January 6th, 2010 22:31 EST
Why did we all fail to see the housing bubble?
Why should Congress give the Federal Reserve more power, as it has asked, when the Fed and its chairman Ben Bernanke didn`t foresee the housing bubble that precipitated our economic collapse?
That is the question David Leonhardt raises on the front page of today`s New York Times. It`s a good question and it`s masterly journalism. But the newspaper should go further. It should ask itself on its own editorial pages why The Times didn`t foresee the bubble and its spectacular pop.
If it was the Fed`s job to take precautions, it was certainly the job of the press to sound alarms and keep sounding them until either something was done or a mighty embarrassment arose in Washington. Neither happened. I think the press failed because its own interests were at stake.
The media, print and electronic, had been garnering handsome advertising revenues from predatory lenders and developers, and the media business offices didn`t want their news staffs to do anything to interrupt that flow of revenue.
I think Mr. Bernanke and the Fed may have failed to act for the same reason: they didn`t want to put a lid on the profits made by powerful interests in banking and real estate. And I think the same Congress that is now blaming them for the disaster turned a blind eye on the developing situation for the very same reasons.
Mr. Leonhardt would have had a difficult time writing a balanced story painting a picture of across-the-spectrum failure because it`s only conjecture that profit-taking was the underlying reason for doing nothing. But the editorial pages of the press are under no such journalistic constraints "and they should undertake some serious introspection. But they probably won`t for the same reason "their business offices wouldn`t like it.
The philosophy that got us into this calamity is this: as long as business is making big profits, the public interest is being served. It`s as bogus a theory as trickle-down economics, but it hornswoggles a big sector of the population. At heart it means we are prepared as a society to endanger our water supply, destroy our ecology, bury our communities in high property taxes and pollute the environment just as long as developers and lenders are able to buy another yacht or another mansion.
That, I believe, is why nothing was done to avert the current debacle. And the press, which so righteously reports the current debate, is as culpable as the nominee-villains it describes every day.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.