Lara Fauth

When I was in college I rode on the University of Oregon equestrian team.  We were all women and as is often the case with groups of women, there were arguments and disagreements that in retrospect seem juvenile and stereotypically female.  In spite of this, I still remember one team member as a complete reprobate and have less than fond memories of one of the others. However, one of the team members has since become one of my dearest and closest friends.  You win some, you lose some.

For some reason I cannot articulate, last night while expunging Christmas decorations from my home, I suddenly remembered one of the women I rode with. I remembered her with fondness and wondered what had become of her.  Of course I jumped online and searched her name and made some discoveries as to her whereabouts.  I’m hoping I can connect with her.

In any case, this got me thinking about the people I knew in college.  What with Facebook and this blog and my firm website, with little effort, if anyone wants to find me, they can.  I wondered then, why there is a whole group of people from my past who have not turned up as requesting my friendship or via emails and whatnot.   Then it dawned on me.  Duh, Lara.  For five years, I had a different last name.  Anyone searching for Lara Fauth wouldn’t find much at all.  I changed my name back to my maiden name of Gardner as soon as I got divorced in 1999, which is before the ability to locate one’s former friends and acquaintances online became so ubiquitous.

I’m not sure anyone has looked for me.  I searched for Lara Fauth and found a site linking Lara Gardner to that name, so it’s probable that if someone wanted to find me, they could.  But I did have to look in the site to make the connection, it wasn’t just sitting there on the search page in google.  The idea occurred to me that if I put the old name in my blog, if someone searched for that name, they would find me, and so that is what this is.  It’s an attempt to put my old name on a site linking to my new name, so that if anyone who knew me while I was married ever wanted to find me, they could search Lara Fauth and perhaps this page would show up.  It can’t hurt to try.


Alone. Alone. I spent most of Christmas alone. Milla went to her dad’s and Isabel went with her dad and I didn’t have either of them for about 5 hours. Last week when I was stressed I looked forward to the break, but I’ve had some time to relax a little and I was bored without them. I went to a movie and went for a walk with the dog. What was different in my aloneness this time is that I wasn’t achingly lonely, desperate for my life to be different. This is a huge shift from a few years ago, before my last relationship, when I would stand in my shower with my head on the tiles of the wall and sob.

As I walked along I thought about the fact that I’m spending no time at all with my parents, not even trying to maintain the charade we’ve kept up for the last 2 decades, and I was glad of it.  It was so much simpler not pretending that I gave a shit.  I was glad to be free of the resentment that every year my little family is given short shrift. A couple of years ago my mom stopped even pretending to try and see us on Christmas. My sister has been so relentless about everything being on her terms, even to the point that for years she would find out when I wanted my mom to visit me and then make sure that this was the time she asked my mom to visit her. I started keeping it a secret just so she wouldn’t know, but then that left my mom wondering and unable to schedule, and of course anytime I would allude to what I thought was going on, the denials would take over. So many years of me and my girls being the bottom of the priority list. If anything good has come of this backing out of any semblance of a relationship, it is the end of losing the argument over who gets my mother.  My sister won. And it isn’t even me being sour grapes about it; I honestly don’t care. I have nothing in common with my mother, nothing to talk about of any substance, so there isn’t anything to miss or be sour grapes about. Our conversations are empty.  There are long silences. I can’t talk about my life because she just doesn’t get it. My mom won’t talk about politics, or world events, or constitutional issues, or the kinds of movies I see, or the kinds of books I read, or any of it. And honestly, I don’t really like the kinds of movies she sees or the books or magazines she reads either. It isn’t all one way. I am just as disinterested in her interests as she is in mine. My mother is desperate to pretend the world is a perfect place. She sees movies that are so sappy and cloying, they make me want to vomit. She reads the Bible and books about how to be a good Christian, and I’m an atheist. I like The New Yorker. She likes Guideposts. She wishes I wouldn’t discuss the problems our world is facing  or rail against greedy bankers, even if she agrees with the sentiment, and that everyone would just get along.

Me too, Mom, me too, but life is not a Rockwell painting. If she knew me at all she would know how deeply I lament the complexity of the mess this world is in.  If she knew me at all she would know so much more about me than she does. I suppose it is probably a good thing, but she doesn’t even know I write this blog, and I’ve done so for years. I believe she doesn’t want to know me. She has avoided who she thinks I am for years, and the only reason I can come up with is that I scare the shit out of her, and that’s too bad.  She doesn’t even know the simple things. Grey has been one of my favorite colors to wear for several years now.  Last year she was going to give me some gift of an item of clothing, but said she did not because it was grey, and “Lara doesn’t wear grey.” Um, yeah, I do, I told her, marveling at how little she knows even the simple things.

With every failed relationship except the last one, she blamed me for the breakup, even when she had no idea what happened.  She thought I should have been less independent and more devoted to the man, and that if I had taken better care of all of them, they wouldn’t have left, as if it was always so simple, always my fault alone, and always that they left. She doesn’t consider leaving a miserable relationship, so she can’t conceive that I would do just that. Funny how you can love someone and not really like them that much.

You know, the thing I’ve noticed about spending so much time alone, never having any conversations of depth with anyone, is that I find when I am with people, I have very little to say.  It’s as if in failing to find relationships of the depth I crave, I’ve lost the capacity to have them.  I don’t think that’s true, but it sure seems that way sometimes.

I am too much alone.  I can be surrounded by people in my job or through the computer, but I am still alone. Blah blah blah all day at work, but nothing is really a meaningful conversation, the kind that nourishes my soul. I speak with people, but our words have no depth, and I am still alone. Of late, I can’t find anyone with whom to have these kinds of conversations. I think though,  that this situation has more to do with not knowing how to meet people who have these sorts of conversations.

I saw an amazing movie called The Artist.  It was a silent film about a silent film actor and what becomes of him when talkies take over.  It was utterly brilliant.  I could have discussed that film with someone for hours, but there is no one to talk to. I saw another great movie called Hugo with Milla. The two of us had a lot to say, and I loved discussing it with her, but I could have had even deeper conversations about that film as well, but there is no one to talk to.

I read The New Yorker. I devour The New Yorker. It is filled with amazing articles, but I have no one to discuss them with. I have one friend who reads The New Yorker, but he’s married with a small child and he doesn’t have time to discuss things like that with me. None of my other friends have those kinds of conversations, even if they do read the same things I do or see the same kinds of movies. If they do have those kinds of conversations, they certainly aren’t having them with me.

I read a eulogy by Ian McKellan about Christopher Hitchens.  It described their last days together, how they dissected films and books, and I felt my insides move with desire for those kinds of conversations, friendships with that kind of depth. But I have no clue how to get them. None. I have thought and thought about it, but I don’t know how. I don’t do the right job. I don’t move in the right circles. I don’t have friends who have those kinds of conversations. I’m starving.

This was supposed to be a writing about being glad I’m not pretending Christmas needs to be with my parents, but it’s gone to a darker place. I feel too sloth-like, too fat, too alone. The intellectual part of my head says This too will pass, but another part, a darker part, thinks This is how it is for you.  No one except Milla and Isabel would even notice if you were gone.

Reading back through this, it drifted inperceptibly into self-pity, as if I’m really desperately lonely, but it’s not true.  On some level I think I was supposed to feel lonely because it was Christmas, but actually, except for our rushed festivities with one another in the morning, it was just like any other day (we had to rush because Milla had to be at the airport by 11).  The only real difference between this day and others was that Milla left and that always causes some melancholy to float through me.  Those days always end slightly empty, whether they are Christmas or not.  In any case, I’m fine.  No self-pity here.  I’m going to snuggle my baby and get some rest and tomorrow will be another day.

The Internets Suck Out My Brain

Lately, as the days have shrunk further into darkness, and I feel even stronger the urge to settle deep into the comforters and down rather than getting up and moving around, ideas flicker in and out of my mind.  Clever ideas.  Interesting ideas.  Ideas I used to write and percolate and develop and turn into something for publication.  And yet I realized that I haven’t published anything in a really long time.  I haven’t written anything in a really long time, at least nothing creative for myself.  Oh, I’ve written work briefs and motions, but certainly nothing clever or interesting, and these lack even the slightest modicum of creativity.  I used to write all the time.  Little tidbits here and there would develop fully into ideas worth pursuing.  I’ve been lamenting this, believing it is having a toddler and a 12 year old and a job and being a single mom and all that.  But I did all this writing before while parenting and working and being a single mom.  I didn’t have the baby while I was doing this, but I had a lot more dogs, so I probably broke even in the busy department.  Really I can’t honestly blame these things.  It’s something else.  I had an inkling, but the idea never really germinated into a full fledged acceptance as to the reason for this creative apathy.

Then yesterday, a magazine I subscribe to arrived in the mail.  I was sitting at our dining room table and the mail slid through the slot in the wall next to the table.  Ah, reading material, I thought with a gleam in my eye.  I’m something of a reading addict.  I barely spend a moment without some grouping of words nearby to fill my brain.  The New Yorker is my favorite.  It comes frequently enough and with enough material to satisfy.  This was another, Poets & Writers.  I’ve only recently subscribed and this was my second issue. The first issue brought me a useful article, something I had been thinking about and needed confirmation about from another source. The second had something useful is well.  Good subscription choice, I thought to myself.

The cover proclaimed all sorts of stories that dealt with this issue I’ve been facing of never writing much anymore, never developing these creative ideas that flit in and out of my brain like sparrows flying through the treetops but never landing.  I immediately turned to the page with the article and read the author’s description of me.  He isn’t a working single mother, but he is a working writer father and he has been for some time.  It wasn’t this life that was sucking away his creative force, it was the internet, and the iPhone, and Facebook, and all these millions of distractions.  He described how so many writers have to work on computers disconnected from all this connection to get any work done.  Oh, ah ha! my brain cried. This is it.

I knew this.  It was when I got the iPhone that my productivity slowed to a crawl.  Since Facebook was added to the iPhone, my productivity has all but ceased.  I used to write at least a blog post a day, sometimes even more.  I haven’t done that in so long I can’t even remember.  Now I have an idea, I might write it as a status update on Facebook, and then that’s all there is to it.  On to the next thing. Nothing germinates.  Nothing grows.  Nothing becomes fully formed.  And most of the time I don’t even bother getting to writing down the point because I open the Facebook and see an article, read the article, pass the article on, then read the next article, or the next status update of a friend, respond or share, then on.  Then it’s 48 minutes later, I’ve done nothing of lasting creative effect, nothing that satisfies, and the time to do it is gone.

I have been feeling a strange, how do you say it? Dissatisfaction.  Yes, that’s it.  I’ve been feeling dissatisfaction with my iPone lately.  Even before reading this article, I’ve been annoyed with the thing.  The flat screen drives me to distraction.  I’m constantly bumping it and doing something like calling a client who recently called me, and who I did not want to talk to.  I rapidly hang up and hope my number didn’t show up on their screen. Or I’ll graze the glass with my wrist and bring up stock quotes.  Who the fuck cares about stock quotes?  Damn, that is one feature on an iPhone I’ll bet 99% of us could give a shit about.  Seriously Jobs, most of us don’t care.  I’ve been longing for buttons.  I want to feel the satisfying click click under my fingertips as I dial or type something.  And then there is the pain in my arm and wrist from typing on my iPhone.  It hurts.  All the time.  My right arm has golf elbow from using the damn thing.

Ooh, I just realized I spent the last half hour writing instead of surfing Facebook.  I might not have been writing anything clever or creative, but it wasn’t surfing uselessness, so that’s a start.

In any case, my iPhone has been giving me fits and I’ve toyed with the idea of getting rid of it and getting just a phone.  The thought gives me a panic.  It reminds me of going to Europe.  The first couple of days when I could not access the data portion of my phone, I had these mini panics.  It’s like some portion of my brain has come to depend on the instant gratification of looking and seeing that no one has called me.  No one has emailed me.  Oh yes.  I got the same political emails I get every day.  They are a let down. It’s like waiting for the phone to ring when you have a crush on someone, then discovering a salesperson on the other end of the line.  All these things we’ve created for instant gratification when it comes to contact from our friends.  Even in Facebook, the first thing I go to is the little red number in the top-right-hand corner of my iPhone to see what the notifications are.  Was it someone actually writing to me?  Oh no.  Just someone liking a link.  What a shame.

I’ve got to get off this train.  I have to somehow disengage from this iPhone and internet dragging me away from my creative work.  Even this morning, when I first sat down to do this, the WordPress page beckoned with its many new features.  I wanted to surf away and figure out what they are.  Distractions.  Distractions all.  Artists forever have had to deal with distractions, but never before, I think, have these distractions been so available and insistent.  Even more discipline is required to keep them at bay. I can’t stop the job.  I can’t push away my children.  But I can work around them as needed–Like right now, Isabel awakened because of my fake sunlight lamp, crawled into my lap, and started nursing.  I can type around that.

But I’m going to have to force myself to ignore the lure of the iPhone and the Facebook and the Internets. They will suck out my brain if I’m not careful.  They already have, to some extent.  I have these ideas percolating and dribbling and wanting expression. I’ve thought of so many ideas for my book I can’t even begin to count.  TextEdit has several pages of notes where I’ve jotted something down, but then I haven’t gotten back into the habit of writing every night.  I was doing it religiously before we went to Europe, and I was happy.  Nothing else was different except I was writing regularly and this made me happy.  Since we got back, school began, I had to catch up on work, the days shortened, we moved, and the iPhone and Facebook and the Internets began sucking at my brain and here I am, nothing further done on the book and desperate to write, and not very happy. I need that outlet for happyish to be a part of my life.  I realized I’m out of practice.  I used to actually practice writing, both here and in other journals.  I haven’t done that. I have to rein in that discipline. Maybe it can be a New Year’s resolution I start now.

Anyway, I can’t think of any clever ending. Isabel is done nursing and it’s time to go to work. So I’m just going to stop. Hopefully I’ll write more again soon if the internets haven’t sucked out my brain.

This Should Scare Every American

Found here, please watch and share this video.  Click this link to view.

As soon as December 13, the President will sign NDAA Section 1031 into law, permitting citizen imprisonment without evidence or trial. The bill that passed Congress absolutely DOES NOT exempt citizens. The text of Section 1031 reads, “A covered person under this section” includes “any person who has committed a belligerent act”. We only have to be ACCUSED, because we don’t get a trial.

Indefinite Detention of American Citizens: Coming Soon to Battlefield U.S.A.

~ By Matt Taibbi

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There’s some disturbing rhetoric flying around in the debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, which among other things contains passages that a) officially codify the already-accepted practice of indefinite detention of “terrorist” suspects, and b) transfer the responsibility for such detentions exclusively to the military.

The fact that there’s been only some muted public uproar about this provision (which, disturbingly enough, is the creature of Wall Street anti-corruption good guy Carl Levin, along with John McCain) is mildly surprising, given what’s been going on with the Occupy movement. Protesters in fact should be keenly interested in the potential applications of this provision, which essentially gives the executive branch unlimited powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects without trial.

The really galling thing is that this act specifically envisions American citizens falling under the authority of the bill. One of its supporters, the dependably-unlikeable Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, bragged that the law “basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and that people can be jailed without trial, be they “American citizen or not.” New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte reiterated that “America is part of the battlefield.”

Officially speaking, of course, the bill only pertains to:

“… a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

As Glenn Greenwald notes, the key passages here are “substantially supported” and “associated forces.” The Obama administration and various courts have already expanded their definition of terrorism to include groups with no connection to 9/11 (i.e. certain belligerents in Yemen and Somalia) and to individuals who are not members of the target terror groups, but merely provided “substantial support.”

The definitions, then, are, for the authorities, conveniently fungible. They may use indefinite detention against anyone who “substantially supports” terror against the United States, and it looks an awful lot like they have leeway in defining not only what constitutes “substantial” and “support,” but even what “terror” is. Is a terrorist under this law necessarily a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban? Or is it merely someone who is “engaged in hostilities against the United States”?

Here’s where I think we’re in very dangerous territory. We have two very different but similarly large protest movements going on right now in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. What if one of them is linked to a violent act? What if a bomb goes off in a police station in Oakland, or an IRS office in Texas? What if the FBI then linked those acts to Occupy or the Tea Party?

You can see where this is going. When protesters on the left first started flipping out about George Bush’s indefinite detention and rendition policies, most people thought the idea that these practices might someday be used against ordinary Americans was merely an academic concern, something theoretical.

But it’s real now. If these laws are passed, we would be forced to rely upon the discretion of a demonstrably corrupt and consistently idiotic government to not use these awful powers to strike back at legitimate domestic unrest.

Right now, the Senate is openly taking aim at the rights of American citizens under the guise of an argument that anyone who supports al-Qaeda has no rights. But if you pay close attention, you’ll notice the law’s supporters here and there conveniently leaving out those caveats about “anyone who supports al-Qaeda.” For instance, here’s Lindsey Graham again:

“If you’re an American citizen and you betray your country, you’re not going to be given a lawyer … I believe our military should be deeply involved in fighting these guys at home or abroad.”

As Greenwald points out, this idea – that an American who commits treason can be detained without due process – is in direct defiance of Article III, Section III of the Constitution, which reads:

“No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

This effort to eat away at the rights of the accused was originally gradual, but to me it looks like that process is accelerating. It began in the Bush years with a nebulous description of terrorist sedition that may or may not have included links to Sunni extremist groups in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But words like “associated” and “substantial” and “betray” have crept into the discussion, and now it feels like the definition of a terrorist is anyone who crosses some sort of steadily-advancing invisible line in their opposition to the current government.

This confusion about the definition of terrorism comes at a time when the economy is terrible, the domestic government is more unpopular than ever, and there is quite a lot of radical and even revolutionary political agitation going on right here at home. There are people out there – I’ve met some of them, in both the Occupy and Tea Party movements – who think that the entire American political system needs to be overthrown, or at least reconfigured, in order for progress to be made.

It sounds paranoid and nuts to think that those people might be arrested and whisked away to indefinite, lawyerless detention by the military, but remember: This isn’t about what’s logical, it’s about what’s going on in the brains of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

At what point do those luminaries start equating al-Qaeda supporters with, say, radical anti-capitalists in the Occupy movement? What exactly is the difference between such groups in the minds (excuse me, in what passes for the minds) of the people who run this country?

That difference seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time, and such niceties as American citizenship and the legal tradition of due process seem to be less and less meaningful to the people who run things in America.

What does seem real to them is this “battlefield earth” vision of the world, in which they are behind one set of lines and an increasingly enormous group of other people is on the other side.

Here’s another way to ask the question: On which side of the societal fence do you think the McCains and Grahams would put, say, an unemployed American plumber who refused an eviction order from Bank of America and holed up with his family in his Florida house, refusing to move? Would Graham/McCain consider that person to have the same rights as Lloyd Blankfein, or is that plumber closer, in their eyes, to being like the young Muslim who throws a rock at a U.S. embassy in Yemen?

A few years ago, that would have sounded like a hysterical question. But it just doesn’t seem that crazy anymore. We’re turning into a kind of sci-fi society in which making it and being a success not only means getting rich, but also means winning the full rights of citizenship. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see this ending well.

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Who Took My Mother and Replaced her with a Lunatic?

Tonight while gathering up the boxes of unused holiday decorations to take to the basement, I had the thought that I would like to vacuum, and nearly simultaneously had the thought that I’m so grateful to now have a house again. The thought followed on the heels of the other because when one lives in a house, it is possible to do things like vacuum at 10:30 at night without worrying you will disturb the neighbors. Since selling my house in mid 2008, I have had to concern myself with nearby neighbors who would hear things like vacuuming, or hollering.

It is possible to spend your entire life doing something and not even notice you are doing it. Then one day you notice, and it is as if you are noticing yourself for the first time, wondering what in the world am I doing?

Twice this week I yelled at my Isabel. Yelled at her. I was in the car and she would not stop crying and yelling herself, and I turned and yelled, “Stop yelling!” I then realized immediately my hypocrisy in this statement. Yelling at her to tell her to stop yelling. She was so surprised by my yelling at her that she stopped immediately and stared. I faced forward to drive, then turned back to her and apologized, shamed and sorry. I love my little girl with my whole being. I don’t want to yell at her.

Then tonight, I was sitting in one of the chairs in the living room and begged Milla to push on my back and try to fix the cramp next to my right shoulder blade. It felt as if a rib was out. The pain was relentless, had been gradually increasing all day, and I could hardly bear it any longer. Milla agreed and I laid on the floor. Isabel immediately came and walked on me, her tiny feet making no impression in my skin. So soft, so dear.

Milla walked on the spot and I felt a pop and relief, but wanted more walking because the rubbing felt good to my sore muscles. While she walked, Isabel kept walking too, nearer my head, then she stepped onto the base of my neck and hair. She was wearing shoes with rubber soles and the rubber caught my hair she slid to the side, yanking my hair. I am a thorough tender head, and the pain was immediate and intense.

“Get off!” I screamed. “Get off! Get off now! Both off me now, off off off!”

More lithe and agile, Milla jumped off quickly. Isabel was slower. She slid off and landed on her backside, rolling to her back.

“That hurt!” I yelled at her. “That hurt so much! Don’t walk on my hair!”

Isabel looked at me as if to ask what had happened to her mother. Where had she gone? Who had taken her and replaced her with this screaming banshee? There was no fear in her eyes, only perplexity as she seemed to wonder whether I had gone insane, or had been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a lunatic. I jumped up and ran to my bed.

Isabel and Milla kept playing. I fell asleep for about 15 minutes and when I woke up, I lay there and wondered what I had become. I don’t want to be a person who yells at my children. Yet I have. I don’t do it often, and this is the first time I have ever done it to Isabel, but I know I have hollered at Milla. It must stop. It’s that simple. I woke up today and saw myself in a way I have not before, not really. Maybe noticing is the key. I think it is.

The US Government Hands OUR Money to the Banks Who Steal From Us

The US Government hands over OUR tax money to the banks who have driven us to this desperate economic situation that is hurting so many people.  This should cause serious concern.  Regardless of what you think of the Occupy movement, you should care that the government hands off your money to crooks, money that is supposed to be used for our schools, keeping our air and water clean, functional highway systems, and taking care of the needy.  There isn’t any money for any of these things because it has been given away to rich thieves.

See this transcript from the documentation proving these massive bailout transfers.  The original document can be seen here.

Federal Bailouts:  Money for Nothing
~ by Alan Grayson

I think it’s fair to say that Congressman Ron Paul and I are the parents of the GAO’s audit of the Federal Reserve. And I say that knowing full well that Dr. Paul has somewhat complicated views regarding gay marriage.

Anyway, one of our love children is a massive 251-page GAO report technocratically entitled “Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Policies and Processes for Managing Emergency Assistance.” It is almost as weighty as that 13-lb. baby born in Germany last week, named Jihad. It also is the first independent audit of the Federal Reserve in the Fed’s 99-year history.

Feel free to take a look at it yourself, it’s right here. It documents Wall Street bailouts by the Fed that dwarf the $700 billion TARP, and everything else you’ve heard about.

I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I’m dramatizing or amplifying what this GAO report says, so I’m just going to list some of my favorite parts, by page number.

Page 131 – The total lending for the Fed’s “broad-based emergency programs” was $16,115,000,000,000. That’s right, more than $16 trillion. The four largest recipients, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, received more than a trillion dollars each. The 5th largest recipient was Barclays PLC. The 8th was the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, PLC. The 9th was Deutsche Bank AG. The 10th was UBS AG. These four institutions each got between a quarter of a trillion and a trillion dollars. None of them is an American bank.

Pages 133 & 137 – Some of these “broad-based emergency program” loans were long-term, and some were short-term. But the “term-adjusted borrowing” was equivalent to a total of $1,139,000,000,000 more than one year. That’s more than $1 trillion out the door. Lending for these programs in fact peaked at more than $1 trillion.

Pages 135 & 196 – Sixty percent of the $738 billion “Commercial Paper Funding Facility” went to the subsidiaries of foreign banks. 36% of the $71 billion Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility also went to subsidiaries of foreign banks.

Page 205 – Separate and apart from these “broad-based emergency program” loans were another $10,057,000,000,000 in “currency swaps.” In the “currency swaps,” the Fed handed dollars to foreign central banks, no strings attached, to fund bailouts in other countries. The Fed’s only “collateral” was a corresponding amount of foreign currency, which never left the Fed’s books (even to be deposited to earn interest), plus a promise to repay. But the Fed agreed to give back the foreign currency at the original exchange rate, even if the foreign currency appreciated in value during the period of the swap. These currency swaps and the “broad-based emergency program” loans, together, totaled more than $26 trillion. That’s almost $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in America. That’s an amount equal to more than seven years of federal spending — on the military, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, interest on the debt, and everything else. And around twice American’s total GNP.

Page 201 – Here again, these “swaps” were of varying length, but on Dec. 4, 2008, there were $588,000,000,000 outstanding. That’s almost $2,000 for every American. All sent to foreign countries. That’s more than twenty times as much as our foreign aid budget.

Page 129 – In October 2008, the Fed gave $60,000,000,000 to the Swiss National Bank with the specific understanding that the money would be used to bail out UBS, a Swiss bank. Not an American bank. A Swiss bank.

Pages 3 & 4 – In addition to the “broad-based programs,” and in addition to the “currency swaps,” there have been hundreds of billions of dollars in Fed loans called “assistance to individual institutions.” This has included Bear Stearns, AIG, Citigroup, Bank of America, and “some primary dealers.” The Fed decided unilaterally who received this “assistance,” and who didn’t.

Pages 101 & 173 – You may have heard somewhere that these were riskless transactions, where the Fed always had enough collateral to avoid losses. Not true. The “Maiden Lane I” bailout fund was in the hole for almost two years.

Page 4 – You also may have heard somewhere that all this money was paid back. Not true. The GAO lists five Fed bailout programs that still have amounts outstanding, including $909,000,000,000 (just under a trillion dollars) for the Fed’s Agency Mortgage-Backed Securities Purchase Program alone. That’s almost $3,000 for every American.

Page 126 – In contemporaneous documents, the Fed apparently did not even take a stab at explaining why it helped some banks (like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) and not others. After the fact, the Fed referred vaguely to “strains in the financial markets,” “transitional credit,” and the Fed’s all-time favorite rationale for everything it does, “increasing liquidity.”

81 different places in the GAO report – The Fed applied nothing even resembling a consistent policy toward valuing the assets that it acquired. Sometimes it asked its counterparty to take a “haircut” (discount), sometimes it didn’t. Having read the whole report, I see no rhyme or reason to those decisions, with billions upon billions of dollars at stake.

Page 2 – As massive as these enumerated Fed bailouts were, there were yet more. The GAO did not even endeavor to analyze the Fed’s discount window lending, or its single-tranche term repurchase agreements.

Pages 13 & 14 – And the Fed wasn’t the only one bailing out Wall Street, of course. On top of what the Fed did, there was the $700,000,000,000 TARP program authorized by Congress (which I voted against). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) also provided a federal guarantee for $600,000,000,000 in bonds issued by Wall Street.

There is one thing that I’d like to add to this, which isn’t in the GAO’s report. All this is something new, very new. For the first 96 years of the Fed’s existence, the Fed’s primary market activities were to buy or sell U.S. Treasury bonds (to change the money supply), and to lend at the “discount window.” Neither of these activities permitted the Fed to play favorites. But the programs that the GAO audited are fundamentally different. They allowed the Fed to choose winners and losers.

So what does all this mean? Here are some short observations:

(1) In the case of TARP, at least The People’s representatives got a vote. In the case of the Fed’s bailouts, which were roughly 20 times as substantial, there was never any vote. Unelected functionaries, with all sorts of ties to Wall Street, handed out trillions of dollars to Wall Street. That’s now how a democracy should function, or even can function.

(2) The notion that this was all without risk, just because the Fed can keep printing money, is both laughable and cryable (if that were a word). Leaving aside the example of Germany’s hyperinflation in 1923, we have the more recent examples of Iceland (75% of GNP gone when the central bank took over three failed banks) and Ireland (100% of GNP gone when the central bank tried to rescue property firms).

(3) In the same way that American troops cannot act as police officers for the world, our central bank cannot act as piggy bank for the world. If the European Central Bank wants to bail out UBS, fine. But there is no reason why our money should be involved in that.

(4) For the Fed to pick and choose among aid recipients, and then pick and choose who takes a “haircut” and who doesn’t, is both corporate welfare and socialism. The Fed is a central bank, not a barber shop.

(5) The main, if not the sole, qualification for getting help from the Fed was to have lost huge amounts of money. The Fed bailouts rewarded failure, and penalized success. (If you don’t believe me, ask Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan.) The Fed helped the losers to squander and destroy even more capital.

(6) During all the time that the Fed was stuffing money into the pockets of failed banks, many Americans couldn’t borrow a dime for a home, a car, or anything else. If the Fed had extended $26 trillion in credit to the American people instead of Wall Street, would there be 24 million Americans today who can’t find a full-time job?

And here’s what bothers me most about all this: it can happen again. I’ve called the GAO report a bailout autopsy. But it’s an autopsy of the undead.


Alan Grayson