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The Big Short: Yes, We Are All F#&ked!

Christopher, my oldest, spent some time with me on Mother’s Day. He lives at home and we see each other every day, but we do not dedicate time together every day. I wanted to watch a movie, he and I share a bond over movies and our favorite television shows. I chose a movie I had been wanting to see for some time, The Big Short.

The Big Short made me think about a lot of things, but mostly it made me think about my fierce devotion to leaving the world worth living in, to my two sons.

When I was about 16 I realized something I had been saying was not true. I had said up to that point that I never wanted kids, but then I realized I wanted to have a child. I also knew that I was a lesbian. We are not talking about the stone ages here, but in 1987 when people were nowhere near as open to gay people having children as they are now. This put me in quite the conundrum. I honestly believed, due to my own surroundings and from paying attention to the attitudes of people, that it was impossible to have children in a same-sex relationship. I am not bi-sexual either. I like guys. Guys are fun to be around, but I am not attracted to them in that context, but I am also not hardline in these matters. Hard to explain, but that is how my inner thoughts on the subject roll.

About the time I was thinking about all of this, I met a really sweet, easy going guy named Scott. We hit it off. We had so much in common. We liked the same movies, music, and activities. He was quiet. He played the guitar like a rock star, he had long hair, and he smoked while playing guitar. He was cool and he was just my type because he would listen as I talked my head off. I was boisterous, still am, and outgoing and confident. We were a good match. I loved him then and I love him now. He is one of the best friends I have ever had. We got married and during that marriage, we had 2 children. Both boys. I was overjoyed they were boys.

Both pregnancies were certified disasters. So much so that when I was checked into the hospital to have Joshua, the youngest, the doctor told me that he understood I might want more children but he implored me to end that part of my life then and there. I consented, so during my c-section, I also had a tubal ligation. That was the end of having kids for us. That was fine. 2 turned out to be the perfect number.

During those lean years, we struggled and we got the shit kicked out of us many times. We also made mistakes. Our biggest mistake, or so it seems, was optimism. When I was young, I was extremely optimistic. I thought everything would work out. I think that is the blessing and the curse of our youth. We have a blind spot when it comes to danger in our youth. Let’s jump off that cliff into that tiny pool of water below! Okay, sounds like fun! Hey, everybody, WATCH THIS! We got into debt, that with hindsight was stupid, but at the time felt like grown up decisions. That is how life rolls. You live, you learn.

There were times when Scott and I had to be creative with our meals. Lots of tuna helper, hot dogs and macaroni and cheese because we had 2 little ones that required a lot, and both of us were determined they would have all of their requirements met and some of their desires.

At one point in this period of time, I owned 2 pair of pants and 2 maternity dresses that I told myself didn’t really look like maternity dresses. The lies we tell ourselves are dangerous. But, at times, they also serve to keep the white hot feeling of embarrassment out of our souls so that we can carry on about our business pretending that no one is noticing that every time they see us we have on the same pair of pants.

You get the picture.

We had good and bad times, but financially we were a disaster most of the time. Over the time we were married we started to resent each other I think. Each blaming the other for our mess. That resentment eroded our friendship. I eventually found the longing for female companionship too strong to deny. He found the call of a beer bottle too strong to deny. Scott was in the military and spent a lot of time away from home. That distance was probably another factor in our marriage not working out. Trust me, I never blamed him for trying hard to make an honorable living. But, so much time apart gives each person time to latch onto other ways to live. We split up at the end of 2000. We are still legally married. We talk to each other all the time.

Both of us always stood up to anything in the way of our kids having a good life. They are the most important thing in the world to us. Scott provided our financial stability. I worked, but without Scott’s contribution, I would have been sunk. We never went to court a day in our lives. No one on this planet had to force him to take care of his kids. Like I said, he is a good guy.

Scott is a good father, but even he would tell you I have done the majority of lifting when it comes to getting those 2 fine citizens from embryos to men. I fought to get them here. I fought to get them what they needed. I worked my ass off to pay attention and be present in their lives. To give them the guidance and nurturing that my childhood lacked because I was raised by wolves.

I have had the shit kicked out of me and gotten back up. Over and over again, but I am getting tired, and my confidence is shot, and I worry all the time. and my health is an issue, but I still have my boys. They motivate. They give me will.

I am doing all I can think to do. I am writing. I volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign because I believe he has the right ideas. I started a team to try to come up with ways to get and keep people engaged beyond the election year.

We do not have enough people who stay engaged and enraged. The cycle is always the same.

I have watched it play out over the years. People get angry over voting rights. They get angry over election fraud. They hate the electoral college. They despise the way delegates and super delegates are used. They shout about the issues and swear they are going to stick it out and get the deadbeats in Congress out of Congress during the mid-terms. Then, when the national election is over, everyone just seems to forget it happened.

We have to stop this cycle! We have to stop this cycle! We have to stop this cycle! 

I didn’t watch a movie and come to these conclusions or get inspired to do something. I was already engaged and already thinking about these things. What I did was watch a movie and get into a red burning rage. I watched a movie that had nothing but scum from top to bottom and thankfully the filmmaker didn’t insert a feel good ending to sooth the soul.


The Big Short

I have watched several episodes of Frontline on PBS that go into far more depth about how the 2008 financial crisis happened, but this movie is a must see. It will give anyone who sees it a great deal of insight into how the people of the financial sector took away so much from so many. It also explained the actual trades and deals made in such a way that even I, a person who has spent a very limited amount of time in my life trying to figure out the stock market and how to invest, understood it on a macro level. I will never understand it completely, and do not claim to here, but I understand it enough, and so can you.

To me, the movie’s biggest weakness was it lacked any real insight into the true impact of the meltdown in 2008. They did point out that 8 million people lost their jobs and 6 million homes were taken from the people living in them. That is a tiny fraction of the real impact. The narrative Ronald Reagan gave us in the 1980s, that his plan would create a trickle-down effect because he would help the rich get richer, and, in effect, that wealth would trickle down to everyone has been proven false. The Big Short failed to seize an opportunity to show that, in fact, what really happens is the rich get richer, bring the world’s economy to its knees and the middle class and poor pay as the rich stay rich.

The mistakes of the financial sector and wealthy have a trickle down effect. Not their wealth.

Very quick rundown of what happened:

  • A smarty pants banker, Lewis Ranieri, in the 70s realized that banks could make a profit on mortgages and created mortgage-backed securities.
  • The mortgage-backed securities were bundled into groups and sold as top level all the way to the bottom level. Bottom level groups were the highest risk investment but, in theory, could have the highest payoff for the investor.
  • Cheaters of the system started including subprime mortgages in bundles that were supposed to be top rated.
  • collateralized debt obligations (CDOs)
  • Cheaters also started giving loans to anyone who applied because, the pyramid (my assessment) had to have mortgages in order to keep being built, thus, top-level investments started taking on the same high-risk as the low-level investments.
  • Worse, high rated mortgages were not all really worthy of that rating.
  • Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager, investigated these mortgage-backed securities and realized the entire system was about to collapse in on itself.

He ran straight to the press and government officials and alerted them that people were about to lose everything! NO HE DIDN’T! He, and everyone involved in the entire sordid tale that followed Burry’s discovery, and tried to use this new found information for his own gain. Like I said, there are no heroes in this tale.

To sum up a complicated and confusing financial mess: rich people took as much advantage as they could of the entire world’s economy and then they blamed the poor people and people of color when the shit hit the fan. Rich people got richer. They didn’t pay the price for their gambling. The American people did. The Greek people did. The people of the U.K. did. The average every day working people did. The people who skimped and saved because one day they were going to retire and have a cute house at the beach paid. We all fucking paid. 8 million jobs were lost. 6 million homes were taken from the people living in them.

The total cost of the mortgage crisis of 2008 cannot be adequately calculated because the fall-out is still being felt. However, in a Frontline report from 2012, they explore the Better Markets analysis of the crisis and determine that the following five indicators are the major markers are the best “accounting of the crisis”:

  1. Gross Domestic Product: The report notes the massive difference between the actual and potential GDP — now estimated at about $2.6 trillion, according to a January Congressional Budget Office report.
  2. Unemployment: The rate peaked at 10.1 percent in October 2009, but it’s still at 8.1 percent today. That’s 12.5 million people who are out of work, not saving for retirement and not contributing to the GDP.
  3. Government bailouts: The government has poured about $23 trillion into a host of programs and bailouts.
  4. Lost household wealth: With home prices tanking, the report estimates a loss of $7 trillion in the real estate industry. The stock market decline has brought another $11 trillion in losses, and retirement accounts have lost $3.4 trillion.
  5. Human suffering: It’s hard to put a dollar value on this. But the report found plenty of grim data to offer some insight: The Census Bureau’s 2010 estimate of 46.2 million people in poverty is the “largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.”

The Treasury Department also put out a report. It reads like a fairy tale because it is. The report is clearly meant to be a positive spin on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The problem is they are just talking about the money of the taxpayers being shuffled from one column to the next.

My sister and I kept loaning and borrowing the same $20 from each other for so many years that we lost track of who was the original owner of that $20. That is all that has happened here, too. Read the report closely. They seem to be claiming this incredibly heroic act of saving citizens very lives, but in truth, if the cheaters and liars at the top had been taking care to create and operate a level playing field, TARP wouldn’t have been necessary. There are no heroes here.

I began college in fall of 2008 at the same time Christopher started. I felt that it was the perfect timing. The boys were older and I was so tired of dead end jobs I couldn’t take it anymore. I was in hopes of getting my degree and finding a path to a career so that I could save toward a nice nest egg for my old age. All I got was a $50k bill and no job. Christopher and I graduated on the same day in 2012. He stood in line after line competing for grocery store clerk jobs with people who had their master’s degree. I sent out resume after resume. No luck. Is the mortgage crisis wholly to blame for this turn of events? No. Is it a major contributing factor? Yes. The mortgage crisis is part of a whole. Wall St. speculation, coupled with control of every facet of our lives by the gambling addicts on Wall St. and our disastrous trade deals are all part of the bigger picture.

What happened when it all came to a head? Some of the people ran to the press to sound the alarm, not because they had a crisis of conscience, but because they were about to be flies caught in a web of their own making. In a scene from the movie, 2 of the anti-heroes went to a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and were basically told by the reporter that he wasn’t willing to write a story declaring that we are all fucked. But we were and we are! Burry tried to tell the government after the fact. They didn’t bother calling him back. Financial institutions are right back at it. Nothing changed. NOTHING! Not only are mortgage-backed securities still in play but so are the CDOs, they are just called “bespoke tranche opportunities” now. All of this heartache and despair and all that changed was the damned name!

I personally would dismantle the entire system. Capitalism is not working. It cannot work. A logical assessment of its house, foundation to roof, shows clearly that it cannot work. People cling to it like it is a mandate from god. It isn’t. It was created by humans and can just as easily be dismantled by humans. I know that is a nearly impossible task because so many citizens have bought too fully into the notion that they, too, will one day be at the top if they just work hard enough, so they fight for and argue for a house of cards stacked against them.

There are only so many spaces at the top and most of us will never come close to filling one of them. That is just the plain truth! We can start now organizing and fighting back for an equitable system that fits us all, or we can bitch and moan every 4 years while the people already filling those spots play us like marionettes. It is our choice! No one can afford to let “them” handle it any longer!

Did I mention that these gambling addicts running around on Wall St. with all the money are eyeing water as the next big commodity they can stake their lives on? Water. We better get busy breaking the back of this unholy mess now and bring them to their knees before they stake a claim on all of the world’s water.

Do you wonder why no one at the top is breaking their necks to clean up our water? I don’t. I think I know why. Do you?

Written by KatieFowler

I call middle Tennessee home.
Obtained my Bachelor of Science Degree in TXMD with a minor in Journalism and Art from Middle Tennessee State University, 2012.
Please, contact me at brandedbutterfly@comcast.net with news tips and human interest story ideas. Thank you. Please visit my blog at katiefowlerblog.wordpress.com

One Comment

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  1. Ms. Fowler,
    That was a VERY Good article on Big Short. I posted it on Facebook. Hope people will take the time and read it and digest it.
    Thank you
    A. Gus Warren

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The Big Short: Yes, We Are All F#&ked!