A DIARY OF THE ONSET OF THE GREATER DEPRESSION - A book Review by Carolyn Baker of Danny Schechter's e-book SQUEEZED The entire book can be down loaded here

For more years than I can count I've heard Danny Schechter's name bandied about in progressive circles, but for all his tireless activism, he did not fully capture my attention until I saw his stunning documentary "In Debt We Trust." By that time I had forsaken my myopic focus on imperialism, the Iraq War, the Democratic Party, and of course, Bush-bashing. It was becoming painfully and increasingly clear to me that history was repeating itself, and being an historian, I was well aware that it never does so in exactly the same manner but often with enough mirroring of earlier eras that it behooves human beings to sit up and pay attention.

About the same time that "In Debt We Trust" appeared on my radar screen, Chalmers Johnson's Nemesis was released, hammering home the inescapable similarities between the fall of the Roman Empire and the demise of the United States. Despite the divergence of focus between Schechter's documentary and Johnson's Nemesis, both ultimately reveal that the American empire is descending into catastrophic financial collapse, already bankrupt, which will eventually result in the abject impoverishment of all but a very few of its privileged inhabitants.

After purchasing "In Debt We Trust" I showed it regularly to a particularly endangered species in the empire's economic war on its own citizens, students. As a result, many "come to Jesus meetings" and "true confession sessions" ensued in my classes as they unburdened their souls regarding the gargantuan student loan debt with which they would leave college and their accelerating awareness that glamorous, cushy, lucrative jobs with which they might pay off their debts would not exactly be falling at their feet.

Then came Danny's new e-book Squeezed and his request that I review it. After reading it, the above description "a diary of the onset of the Greater Depression" came to mind. Let me explain.

I had recently read Doug Casey's "What's About To Hit Us Will Be Far Bigger Than The Great Depression" in which he uses the term "The Greater Depression" to describe the economic tsunami dead-ahead. Then after reading Squeezed, I realized that Danny has given us an extraordinary diary explaining exquisitely how we arrived on this path. "Great Depression" and "diary" are words that automatically hook most historians, and clearly, I'm no exception, particularly since I have acquired some financial literacy in recent years and have come to understand the quintessential role of economics in world, national, and local events.

Early in the book the following quote from the National Association For Business Economics appears, and I find it absolutely stunning:

The combined threat of subprime loan
defaults and excessive indebtedness
has supplanted terrorism and the
Middle East as the biggest short-term
threat to the U.S. economy.

Some sleight of hand the ruling elite have accomplished since 9/11, namely, that while Americans were pondering the color of the government's daily terrorist threat assessments, that government and its corporate cronies was taking them to the cleaners, picking their pockets, swindling, cheating, extorting, defrauding, hustling, ripping-off, double-dealing, conning, hornswoggling, hoodwinking, fudging, gouging, bamboozling, scamming, screwing, shafting, and let's not forget bilking the American middle and working classes. Hey, look over there-see the Italian spider climbing up the wall-or Osama hiding under your bed? And while you look, we'll steal you deaf, dumb, and blind!

Schechter succinctly informs the reader early-on of the book's contents stating that:

*It discusses how debt has restructured our economy and put
our people under a burden that many will never crawl out of. It
shows how access to credit has, for many, gone, in Steven Green's phrase "from a luxury to a necessity to a noose." It identifies the profiteers and calls for an investigation and the prosecution of those behind this shrewdly engineered ponzi scheme.

*It offers the critique of a media critic who has monitored flawed and superficial reporting on the subject and who is trying to challenge the news media to improve its coverage the problem and it also monitors some of what it has done. It discusses the making of my own new film intended to fill part of void. The story of In Debt We Trust: America Before the Bubble Bursts discusses its impact and the battle to get it seen.

* It advocates a debt relief movement in America and argues that such a movement would have tremendous resonance across the spectrum of political life. It urges citizens to get involved and politicians to respond.

On each topic, Squeezed superbly elucidates the key issues and documents the twists and turns of the odyssey that has resulted in the early stages of the Greater Depression which we have now entered.

Near the end of the book appears a Q & A section with Schechter and Gregory Paschal Zachary of Alternet from a 2006 interview entitled "Young Borrowers Face A Life Of Debt". The portion of the dialog I found most illuminating was the interviewer's question:

Paschal Zachary: You suggest at times that there is a conspiracy to trap as many Americans as possible into crushing debt, simply in order for banks to boost profits. Is it really that bad?

Schechter: The card companies are a cartel. They collaborate as much as they compete. They use the same techniques. There are people who see techniques, and the companies who use them, as evil. I don't personally like those terms. But I think the card companies are insensitive. They are chasing revenue and they don't care how they get it. They go over the top.

While I agree with Danny's answer, what really intrigues me is the interviewer's question, again echoing that dreaded word that sends progressives screaming into the night as if their hair is on fire: conspiracy. You see, in progressive circles we can say anything about anything as long as we don't imply that anything was a conspiracy. It all just sort of happened because stuff just happens, and it's "irrational" and a bit wacky to imply otherwise.

Earlier in the book, Schechter offers a blistering paragraph that probably did set Zachary's hair on fire if he's read the e-book and if he really is as terrified of "conspiracy theory" as he sounds:

Driving this change is a growing concentration of power in the
financial and banking sector. That, in turn, unleashed a process
called FINANCIALIZATION with the economy dominated by a
vast CREDIT AND LOAN COMPLEX every bit as insidious as the
Military Industrial Complex. This Complex is shadowy and
omnipresent, active in funding our politicians and lobbying for laws
that benefit their businesses. At the same time, it is invisible to most
of us. It operates through a fog of shadowy lobbyists, interconnected
institutions and highly legalized (and hence poorly understood)
rules, laws and procedures underpinning the market system and the
high-speed computers that move money and buy/sell orders
around the world in seconds.(xxii)