Three years ago, I began keeping track of numbers. I heard the price of gold one day and found it unbelievably high. It has only gone up since then. I followed silver and crude oil, the dollar and foreign currencies, their climbs and plummets, all of them completely detached from reality as far as I could see. I had no money of my own to invest, nor any idea of what would be the best bet. I just knew something was very wrong.
I wasn’t looking at the right numbers. Until just a few months ago, I never heard mention in all my reading of the thing that would kill us.
A trillion is a very big number. Only physicists, mathematicians and astronomers should have to give a fig about a one followed by twelve zeroes. A light year is about six trillion miles, or nine and a half trillion kilometers. Not a scale for the good and simple people of earth, only for those of us counting the atoms and molecules, or calculating strange probabilities, or looking at the stars.
In all the world, all the wealth of all the nations is roughly fifty six trillion dollars. One dollar for every mile in ten light years.
Here is the number I didn’t know about, the one I didn’t see. Here is the size of the credit default swap market. Early this century, we could measure the size of this market in billions of dollars, the kind of numbers that are thrown around every day.
There are now over sixty four trillion dollars in this market. More than all the money in the world.
Some say these markets are hard to understand. They aren’t. It’s just a casino. A very big one. The main thing people bet on is who is going to pay their bills, and who isn’t.
How can a market have more money than the wealth of all nations combined? It’s very simple. It’s a magic casino. The casino will sell you a dollar’s worth of chips for three cents. If you can make an even money bet and win, and you will get your three cents back and a real dollar more.
What did I tell you? It’s magic.
What if you lose your bet? Then the casino wants the extra ninety seven cents you neglected to give them earlier. Or maybe less if you were able to make other bets to cover the one that went bad.
And this is how we died. A casino that dwarfed the world economy started filling up with losers. Where did they get the money? From your bank accounts, from your 401K accounts, from pensions and insurance companies and the investments of anyone who did anything more risky than keep their cash under their mattresses, or spend their paychecks on food, shelter and clothing.
Can’t we just close the casino down? Maybe not. It’s a very big house of cards. Are you sure which way it will fall?
No you’re not. No one is.
The graph above is the progress chart of the real war of terror. The terrorists won.
Besides keeping track of the numbers, I also started paying attention to the deniers. Much like tobacco companies years ago denied the link between cigarettes and disease, there were paid shills telling us there is no link between what humans do and the degradation of the environment, or the changing climate. Last year, the shill industry turned its energy to denying that we were in a recession, spewing the same sort of venom on those who said the economy was in free fall as it had on people discussing climate change.
Here’s the thing. The shills are just suckers. The people with the money know how deep the shit is, and they are doing everything they can to steal anything that isn’t nailed down or surrounded by armed guards. They do not give a rat’s ass if the shills die with the rest of us. They just want a diversion to continue looting the treasury.
Thirteen years ago on a rainy winter’s night, I was there in Oakland when one of America’s greatest living poets sang a song titled The Earth Died Screaming. This is a recording from that evening. I was there with my good friends the Dresbachs.
The Dresbachs are good people as well as good friends. They have a loving God they can pray to. That is one of the many luxuries I now do without. Like many of the things I have given up, I no longer think it does much good.