Other People's Money Words & Music by Steve Gillette
In 1923, Pablo Picasso wrote a letter to his friend, Marius de Zayas, in which he said, "We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth." Artistic skill may be useful, but it must serve something more authentic or it's no more than artifice. So, every artist is a truth seeker; otherwise what would be the essential touchstone at the core of the work? I believe this is what the listener and the reader are seeking in the best of what we do.
Starting out in life we accept and adopt what others think; parents, teachers, even friends, we have so little experience of the world of our own. But at some point — and in many cultures it's around our thirteenth year — we are expected to take responsibility for our own actions. What the Jungians call individuation. If we continue to rely on someone else's truth, we are not being true to ourselves or to others.
"You who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by. And so become yourselves ..." - Graham Nash
How many times have we wanted to exercise that franchise and speak out about some injustice we see? All civilized people are encouraged to make a choice about whether they will be heard to complain or not. There are lots of reasons to give that proposition some thought before leaping into the fray. Some weight must be given to the severity of the problem, and then we need to make sure we have the right end of the pitch fork. Beyond that, who will listen and with what result?
There have been times when it seemed trendy for songwriters to complain, and times when it seemed tiresome. Over the last few decades, there has been a definite shift from the small independent labels who could support artists on the fringes of public thought. That reality has given way to a much more corporatized media where certain topics are not encouraged. It's not that simple to be sure, but just hearing juicy language is not an assurance of freedom of speech.
Still, there is suffering, and anyone who sees that suffering occurring will feel a need to speak. So how is a songwriter to approach that work? It is good to know the principles and the jargon of the subject well enough so you can bring it to life. And, as in a previous article, there is the need to be able to lead the listener into difficult territory with the overarching assurance of shared human values even in the midst of crisis.
I don't think anyone will deny that we are in the midst of crisis. But this song was written ten years ago, in the aftermath of a different crisis. Looking back it seems less drastic, less threatening than a pandemic, and yet much human suffering was created. It may be that there is more to say when pointing out an incidence of man's inhumanity to man, than there is in focusing on the dangers of the natural world.
Fraud is so rampant that it's hard to miss, even if we're not looking for it. But if there exists a system by which fraud is facilitated to the extent that it affects all of our lives, that seems to call for an investigation and possibly an outcry. If the agencies with the duty to protect the public are in on the fraud, then it may fall to the lowly songwriter to speak out.
Humor can be helpful. It's easy to slip into a snarky, sarcastic tone when observing bad behavior. And it may invite a response from the listener to question one's right to speak — to cast the first stone as they say. So a great deal of the process of writing such a song must be devoted to knowing the facts and placing them in a context that honors the reality, and it sure helps if it's funny.
Given all those disclaimers, I offer my song about a young hotshot Wall Street trader, churning his client's investments, playing fast and loose, bending the rules, seeking bonuses for himself and risking the life savings of people who will have to pick up the pieces when he stumbles. And, of course, that's just what we all saw in the sub-prime mortgage debacle of 2008. Banks went under, and were bailed out, while most of what was lost was 'other people's money.'
There are good reasons to give control of our savings to a money manager, someone with the experience and access to act on our behalf. And, of course, without pooling money, and borrowing from the future, great buildings and civic improvements might not be possible. My song is more about the need for accountability; for prudent judgment and respect for the precious capital of the lives of the people who are trusting the fearless young broker.
Many in the industry of finance use the term 'the invisible hand' to suggest that in 'free-market capitalism' the open market can be relied upon to give the fairest evaluation to goods and labor. But when Adam Smith coined the term in 1759 in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he wrote: "The rich are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society."
He reasoned that since the wealthy land owner, mine owner, or mill owner had to live in the neighborhood, of course his interest would be in creating the best conditions for all. Today's inheritors of the feudal fiefdoms don't live in Trenton or Compton, and don't have to contend with the consequences of fracking or redlining and blight.
In recent days, absurdly low (even negative) interest rates have led to hyperfinancialization and malinvestment. This has led to derivatives and junk finance, hostile takeovers, stock buy-backs and other short-term strategies that result in disaster for those who can't walk away.
A political system awash with money has resulted in the loss of oversight and regulation. I'm very skeptical about giving over control of anything to private companies who are able to bend the rules without consequence. That extends to the very controversial view, that if the people of a nation don't have control over their own financial resources, they don't have a nation.
The government can be criticized on so many fronts, but if the people owned their own central bank, at least then bailing it out, by borrowing from their own futures would benefit all the people, and not just the anonymous bankers, hedge funds and corporations who can take the money and run. The current enormous debt will not be paid by those players; the debt will come out of the pension funds of teachers, police officers, firemen, union workers, credit unions, Medicare, Social Security and personal savings.
Lots of controversy here, but it's my belief that there's enough evidence of fraud to justify my poking fun at it. My little egocentric bond trader seems kind of small time compared with what we've seen recently.
At the time I wrote the song, the anonymity of Yale University's Skull & Bones, 'The Order,' had been exposed partly due to the fact that both presidential candidates Bush and Kerry were members of the secret society. But I wasn't thinking of Dubya when I created my straw-man at Goldman or Morgan or HSBC; I was referring to the fraternal connections that are so prevalent in the insider's circles.
Many such groups exist. In Britain, Cecil Rhodes left his fortune to the formation of a special college at Oxford and to a group actually known as 'The Group' which exerted inordinate influence on British policy. The Pilgims Society of London and then New York, held similar sway. The Council On Foreign Relations, The Bilderbergs, The Club of Rome and the Masons have been centers of power. Even the Elks, Odd Fellows, Lions Club and Rotary, in addition to many good civic works, can build relationships and help their members to progress up the ladder of success.
But Skull & Bones is pretty unique. So many of the top leaders and policy makers in the fields of banking, education, medicine, foreign affairs and politics have been Bonesmen. In my song, I was only thinking of the sense of entitlement that seems to give an exaggerated confidence to so many of those men. The list of their exploits in Dr. Antony Sutton's book linked below is pretty astonishing.
Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan have provided many high-level members of recent administrations, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and New York Fed President Timothy Geithner, who convinced Congress to restructure the debt that had brought their former employers to the brink of ruin. I hadn't heard of Steve Mnuchin when I wrote the song. He really was in Skull & Bones and Goldman Sachs, and is a player on a scale that dwarfs anything I could have imagined. I use the word 'sacks' in my song as a pun, I couldn't resist 'while the pirate Morgan plunders and Goldman sacks and burns.'
In 1933, while Franklin Roosevelt was president, during what we may soon be calling the 'first' great depression, Senator Carter Glass and Representative Henry B. Steagall wrote the bill that carries their name. It was passed to create a separation between the speculative activities of investment banks and the caretaker function of savings banks. In 1999, Larry Summers helped to pass the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which removed that separation. Recently banks were allowed to remove any requirement for reserves, another step down the slippery slope.
Summers promoted the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, to allow banks to widen their practice of mingling saver's funds in speculative ventures. In testimony before Congress on July 30, 1998, he said, "The parties of these kinds of contract are largely sophisticated financial institutions that would appear to be eminently capable of protecting themselves from fraud and counterparty insolvencies."
Long Term Capital Management, Enron and Worldcom all took advantage of that loosening of regulation. All went under after profligate speculation, and took the life savings of their employees and investors with them. Exotic financial products, derivatives, and credit swaps multiplied the leverage of the banks and multiplied the risks for the savers. Many of these risky devices are avoided by the bankers but find their way into pension funds and the sovereign accounts of other countries. Bankers will say they need that freedom in order to be competitive. They are fearful of not being able to hold their own against the lucrative money-laundering activities of the banks of The City of London, Brussels and Hong Kong.
The Roman Emperor Justinian declared that for banks to create money is simply fraud, and should never be allowed. The bible has very little to say about banking practices, but certainly the admonishment not to debase the coins is relevant.
"Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water." (Isaiah 1:22)
Don't ever play Monopoly with an eight-year-old who has his own printing press. He'll foreclose on your nice little condo on Park Place, and you'll be sleeping in a shelter. Increasing the money supply is what inflation literally means, but we are taught to focus on the effects of that inflation, which magically seem not to be there. Currently statistics are manipulated so as not to reflect the rise in the cost of rent, college tuition, prescriptions and half a dozen other essentials that would show a doubling and redoubling of actual expenses if they were included.
Gold has traditionally served as a basis of value. When we went off the gold standard in 1971 we replaced it with the petrodollar; a system based on the price of oil in American dollars. Since then we've kept a tight control on most sources of oil in the world so that very little would be available without it being paid for in American dollars. Recently that standard has eroded, and at this moment, you can have all the oil you can store basically for free.
Quantitative Easing, injection of liquidity, debt monitization and stimulus are euphemisms for money printing. Fiat, paper money, worthless in itself, only has value because we say it has value and we back up that claim with military force. The reference to Charles Ponzi in the song, is a way of noting that it continually takes more printing to preserve the illusion of a healthy economy. In other words, not sustainable. Who can say when it will collapse?
When we hear that helicopters are dropping money from the air, why do we not feel a sense of relief? The reality may be that we are in a runaway canoe without a paddle racing down a torrent of paper. Even a songwriter can hear the rumble of the falls on the river ahead.
Here's my video for "Other People's Money":
"Other People's Money" - Video by Steve
Dr. Antony Sutton's wrote an excellent book about The Order of Skull & Bones, Secret societies, and their role in World politics. There's a free download here: Download
James Corbett has made a very clear presentation on the history of the Federal Reserve Bank. Start at 9:39 for a brief description of the men who created the cartel.
Century of Enslavement - The History of The Federal Reserve
Here's very thorough documentary about the imposition of the Federal Reserve and prior private central banks:
The Evils of the Federal Reserve and Prior Private Central Banks - Rothschild
The song may be purchased for download as an MP3 or a lossless FLAC from Steve & Cindy's online store here.
Here are the lyrics the way we sing it.
She said her ex has got a penchant for the art of arbitrage He's got a mansion in the Hamptons with a seven car garage. He made a lot of friends when he was Skull & Bones at Yale He's got an ego that's just too big to fail And when he gets together with the boys down on Wall Street They love to laugh and say we did it all with Other people's money, Other people's money We had a ball, we took the fall, But it was other people's money, that's all. There's so much about finance that I don't understand Must be the work of the invisible hand. You got your QE and your Ponzi and diminishing returns While the pirate Morgan plunders and Goldman sacks and burns. He'll hide his face in the quarterly reports But he can't cover his naked shorts without Other people's money, Other people's money We had a ball, we took the fall, But it was other people's money, that's all. One time I tried to ask him what he thought about a system That was robbin' the poor man blind. He said the people that mind don't matter And the people that matter don't mind.
© 2015, Compass Rose Music, BMI