‘Wall Street Hubris’ as Orwellian Comedy

Writing on CounterPunch, former Wall Street insider Pam Martens notes (3/16/09) that

the academics and economists (none of whom ever worked a day on Wall Street) have been telling us in op-eds and speeches and testimony before Congress that the crumbling Wall Street structure results from bundled subprime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps and asset-backed securities.

Meanwhile, “in a week’s time, [the Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart] has zeroed in, like a heat-seeking missile, on the core of Wall Street’s malady…. The core of Wall Street’s corruption might well be the same core that it has drawn the darkest curtain around: trading.” Writes Martens:

None of the toxic instruments would have grown to a problem capable of collapsing the country’s financial system if their trading had been regulated, transparent and fairly reported on by mainstream media. The security instruments were never the problem; how they were traded was the problem. For example, the mortgage and debt securities were, in reality, junk bonds but they were tradedas triple A. They were not traded on an exchange where price discovery would have shown them to be junk bonds, they were traded in an opaque over the counter market. In the case of credit default swaps, they were traded in a market created by the very firms who needed to hide for as long as possible (while executives reaped windfall compensation and bonuses) the dubious pricing of the securities and gargantuan amounts being issued.

Martens sees it as “testimony to how Orwellian life has become under the outrages of Wall Street hubris” that it takes “a comedian, who poses as an anchor on a fake news show, [to] grab the reins of the Wall Street investigation from the actual investigators in Congress.”