From the Field

The Casino Economy, Matt Taibbi, and Naked Short-Selling

The Casino Economy

“Oh, stop worrying, Jean! This is taxpayer money we’re playing with!”

To paraphrase an old Same Cooke jam, I don’t know much about history, biology, science books or the French I took, but I do know that the economy is pretty fucked up right now. Troubling bits of economic news have crested and crashed like waves against the Beach of American Despair over the course of this past year, disappearing amongst the sands of time as some other equally unnerving bit of news crests and crashes and washes away our previous concerns. Sometimes it’s just easier to forget, to blink through the salt and the sting, to let the waves wash over and wait for the calming of seas. But Matt Taibbi, writer and reporter, does not blink. He does not avert his eyes and he will not forget the transgressions of our financial industry and the giant casino that was created to effectively gamble with pensions, retirement funds, and family mortgages, milking money from every transaction and returning huge profits to the pockets of the super rich, risks be damned.

Taibbi has provided a public service of oversight, his vision clear and carefully trained on financial firms as the fallout from last fall’s bailout has unfolded. He has written article after condemning article in an effort to expose the flagrant offenses that were—and continue to be—carried out by these Untouchable Institutions; must-reads include The Big Takeover, a thorough account of Wall Street’s post-bailout power grab, and Inside The Great American Bubble Machine, an article focused exclusively on Goldman Sachs and their complicity in the building and bursting of economic bubbles. Taibbi has fast become one of my favorite writers and he remains one of the few fighting the good fight—you know, the one in which we don’t let the financial industry slink off with taxpayer money to continue their giant casino party.

One of the other lines of offense included in his arsenal is the blog Taibbi maintains over on True/Slant. Despite the flurry of financial lingo surrounding these stories, Taibbi does a great job of breaking down our broken system into layman’s terms. It is there that I recently learned about the art of naked short-selling and how completely toothless financial oversight has become these days. Despite its salacious sounding name, naked short-selling is nothing more than the ability for traders to sell shares of a company without having to first obtain or borrow those shares from a current shareholder. The trader’s goal is to sell shares at the current market price and then buy back and return the borrowed shares when the price drops. But in a naked short sale, you don’t even have to borrow them. You can simply say you have shares, sell them, and then buy back the shares when the price dips to close out the deal. This is plain and simple price manipulation, and its happening to shares of the very companies we’ve supported with taxpayer funds. These loopholes continue to be exploited by an industry that we were told was on the brink of collapse and taking our rosy future along with it little more than a year ago, and we still haven’t made any significant moves to rein in systemic abuse. Frustrating, no?

Read more at Matt’s blog, and for the love of all things good, try and keep your eyes open out there in spite of the salt and sting.

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  1. Ben
    10.14.09

    Ben

    i’ll have to check his stuff out. I wanted to say, the caption to your image is priceless.

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