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April, 2008


When Kevin Phillips, author, commentator, former Republican strategist (who helped usher in the Reagan era), and an economic analyst (who forecast the present housing and credit ordeal) warns of yet further crises ahead, people may not agree with him, but they do well to listen.

His latest of 14 books is Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism. His debatable thesis is that the U.S. financial sector has engaged in a huge gambling con with other peoples' money, putting at risk not just the present shareholders of major financial companies, homeowners with risky mortgages, or their lenders, but the entire prestige and power of our great nation. Or, that our formerly great nation, by allowing itself to be duped into these and other such shaky debt-ridden schemes, in lieu of maintaining genuine innovation and productivity, are going the way of former failed powers in the model of the Dutch, Bourbon Spain, ancient Rome, and the British, among others, who in their turns had left off a real economy for the glitz of a complacent "services" approach to maintaining hegemony. He believes we have tried to do too much on the global scene, have not reinvented ourselves politically, are using outmoded energy approaches, even as the rest of the world is waking up to the need to transform the energy equations, and that we are resting the entire house of cards on an even less sustainable foundation of huge corporate, governmental, and private debt.

The unchecked propagation of asset-backed securities, an overuse of derivatives, the explosion of risky, unregulated hedge funds, and a substantial weakening of the U.S. dollar are just a few signposts pointing the way if not to ruin for our power, prestige, and heretofore unquestioned economic supremacy then at least to their decline relative to other rising or major players on the global stage.

I think it is a work worth careful review, especially as we consider in this presidential election year some of the key national choices and issues before us. I personally am appalled at how little depth there is in much of the political discussion, as we dwell instead on quick sound bites, quirks of personality, or games of "Gotcha."

Nor should it be assumed from his criticisms of much about American policy and corporate business today that Phillips has shed his Republican skin in favor of a more liberal agenda. The elephant remains his party symbol. There is plenty of criticism here too for Bill Clinton and other Democrats having helped begin the destruction of our American enterprise with ill conceived global economic policies. Or we might note that, since 1989, though the Democrats were in the White House for 8 of those years, the average middle class worker has seen only a 29% increase in earning power, one of the poorer long-term records in the country's history. Or note too that many Democrats are far less than pure, having taken hundreds of thousands in campaigning contribution dollars from corporations, hedge fund firms, and others gaining by privatization, inadequate regulation, or outright corruption as they undermine the country's financial strength.

Is Phillips on target with his concerns? I am not sufficiently schooled in politics or economics to say, but the book is quite intriguing, even alarming. Pro or con comments by other readers abound. Here is a paraphrased sampling:


Phillips understands the intricacies of both European and American politics, history, and finance, allowing him to authoritatively compare and contrast.

He writes knowledgably about fiscal and political topics. Do not miss a single volume by Kevin Phillips!

The perfect sequel to his previous works that predicted the severe crisis in which we find ourselves today.

Bad Money is terrifically clear and easy to read. It shows step by step how for 3-4 decades both parties have tried to delude the voters about how poor the economy was, so it would seem nothing serious need be done and so no repercussions could fall on the incompetent politicians overseeing the decline.

The author documents brilliantly that at every turn we are being led into a catastrophe, aided greatly, regardless of their party labels, by those who are supposed to protect us.


The work seems rushed and unpolished, as though Phillips' publisher told him to finish it quickly and while pertinent crises were still in the headlines and so uppermost in readers' minds.

There is less elucidation of the economic underpinnings of his arguments, and with fewer true to life anecdotes, than one can find in prior Phillips books.

Why is Kevin Phillips so consistently negative? If he is ever upbeat it must be rare.

I cannot agree with Phillips' ideas about the accumulation of wealth and its consequences.

I believe Bad Money is a pretty good read and would be interested in hearing from others what they think. Meanwhile, I am hoping for the best but wondering what one can really do to protect assets and financial security if we are indeed eventually headed not merely for recession but an economic disaster.


Larry is not a professional. Don't take him seriously!

Actually, the investment article provided here is for general information only and should not be considered as professional advice, a solicitation to buy or sell any security, or the Word of God. Investors are encouraged to do their own research while considering their personal goals and circumstances, or consult their own professional financial advisors, before making investment decisions. Neither Larry nor LARVALBUG will be liable for any losses sustained by any visitor to this site.

(Disclosure statement: Larry and Val have holdings in some of the suggested assets but do not "make a market" in any of them and do not derive any direct benefit from recommending them, except perhaps for a bit of smug self-satisfaction.)

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