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By Chuck Parker

“These guys lied to infinity. I now realized that there was an entire industry, called consumer finance, that basically existed to rip people off. That’s when I decided the system was really, “Fuck the poor,” said Steve Eisman, mortgage bond analyst.

The best thing about The Big Short is that it reads more like a Who-Done-It than a boring economics textbook. The author tells the story of several unorthodox investors, like Steve Eisman, who were able to see through the lies spread by the big banks. And they figured out how to make a fortune by betting against the market. Hence the title—The Big Short—because when you bet that a stock or bond will go down in value, it’s called “selling short.”

Beginning in the 1980’s, because of stagnant wages and widespread unemployment due to labor replacing robots and computers, there was a growing inequality between the mass of the poor, and the smaller and smaller number of rich people. Wall Street saw a huge market for credit among the poorer section of the working class so they could keep buying commodities, and feel richer than they actually were. This was the first big killing they made off selling credit to workers.

But if your credit rating was not so good, the price of credit card debt was too high. So they thought if they could mass market second mortgages, people would go for it because they would be replacing high interest credit card debt with low interest mortgage debt. But the profits from the interest on these loans was not enough for Wall Street, so they packaged thousands of mortgages into mortgage bonds, which they sold to investors and made a huge profit a second time from worker debt.

To convince investors to buy bonds made up of shaky mortgages, Wall Street hired thousands of experts to come up with creative, and deceptive ways to package these bad loans. They also got the highest AAA ratings from the major ratings agencies. This was supposed to mean that they were “risk free,” but that was also a lie. Despite all the evidence describing an entire industry built on a foundation of lies, the author, near the end of the book, asks the question, “Did the CEO’s of the big banks lie, or were they just stupid?” And he said that he believed that they just didn’t know what was going on. As one life-long union activist who lost her house said when she heard this, “Oh, Come On!”

Most incredible of all, most of the big investors ended up hundreds of millions of dollars richer even after the crash, because the government stepped in and handed them trillions of dollars to bail them out. Another Killing for Wall Street – and this was the Easy Money! Meanwhile the devastation grows and grows, starting with foreclosures, unemployment, and homelessness, and spreading now as both Democrats and Republicans try to force cuts in social services, and the benefits of teachers and other public employees with proposed state budget cuts.

So far, it looks like investor Steve Eisman’s Golden Rule of Wall Street has been in effect, “HE WHO HAS THE GOLD , MAKES THE RULES.” But it didn’t need to turn out this way. If the banks had been taken over in the interest of the people, broken up, and their leaders jailed, the American working class would not still be stuck in the vice of debt created by these criminal bankers.

Read the Book! Learn Their Tricks! Prepare to Fight!

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Al Fishman supporting newspaper strikers in
1995-96,arrested for blocking entrance to
Detroit News building.

By Dave Smokler

On Friday, May 27 historic Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit was filled with people wishing to celebrate the life of Al Fishman. Al was born in 1927 in Los Angeles. He was raised in New York City and made his way to Detroit after withdrawing from the University of Michigan. He worked in production at Detroit’s auto plants and became a tool and die machinist. Al finished college at Wayne State University late in life and was hired by Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young to be in charge of data processing at the Detroit Police Department in the position of Third Deputy Chief.

Al Fishman married Margaret Radulavich in 1951. Margaret was a staunch activist, herself. Her brother Milo Radulavich, an Air Force lieutenant was discharged and stripped of his commission because his father and sister, Margaret, were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers. The case became famous after being featured on the Edward R. Murrow news show and helped to bring down the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy. Lieutenant Radulavich was exonerated and fully reinstated to his position with the Air Force.

Al’s progressive activities were legion. In 1950 he was arrested and harassed on the job for circulating the “Stockholm Peace Appeal,” a worldwide petition to ban nuclear weapons. In 1982 he became active in the Nuclear Freeze Campaign to stop the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. He worked with Sane-Freeze to stop the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles and to halt the MX Missile program. He was active in Peace Action for ratification of the Comprehensive Missile Defense Ban Treaty and helped to organize the annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemorations against nuclear energy and war. In 1999 he was arrested for committing civil disobedience at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Al was a fighter for racial equality. He was arrested in 1950 when an interracial group insisted on being served at a Detroit restaurant in accordance with Michigan law. That year, as a member of the National Negro Labor Council, he was again arrested while gathering petition signatures to enact a Fair Employment Practices law. He was actively involved in the Willie McGhee, Martinsville Seven, Emmet Till and Angela Davis cases. In 1973 Al helped organize the “Turn Detroit Around” campaign which secured white votes for Coleman Young, the first African American Mayor of Detroit.

Al’s work for peace included: opposition to the Korean War; organizing within the Democratic Party as the Chair and Co-Chair of the New Democratic Coalition of Michigan which opposed the Vietnam War; organizing for the Vietnam Moratorium; opposition to the U.S. led bombing of Yugoslavia; Peace Action’s campaign to end the sale of weapons to repressive regimes; demonstrating at the Indonesian Embassy against the sale of U.S. weapons used against the people of East Timor; opposition to the U.S. bombing and sanctions against Iraq as well as the Persian Gulf War. As a member of the New Jewish Agenda nationally he was arrested at the South African Embassy while expressing his opposition to apartheid. Al was a staunch supporter of labor and boycotted scab newspapers during the Detroit Newspaper Strike of the 1990’s. He organized peace activists to participate in demonstrations at the newspapers, was arrested twice for acts of civil disobedience. Along with a delegation of community activists and unionists armed with proxies he protested the newspaper’s policies at a stockholder’s meeting.

Al set an example for future generations of what it means to have the heart of a peaceful warrior. We pay tribute and deep respect to a man who led a life of integrity that was dedicated to the principle of peace, equality and justice for all. Much of the material for this article was taken from the Program for "A Service In Celebration of the Life of Al Fishman.”
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This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 800-691-6888
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