Double Indemnity

Yesterday, LI went to Whole Foods to get some coffee and write our review of the new Library of America edition of Katherine Anne Porter’s short stories and essays. Unfortunately, two older white guys decided to sit next to me at the table and swap Fox news stories about the current financial crisis. First, however, they started out by talking about some speculative house buying the one of them was in the midst of, while he could “still get money.” They then proceeded to exclaim against Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which they both said they had never heard of until two weeks ago. At which point my inner concentration on the artistry of Porter was entirely broken, since I thought, you are speculating in houses and have never heard of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

Apparently, in the Fox/Limbaugh circuit, the old standard about guvmint being incompetent is still fluttering above the tattered reactionary hordes, who have decided that those two agencies are wholly part of the guvmint, and wholly responsible, in some way, for the whole collapse.

I admit to being utterly baffled by people like this. They make me feel like the frantic liberal sons in Flannery O’Connor short stories, confronted with the divine mystery of their hick or genteel hick parents and grandparents. O’Connor, of course, was on God’s side – there was a numinous core in that ignorance, and her stories were of the fine comeuppance of the liberal. But this was only so when the ignorance proceeded from an intense, lifelong sense of crucifixion – and even then, O’Connor was too enmeshed in Southern verities to quite understand the scale of the injustice of Southern apartheid. The new Southern ignorance is Yankeefied enough to admit that crucifixion is for losers. Once that is out of the way, and Church has become another means of uplift as well as a wonderful way to connect sellers and buyers, we can proceed to the making of parasitic money off of a system that is underwritten and overfed by the guv’mint it disdains. The Southern Republican is a perfect semblance of the third world revolutionary so disdainfully limned by V.S. Naipaul in the 70s.

As to the crisis, well, my new name for it is the Double Indemnity crisis. It strikes me that all you really need to know about what the Financial system did to enrich itself over the last 30 years can be gathered from the James Cain novel, or, at the very least, the Barbara Stanwyck movie. This scene is really at the heart of what is going on now. The only difference is that the investment bank factotums rarely wore such fetching ankle bracelets.