After setting my pace with some music, I listened to Terry Gross’ interview with Michelle Goldberg. I heard parts of that interview before and it had fascinated me enough to dig it up. Goldberg describes the history of the fight for women’s reproductive rights. Amazingly, the Republicans used to be very much in favor of population control! George W. H. Bush, for example, “used to be known as Rubbers because he was so obsessed with contraception.”
What changed? Contraception and women’s reproduction were getting framed as women’s rights. That’s when the Religious Wrong decided to wage a war against that. Population control? Yes! We need to prevent the spread of communism (because if poor countries are overpopulated, the masses will rise and bring communism to that country). Women’s rights? No! Can’t have that! Even if the goals are the same! Abortion, for example, seems to be contentious because it’s framed as a woman’s right to choose, not a way to control population. In India (at least I think that’s the country Goldberg mentioned, I don’t quite remember…), abortion was framed as a population control measure and is accepted without much of a fight. Women’s rights are so horrible, that the Religious Wrong is willing to join forces with supposed enemies, like Iran. Why women with rights are so threatening Goldberg didn’t explain – at least not in the interview.
After the Goldberg interview, I listened to Fat Cats too Fat, a great Planet Money podcast that is in a lot of ways a teaser for a This American Life show. Ariell Resheff presented his case for why people on Wall Street were overpaid: Wall Street is not an efficient market because the product sold by Wall Street is not tangible and often comes with “trust me” labels. So, Wall Streeters can use their leverage – “only we can understand this stuff” – to jack up their salaries receiving huge premiums that they wouldn’t be getting working anywhere else. Resheff argues that any person who switched jobs – without any additional eduction – from a non-finance to a finance job would receive the premium. But that is where the other reason for the inefficient market lies: There are big barriers to entry. Wall Street hires only from Ivy League colleges, supposedly the best and the brightest. So regular folks like us can’t get in. And why could the salaries get this high? Little regulation. And that’s what the This American Life show picks up: Where the heck were the regulators?!? I only started listening to this show. The 1930s saw a very thorough investigation of what led to the Great Depression thanks to the lead attorney of the investigating committee, Ferdinand Pecora. We can’t expect the Senate to stage similar hearings now because, for one, there’s a ton of money flowing from Wall Street to Congress (in other countries, they call those payments “bribes”). There’s also no Pecora around this time… So, This American Life set out to do some of that work. They begin by trying to figure out what the regulators knew about AIG. It turns out that AIG had tons of regulators, all responsible for a small part of the giant holding company. And the regulatory agency asleep at the wheel: OTS or Office of Thrift Supervision, the same agency – albeit with a new name – that brought us the Savings & Loan crisis. And why would they regulate (or rather not regulate) AIG, an insurance company? Well, because financial institutions get to pick their own regulating agency! Now if this isn’t absurd… (And that’s when I stopped listening because I was home…)
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