But after nonstop blathering served up by the GOP, only to be followed by President Obama’s Teddy Roosevelt impersonation [although I have to admit—the State of the Union was a surprisingly good speech], I thought a moment of palate cleansing might be in order. In this case Dylan Ratigan offers up the sorbet.
Ratigan is someone willing to call out the shysters, the casino players and shakedown artists, including their political handmaidens for what they truly are, and ‘Greedy Bastards’ is the title of his newly released book. The author’s name may ring a bell because Dylan Ratigan has a public platform on MSNBC, an hour-long show Monday through Friday. The program airs at 4:00 pm, EST, in my neck of the woods.
Ratigan’s slant focuses on the collision of worlds, that of finance and politics, how the incestuous relationship is literally squeezing the life out of the United States. His take is not an indictment of capitalism. Rather it is an indictment of what is posing as capitalism, a system he refers to as ‘extractionism.’
Ratigan is not a newcomer or a pundit simply reading a script. He worked the financial beat with Bloomberg News, serving as Global Managing Editor to Corporate Finance until 2003. He’s also the former anchor and co-creator of CNBC’s Fast Money. He has launched and anchored a number of financially-related broadcasts over the years but decided to leave Fast Money after the 2008 financial meltdown. Ratigan has publicly stated that he was personally disgusted by the Wall Street banking sector’s shakedown of the American public. The Dylan Ratigan Show was launched to provide discussion and analysis of the financial/government intersection, a system that has acquiesced to the wanton theft of the Nation’s wealth and resources by . . . Greedy Bastards, of course.
Though the show has been on air for three years, Ratigan has admitted that his voice was finally heard after an infamous meltdown last August. It was an on-air rant that would have made Patty Chayefesky proud, a Howard Beale moment.
That woke people up! It also led to Ratigan’s Get the Money Out [of politics] Movement, working towards a Constitutional Amendment to remove the corrosive element of money in the political sphere. And then, there’s the book.
One thing I liked about Ratigan’s approach is that instead of pointing out one segment of the population for public pillorying, his title basically refers to a state of mind and the all too frequent way of doing business and politics in the 21st century.
For instance, in the case of capitalism, Ratigan uses the example of venture capital, a subject that has come up in reference to Romney’s connection to Bain & Company, specifically Bain Capital. From Chapter 1:
If I start a venture capital firm that lends out money to drug researchers trying to find new cures for disease, and I get rich doing it, then I made my money by investing in the productive future of the country. I used my money in a way that facilitated scientific innovation and a cure. I’m what the director of the Havas Media Lab Umair Haque a ‘capitalist who makes.’ But instead, if I take the same money and use it to lobby for changes in government regulation—changes that help me trick a union into investing its retirement savings in flawed investments so that I can collect the commissions—then I may move as many dollars into my bank account as someone who funded cures for diseases, but I haven’t made anything. I’m a ‘capitalist who takes,’ exploiting my power to influence the government for my own private gain, no matter the harm to anyone else. I’m a greedy bastard.
The latter example, taking money from others without providing anything of value is, according to Ratigan, the opposite of capitalism. An extractionist system loses increasing value over time until there’s nothing left. Call it the vampire or vulture model. A system based on the extractionist principle, provides no incentive for people to make good deals, where both sides benefit. Instead, it rewards those who take and give nothing in return.
Ratigan covers the areas that have pushed the extractionist model to the max: banking, education, healthcare, energy, trade negotiations and the unholy alliance of government and big money fueling the feeding frenzy of the Nation’s resources and our future. But unlike many gloom and doom tomes, Ratigan offers solutions and brings an optimism to the subject, namely that we have the ideas, the people and yes, even the money to solve what at times seems insolvable. He concludes in a rather convincing way that what is needed is a realignment between investment and the needs of capable, innovative people. If loans and investments offered the highest returns when they provided the highest value as opposed to simply taking the highest risk, then prevailing attitudes and business practices would shift and win/win deals would be created.
Sound like pie in the sky? I don’t think so. Yes, it’s a matter of will, public pressure to exact the necessary changes but this realignment idea is possible by citing the goals first, and then targeting the resources to get there. Ratigan refers to this as hotspotting—zeroing in on the problem, determining what methodology provides the best results, and then aiming resources to match those needs.
Though some critics have dismissed this idea, it is very attuned to what Bill Clinton recently suggested in his Esquire interview about highlighting the successes and needs across the country, and then linking them, matching them up. Just another turn on the realignment idea:
. . . the two best things you could do are the infrastructure bank and a simple SBA-like loan guarantee for all building retrofits, where the contractor or the energy-service company guarantees the savings. So that allows the bank to loan money to let a school or a college or a hospital or a museum or a commercial building or factories for lease unencumbered by debt to loan it on terms that are longer, so you can pay it back only from your utility savings. You could create a million jobs doing that because of the home models that are out there now.
There are these two guys on Long Island who started a little home-repair deal. They got thirty-five employees now, and they’re — they can go in, tell you how much they’ll save you. There’s an operation in Nebraska that’s in and out in a day, and they’re averaging more than 20 percent savings, and conservative Republican Nebraska is the only state in the country that has 100 percent publicly owned power.
You’ve got Orlando with those one hundred computer-simulation companies. They got into computer simulation because you have the Disney and Universal theme parks, and Electronic Arts’ video-games division. And the Pentagon and NASA desperately need simulation, for different reasons. So there you’ve got the University of Central Florida, the biggest unknown university in America, fifty-six thousand students, changing curriculum, at least once a year, if not more often, to make sure they’re meeting whatever their needs are, and they’re recruiting more and more professors to do this kind of research that will lead to technology transfers to the companies. You’ve got Pittsburgh actually becoming a real hotbed of nanotechnology research. You’ve got San Diego, where there are more Nobel-prize-winning scientists living than any other city in America. You’ve got the University of California San Diego and other schools there training people to do genomic work. Qualcomm is headquartered there, and there are now seven hundred other telecom companies there, and you’ve got a big private foundation investing in this as well as the government, and nobody knows who’s a Republican or who’s a Democrat, they’re just building this networking.
We have fabulously innovative, creative people working on all kinds of things. Our true wealth is in our people; our true value is . . . us.
Ratigan is now on a 30-million jobs tour showcasing business enterprises that are, in fact, answering a need, offering value to their communities, providing jobs and in the best capitalist tradition—making a profit.
The endnote is that the country hasn’t lost its edge. We’ve lost the path that works, the one that values quality and integrity. Greedy Bastards will always exist, those hoping to make a quick buck [or trillions of bucks] off the backs of others. They have no shame. The goal is to make them and their thievery the exception, not the rule.
Btw, Ratigan’s book is highly readable, written for the layperson. No economic degrees required. If you’ve been following the financial blowout and/or Ratigan’s show, this will be a fast review. If you’re just starting to pay attention, consider the book a primer—what the country underwent and where we need to go. The sooner, the better. Ratigan encourages us to reclaim our voice, demanding that our people and country come first.
It’s a worthy message. Read the book. Get the word out.