In the aftermath on the housing crisis that led to the Great Recession, Bruce Springsteen wrote a song about it called Death to My Hometown. Here are some of the lyrics:
I awoke on a quiet night, I never heard a sound
The marauders raided in the dark
And brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown
They destroyed our families, factories
And they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains
The vultures picked our bones
So, listen up my sonny boy, be ready when they come
For they’ll be returning sure as the rising sun
Now get yourself a song to sing
And sing it ’til you’re done
Sing it hard and sing it well
Send the robber barons straight to hell
The greedy thieves who came around
And ate the flesh of everything they found
Whose crimes have gone unpunished now
Who walk the streets as free men now
They brought death to our hometown, boys
Death to our hometown
It’s a stirring protest song set to Celtic marching music. And it identified the correct culprits. There’s not a word in there about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac giving mortgages to underserving blacks or homeowners getting unwarranted debt relief from dishonest brokers.
A real populist uprising might have gone after the greedy thieves whose crimes went unpunished instead of elevating a reality-show fraudster with narcissistic personality disorder and dozens of petty scores to settle.
But Trump at least gave the middle finger to an establishment that enabled the housing crisis and looked the other way as families and factories were destroyed over the last several decades.
Even this isn’t good enough to prevent the the return of the robber barons, though. Not when former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin is going to be Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn is in line to be his director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Let’s go into the Wayback Machine:
In late 2007, as the mortgage crisis gained momentum and many banks were suffering losses, Goldman Sachs executives traded e-mail messages saying that they would make “some serious money” betting against the housing markets.
The messages, released Saturday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, appear to contradict statements by Goldman that left the impression that the firm lost money on mortgage-related investments.
In the messages, Lloyd C. Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, acknowledged in November 2007 that the firm had lost money initially. But it later recovered by making negative bets, known as short positions, to profit as housing prices plummeted. “Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess,” he wrote. “We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”
He added, “It’s not over, so who knows how it will turn out ultimately.”
In another message, dated July 25, 2007, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, reacted to figures that said the company had made a $51 million profit from bets that housing securities would drop in value. “Tells you what might be happening to people who don’t have the big short,” he wrote to Gary D. Cohn, now Goldman’s president.
Sound like vultures to me.
And what about Mnuchin?
Critics have raised many questions about Mnuchin’s financial dealings, from a lawsuit over pocketing profits in the Bernie Madoff case to his suspiciously quiet exit from the Hollywood production company Relativity Media just before it took huge losses and filed for bankruptcy. Just his association with “vampire squid” Goldman Sachs has motivated some anger. But another part of Mnuchin’s history is more relevant: his chairmanship of OneWest Bank, a major cog in America’s relentless foreclosure machine.
Even among the many bad actors in the national foreclosure crisis, OneWest stood out. It routinely jumped to foreclosure rather than pursue options to keep borrowers in their homes; used fabricated and “robo-signed” documents to secure the evictions; and had a particular talent for dispossessing the homes of senior citizens and people of color.
Sounds like he “ate the flesh of everything he found.”
I’m trying to work my way through what’s happened to our politics and our country, and that will come at its own pace. But I can’t get over how badly our country’s elites misjudged the fury they created, nor how stupid that furious reaction has been.
Electing Trump as the solution for this is dumber than starting a land war in Asia. It’s just deplorable.