By Dr. Gal Noir*
I have been working as an undercover investigator of hijackedeconomic truths for many years. It doesn’t pay much, I work long hours, but Isleep well at night. It is the nagging questions that help me get up in themorning and do what I do. What is the economy for? Where has the middle classgone? Why have manufacturing jobs fled the US? Why is CEO-to-worker pay ratio471:1 in the US, while it is only 20:1 in Canada? Why haven’t we wiped out unemployment once andfor all? No, really. Permanently! Why do we have child hunger, mass poverty,and stunning income inequality in the richest country in the world? Andeverywhere I turn, I keep getting the same answers: “Because The Market said so! Because this is how The Market works. Because these are thelaws of The Market.”
After years of hearing about The Market, I had one simple question:
Who. Is. The Market?
Has anyone seen him? Has anyone talked to him? Gottenanswers? Maybe asked him to change his ways? I cannot think of a singlejournalist, economists, or policy maker who has interviewed The Market. And then I knew…this was onlya job only for Dr. Gal Noir. I wanted to hear more about The Market’s rationale for what seemed to be very disturbing developments. I wouldn’t normally investigatequestions that are only of interest to me, but it turns out that The 99% have been asking the samequestions too. Of course, we all know who The99% are. Here are theirstories and their faces. But no one seems to know exactly who The Market is!
I kept hearing that if governments tried to regulateconsumer products like home mortgages, credit cards, grocery food, children’stoys, etc… they will invariably injure TheMarket by interfering with his operations.
So I wondered. Whatdoes The Market do?
Is his work more sacred than mine or yours? Is his healthmore important than ours? Is his business so vital that he should never bedisturbed?
Perhaps I could find answers to these questions if Iunderstood what The Market was for. Whathe was trying to do. What purpose did he serve? How did he work to achieve hisgoals?
I figured that if I found him, I could interrupt him forjust a little bit to ask him some questions. I meant no harm and I surely didn’twish to injure him. A short little interview never hurt anybody, right?
I wasn’t sure where to start. Many people think that governmentswatch everybody, listen to phone conversations, monitor bank accounts and privaterecords, so they must surely know where TheMarket is. I went to Congress but was told that the Senate was a big enemyof The Market, and that the House ofRepresentatives was trying to develop more ‘market friendly’ policies in hope ofcoaxing him out of his hiding. It was no use.
I also learned that the agencies which most interfered withthe business of The Market were the EPAand the FDA. If they messed with him so much, surely they knew where he was. Alas, no luck. The EPA and the FDAwere both baffled. “All we want to do here” they told me “is clean up somerivers, improve the soil, and check for chemicals in food products and led inkid’s toys.”
Government was obviously of no help. In fact, I kept hearingfrom all government agencies that they “really didn’t want to damage” The Market. Was The Market so fragile? Is that why he was in hiding? And yet he wasthat important? It didn’t make any sense.
I thought Big Media could help—they always get their story right.I knew exactly where to go. One organization, more than any other, had a directline to The Market. If I batted myeyelashes (maybe, just maybe) they would tell me where to find him (at leastthat’s how I got the surprisingfirst draft of Bernanke’s Congressional Testimony this week).
So I went to Fox News. Chaos ensued everywhere. Peoplestarted shuffling through rolodexes, ploughing through address books, calling friendsof friends in high places who said they knew The Market intimately. Nothing.
I was shocked, exasperated, disheartened. If I couldn’t findThe Market here, where could Ipossibly go?! MSNBC? I don’t think so! I heard they hated The Market.
Dejected, I still carried on. One thing was becoming clear—eitherThe Market was very important or very,very dangerous. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be in hiding. I just couldn’t believe itwas the latter—after all, as we learn in kindergarten, The Market gives us freedom, opportunity, prosperity.
And then I remembered… We experience recessions every 7-10years; financial crises (big or small) – just as often (if not more often). Todaythere are 29.3 million unemployed and underemployed people in the US, 17million hungry children, 16.8 million full-time workers who live in poverty,millions of homeowners under water and in foreclosure, and millions more dealingwith crushing student debt…
Whatever The Marketwas up to was not working. I had to find him. Right away. Confront him. Holdhim accountable. Ask the questions The99% wanted to ask! Millions of lives were at stake here. But where was he?
Maybe The Markethad gone Rogue! Maybe we had left him alone for too long and he has gone mad!Maybe he needed friends. Maybe he wanted to be reintegrated into the socialfabric, to find meaning and purpose, to be once again connected to reality,community and nature. Anyone would go nuts if they were isolated for too long.
And then it dawned on me — maybe he knew he was in troubleand had checked himself into an Insane Asylum? Yes! That was it.
So I headed to Wall Street.
It took me that longto figure out what The 99% already instinctivelyknew?! But at least I was on the right track… I just had to squeeze past thebarricades, avoid the police batons and pepper sprays, and ask my questions.
Once I knew what I had to do, it wasn’t very difficult. Iput on a corporate suit, an ‘important’ look on my face, assumed a condescendingattitude, and jumped into my 6 inch heels. I walked right past the police—theyeven pepper sprayed a couple of #OWS students to make way. Go figure! But I’msure The Market told them to do it. Iwaltzed right in and was granted my exclusive interview on the condition that Idid not disclose the actual location of TheMarket. (But you already know where it is now, don’t you?)
It turns out that TheMarket wasn’t a ‘him’ at all. Itwas them! Yes, them. The familiar faces! They all sat around a big table. One hada graying beard, another – giant glasses (and for some bizarre reason washolding a Conductor’s baton), a third was tall…really tall… but I could stillsee the drops of sweat on his bald head, a fourth had a silly, almost mousylook but his curly locks were charming. And then there were countless of otherswhom I couldn’t quite discern from the glare of their Rolex watches. And so I began:
Dr. Gal Noir: Are you TheMarket?
Them: Yes. In amanner of speaking.
Dr. Gal Noir: In a manner of speaking? What does that mean?Where is THE Market?
Them: Well, therereally isn’t A Market… We are fillingthose shoes.
Dr. Gal Noir: What do you mean there isn’t A Market? Everyone thinksthere is A Market and that it is all-powerfuland should not be disturbed under any circumstances because he makes all the decisionabout the economy.
Them: It’s true. Weare quite powerful and do not like to be bothered. We like to be left alone. Weare very busy setting the world record on CEO-to-worker pay ratio. We’vemanaged 471:1! We’ll have you know that this is quite an achievement,considering that we are very busy with paper shredding and yachting.
Dr. Gal Noir: Wait! What? Let me get this straight. You don’t wantto be disturbed, you wish to do whatever you like, and you want to be called THE Market? But what purpose do you serve?And where in the world did you get all this money?
Them: Well, allmoney in the economy is generated when people and governments spend, produce, buy,sell, employ, build… We just ‘manage’ it, play around with it, leverage it,whatever you want to call it. But for our services, we take a sizeable percentage– be it from pension funds, school endowments, public employee benefits,children’s trusts… We get quite a bit from government in the form of subsidies too,and are hoping to get all of Social Security very soon as well. And we cannot be disturbed. We are planningfor CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 1000:1 over the next 5 years. This is our 5 yearplan!
Dr. Gal Noir: You have plan?What?! I thought there was no planningin a market system!
Them: Oh no, no,no, no. Ha ha ha. Where did you hear such a foolish thing? Of course, there is planning. There is always planning. The point is whogets to do it. We very much like toplan. We plan, for example, where to invest your money (mostly in our own proprietarytrades), whose mortgages to refinance (usually our friends’), whose jobs to export(most), which workers will lose their benefits (we are still working on public sectorworkers), which employers will get a line of credit (multinational corporationsof course. No mom-and-pop stores, please!), and we prefer employers with thehighest rate of profit and the smallest wage bill. This is how we plan to hitour 1000:1 ratio. We boost CEO pay and we reduce worker pay at the same time. It’sfoolproof. You know, you have to work both with the numerator and the denominator. We havesophisticated math models to demonstrate this.
Dr. Gal Noir: So if some new entrepreneur has an amazing newtechnology and wants to hire, say, 30,000 workers to flood the market with electriccars, you are the ones who decidewhether or not that entrepreneur gets funding?
Them: Of course.We killed that crazy idea once in the 90s and we’ll do it again. It’s not a good plan.
Dr. Gal Noir: It’s not a good plan to flood the market withelectric cars or to employ 30,000 people?
Them: Well, both.The electric car hurts the oil market (you know, THE market). But hiring 30,000 people is really foolish. We’ve gotrobots that could do pretty much anything we need, why would we need people?
Dr. Gal Noir: Doesn’t the economy exist to serve and provide for the people?
Them: Oh, hardly.The economy is ours. We plan it andit serves us. If the people weresmart, they would have acquired the economy first. Survival of the fittest,baby. So now the people are on their own and should take personalresponsibility for their lot. We do, on occasion, hand out some bootstraps.
Dr. Gal Noir: What about the government? Isn’t it supposed toserve the people?
Them: Well, weare pleased to announce that the government is ours too! We plan what itshould and should not do. In fact, we are planning on permanently closing downCongress, the EPA, the FDA, the Education Department, and the Attorney General’soffice (some people have been asking him to put us behind bars, so we’vedecided to eliminate his position). We’ll retain the Defense Department and theSupreme Court but will regulate them closely (after all the Supreme Court gaveus the votes: $1=1 vote. Long live CitizensUnited!) But strong control and regulation of government is of utmostimportance. We will regulate the courts, the prisons, the military industrial complex,and will instruct them who to sue, who to jail, and who to invade. People want regulations. We will give them regulations.
Dr. Gal Noir: You will close down Congress? Who will bail youout the next time you screw up?
Them: Not toworry. The Treasury and the Central Bank are ours too. Perhaps you did not recognize some of us in the room?
(Rolex watchespointing to guy with big glasses and Conductor’s baton)
Dr. Gail Noir: TheTreasury and the Fed are public institutions.They must serve the public interest and be accountable to all citizens. They are charged with passingpolicies for the benefit of all!
Them: Ah-ha ha hahaaaaaaaaa. Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa. Ha ha ha haaaaaaaaa.
I had to get away. I felt like a naked Margarita in Woland’sball!
I ran out. I was hounded by the thundering laughter thatstill roars in my ears. My head was spinning. I didn’t know where I was. Wasthis a dream? Did this just happen?
I walked outside dazed and confused. I saw a student holdingan unusual sign.
It read “Learn MMT: GovernmentSector Deficits = Non-Government Sector Surpluses”
I had never seen this sign before so I was sure that I wasstill dreaming.
“Pinch me”, I asked the student. He did. I didn’t wake up.
Dr. Gal Noir: So this is not a dream?
MMT Student: No,it is not.
Dr. Gal Noir: I know now that this is a fictitious market. I know that there are no natural, immutable lawsthat make it do whatever it is doing. I know that it doesn’t work the way it issupposed to and that there is nothing sacred about the results it generates. Iknow that The Market can be anythingwe choose to make it. Someone plans our economy as we speak in their own narrowspecial interests and it is time for us, the American people, to take it back.It is time to make government serve the public purpose! It is time for publicmoney to serve public interests. It is time for the economy to work for societyand not the other way around. It is time for the economy to obey theenvironment and not vice versa. It’s time……
I was delirious. So many thoughts ran through my head.
The student put his arm on my shoulder and said:
And this is how I came to be here and tell my story.
*Dr. Gal Noir is anundercover investigator of hijacked economic truths and an occasional bloggerat New Economic Perspectives