Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"This is where the 'greater fool' theory comes into play.
"The theory is that there is always a greater fool, somewhere, who can be sold a toxic loan and the dangerous piece of paper attached to it.
"Globalisation had opened up a whole world of fools who did not understand the American mortgage market.
"Nobody ever thinks that they themselves might be the greater fool...
"... caught holding the package...
"... when the music stops."
"During 2007, lenders began foreclosure proceedings on nearly 1.3 million properties - a 79% percent increase over 2006. Then things got worse. By August 2009, 9.2% of all US mortgages were either delinquent or in foreclosure. One year later, this had risen to 14.4%. The party was over. The music had stopped. The bill had to be paid at last."
Indeed it did. Just not by the people who had created the problem. I think this may well be the finest piece of investigative graphic journalism I have ever seen. I know Darryl doesn't necessarily consider himself a journalist, from his perspective he's just telling the story as he sees it, but it lays bare the truths and falsehoods behind the cause and consequences of the 'supercrash'. And, as you might intuit from the title, there is undoubtedly blame to be apportioned, and he does so in a truly excoriating yet completely fair manner.
But there is also a wider story to be told here, because inevitably events of this magnitude don't come about overnight, and in Darryl's eyes we need to start by looking at the life and influence of Ayn Rand. Rand was a strange, practically messianic figure to some, yet full of contradictions evidently apparent to anyone not blinded by the fervency of her socio-political assertions, and also someone who brooked absolutely no dissent from her coterie of followers who became rapidly known as 'The Collective'. Amongst those heavily influenced, some might say indoctrinated by Rand, was one Alan Greenspan, who rose in power to become the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006.
Chief amongst Rand's beliefs was in the need for absolute unfettered freedom of the financial markets. Regulation by government of the financial systems was tantamount to heresy in Rand's eyes. The markets should be left to regulate themselves. Now, it doesn't take a genius to imagine what is going to happen if you let the most avaricious members of society set their own rules does it? And yet, that is precisely what Greenspan presided over during his tenure as the top financial dog of the US economy. Gradually the checks and balances that were in place to prevent the wholesale rape and pillage of the bedrock of the US financial economy were eroded, sidestepped or just outright dismissed as ever more toxic debt was packaged and passed on in ever more inventive and increasingly immoral, if not at times also downright illegal ways.
Eventually as Darryl explains so clearly, unravelling the mess as he does in the second act of the book, someone was going to end up in deep trouble, and so the runs on the various banks began, the frantic bailouts negotiated by Governments globally at the taxpayers' expense, whilst the villains of the piece, the individuals that actually caused the problems got off not only scot-free but also trousering vast amounts of cash, some of them in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. I am pretty sure I am right in stating that not one high level banking executive in the UK or US has been sent to prison for any sort of financial impropriety associated with the supercrash.
Gradually however, through pieces like this shining a bright and focussed light on the industry as a whole, and more traditional investigative journalism, we are at last starting to expose very serious wrongdoing such as collusion in fixing the LIBOR rate etc. which must surely see some custodial sentences imposed. Though when we actually see someone sent down instead of merely being given a hefty if token fine I'll believe it. Plus I'm old enough to remember one Ernest Saunders, sent to prison in the early 90s for fraudulently attempting to manipulate the price of Guinness shares, his sentence commuted after a mere ten months in prison on compassionate grounds due to him almost immediately developing the incurable Alzheimer's disease, and his subsequent miraculous full and entirely unique recovery upon release.
Reading Darryl's work makes you realise how much corruption there is at the highest levels of government and the finance industry, how very often it's a rotating door between the two for various individuals who have no sooner passed laws benefiting investment banks then promptly ending up on the board of one, at least one, in some capacity or other. Capitalism might not be the outright brutal oppression that North Korea imposes on its people but it's definitely designed to minimise true social mobility and ensure all the wealth remains concentrated in the palms of the very few.
So in the third act, titled 'The Age Of Selfishness' Darryl tackles the thorny topic of what could replace capitalism, and how perhaps the ever swinging pendulum of political liberalism and conservatism (to use the American definitions) is in part responsible for the situation we currently find ourselves in. He goes on to make some interesting observations regarding how early people's political tendencies are apparently created, before looking at the current political situation in both the UK and the US. It's pretty bleak stuff I must say, but fortunately the final three pages provide some small cause for optimism pointing out as they do that mass citizens movements have brought about substantial societal change before, and have the possibility to do so again.
This is a truly outstanding piece of work, illustrated so intelligently as ever in his wonderful no nonsense informative style, which hits new heights of in terms of detail and its ability to disseminate such complex information so simply, and it deserves to win awards and gain the highest praise and plaudits from not just within the comics industry but also the wider world. I also don't doubt he'll now find himself on the watchlist of some very wealthy and well connected people, but that's the price you pay for shining the light of truth on such a murky morass of quasi-illicit activities by the so called great and good. He's probably ensured he'll never get a mention on the Queen's birthday honours list now either, but he's certainly deserving of it in my book for the public service he's done everyone in writing this work. Bravo Darryl, I salute you.