An unholy alliance of Wall Street bankers, energy traders, OPEC pooh-bahs and complaisant government regulators are pillaging the American economy, according to these savvy, feisty polemics.
Learsy, a commodities trader, updates his previous entry in this series with a new collection of his Huffington Post blogs. His pieces circle around two great swindles: First, the government bailout of select financial institutions, especially its rescue of insurance giant AIG; he alleges that Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein cooked up the bailout during secret phone calls so that Goldman’s and other banks’ holdings of AIG derivatives could be paid off with taxpayer money. Second, the run-up in oil prices was in a market the author believes to have been glutted by stored oil and manipulated refinery capacities. (Learsy thinks petroleum should be trading for around $30 per barrel, not $100.) Here Learsy targets many culprits: banks that speculate in oil using virtually free loans from the Fed and FDIC-insured deposits; Saudi officials who restrict oil output; President Obama, who could burst the price bubble by selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and newspapers that peddle peak-oil alarmism, which Learsy smartly debunks. Other selections support a high-speed rail system, warn of looming global food shortages, and cheerlead for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Learsy’s writing has a blunt, plainspoken style—sample headline: “The Oil Market Plays Casino While the Obama Administration Acts as Croupier”—that sits well with his populist indictment of Wall Street and its patsies in Washington. He has an insider’s knowledge of the intricacies within the global financial web, which he explains with clarity and biting wit; yet he’s not afraid to take bold, iconoclastic positions. (Among his anti-market heresies are calls for nationalizing the oil industry and establishing an American grain cartel.) At times, though, Learsy’s prescriptions trip over themselves; economists and environmentalists will choke at his suggestion that we step up off-shore drilling to bring down oil prices—and then impose gasoline rationing to force Americans to conserve. But that’s just one questionable pitch among better cases to be made in this take-no-prisoners savaging of the global economy’s oily underbelly.
Punchy prose and canny muckraking make for an informative, entertaining challenge to economic orthodoxy.