I Know What I Know

November 24, 2009

Sounds like a silly statement; don’t we all know what we know? Actually, in this society it’s getting harder and harder for me to believe that what I know is true. How can it be true when the powers that be know the opposite? Can I be right when I’ve lived most of my life in self doubt?

I remember a conversation I was having with a couple of friends about 2 years ago. I was obviously ranting about some terrible trait of our American society when one of the others said “you can’t blame all of the world’s ills on the U.S.” I can still feel the shame I felt when he said that and I stopped talking. We were at a New Year’s celebration so I just joined another pocket of conversation. Clearly I haven’t forgotten that exchange and have thought about it often over the last 24 months. I guess I was, in a way, pinning the world’s problems on us and my sense is that I wasn’t too far off the mark.

I hear a lot about our American values and how we are the shining city on the hill and it rings false to me. We certainly are not the cause of all the ills in the world but are certainly not a shining beacon either.

Back to I know what I know; I know that the poor people who bought houses they could not afford are not the cause of the current financial debacle. I believe that a primary was the requirement of the moneyed classes to achieve a greater return on their investments than was offered by historically low interest rates. This pressure provided opportunity to the “financial engineers” to securitize more and more debt in more and more complicated ways. The thinking was that if you wrapped some prime meat around some scraps and fed it through the grinder a few times you’d come up with a product that looked pretty good. Turned out not to be true so why not blame it on the poor who have been told forever that the key to the American dream is home ownership.

We are told that Goldman Sachs paid back the bail out money but that turns out not to be completely true. Their bets against billions of dollars worth of collateralized mortgage obligations were paid off by us, the taxpayers, through the cashier’s window called AIG. Why didn’t these Goldman guys know that AIG couldn’t pay? They had access to the financials. AIG is a public company. My sense is that they (Goldman and others) knew they were “too big to fail” and that their boys in Treasury and the SEC would ensure that congress would agree to back them.

We were told that we invaded Iraq because of Osama Bin Laden when we all know that our only interests in the Middle East are oil and Israel.

Probably sounds like I hate my country but that is certainly not the case. I love the freedoms afforded me because of an accident of birth but I fear that, as corporate power increases, those freedoms will diminish. I am often asked how I would like to have a government bureaucrat involved in my health care decisions. My answer is that I always, always prefer government bureaucrats to corporate employees whose company’s primary obligation is to their shareholders and whose basic function is cost containment and risk avoidance.

I love the freedom that allows me to write and publish this kind of writing and I also consider it my responsibility to do so. We private citizens must either speak up or suffer the consequences of diminished freedoms as the distance between the poor and the powerful grows too wide to overcome.

Posted December 2, 2009

1 Comment

Yesterday in the late afternoon I was caught up in Michael Palmer’s novel, The Society,(about managed health care) and could not lay it down for 5 hours.What I didn’t know was that Michael Palmer MD spent 20 yrs as an Internist in Emergency Medicine and is now an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Physicians’ Health Program. When a person really knows what he is talking about, other people DO KNOW that fact.

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