charges, and the Federal Reserve manages the economy through high-stakes, high-risk experimentation. The financial turmoil of the past few years is just a glimpse of what lies at the end of the road we’re on, Stockman warns.

In showing us where it leads, he takes the long way, ambling past the wreckage of fiscal and market calamities dating back a century, pausing to praise the gleaming fiscal conservatism of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, then arriving at the ever-more-dire failures of the last generation.

The country began veering badly off course, Stockman argues, in August 1971. That was when Nixon decided to scrap the international financial arrangement that anchored the dollar’s value to gold and thus other currencies in the decades after World War II. “In an act that cascaded down through the decades, Richard Nixon caused the United States to default on its . . . obligations . . . and thereby inaugurated an era of global trade imbalance, currency pegging and manipulation, massive debt creation, and financial speculation that had no historic antecedents,” Stockman writes. “It became the era of bubble finance.”
Read the rest here.

The name of the book is ‘The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America’ by David Stockman.


jdwoods76 said...

"Leveraged speculation"--I wonder if we'll ever learn? Thanks for the tip about the book.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

We'll learn. Reality is the tireless teacher.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings, with terror and slaughter return!

123 said...

Paul Krugman, the Princeton University economist and New York Times columnist, responded on his blog yesterday, saying that he was “disappointed” in Stockman’s “gee-whiz, context- and model-free numbers embedded in a rant -- and not even an interesting rant.”

Krugman called Stockman’s piece “cranky old man stuff,” and summarized it this way:

“We’ve been doomed, yes doomed, ever since FDR took us off the gold standard and introduced unemployment insurance. What about those 80 years of non-doom? Just a series of lucky accidents. Now we’re really doomed. I mean it!”

123 said...

Also, "In 2010, Stockman agreed to pay $7.2 million to settle a lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission that claimed he had misled investors as chief executive officer of Collins & Aikman Corp., a maker of auto parts.

According to the SEC’s announcement, Stockman participated in transactions designed to “inflate” the company’s reported income and “obtained false documents from suppliers to mislead” auditors. Stockman neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing."