A Sept. 14 New York Times article by respected financial reporter Gretchen Morgenson led with the unfortunate headline: “After a Financial Flood, Pipes Are Still Broken.” I say unfortunate because on the same day, an Associated Press lead story started this way:
BOULDER, Colo. — As rescuers broke through to flood-ravaged Colorado towns, they issued a stern warning Saturday to anyone thinking of staying behind: Leave now or be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.
Living as I do 10 miles from Boulder, up in the foothills of the Front Range, above one of the canyons that was washed out, Morgenson’s reference to a financial flood was particularly striking. After all, isn’t this what we are all suffering from one way or another: a financial flood that is washing out our sense of place, our sense of connection to one another, our sense of purpose?
Yes, there are pipes that are still broken in the financial plumbing. Morgenson refers specifically to the $4.6 trillion repurchase obligation or repo markets, which, five years after Lehman’s collapse, are dominated by just two too-big-to-fail banks, Bank of New York Mellon and JPMorgan Chase.
But the irony of her headline and its timing is just too great to ignore.
A few hundred thousand folks were directly impacted by the aftermath of 9 inches of rain that fell in a day and 20 inches of rain that fell in a week in places that are accustomed to less than 20 inches of rain per annum. Some 17,000 homes were destroyed. About 200 miles of road and dozens of bridges were destroyed. One prize bull was lost to drowning—at least, one that made the morning news on Colorado Public Radio.
Meanwhile, we are all victims of a financial flood. A flood that is separating the merely affluent from the superrich and both from everyone else. A flood of financial news that distracts us all from what is happening out there, every day, in the world of rain and soil, creek and pasture, community and bioregion.
Three days after Morgenson’s article appeared, and while the folks of Northern Colorado were still picking up the pieces and scouring the shelves for sump pumps, another little financial pipe burst. The video game Grand Theft Auto released its latest version and gushed $800 million in sales in one day.
Now, I was lucky up at my place. Nothing more than dampness in my crawlspace and a drive to town that is, for no one knows how long, transformed from a 10-mile trip down the hill on Magnolia Road and to the east through Boulder Canyon, into a 40-mile trip west and north through Nederland and then east again on County Road 52, the dirt road that runs through Gold Hill and then descends through Sunshine Canyon and past Poorman Road (no kidding) and eventually lands back in town, where many decent little and not-so-little pools of money remain, left behind by the financial flood.