COLUMNS

New film by Peoria shows effects of crisis

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin

Increasingly, it seems that control of the country by elites has been reduced to a U.S. version of British royalty. Instead of Plantagenets, Lancasters or Yorks fighting with Tudors, Stuarts or Windsors, there’s Goldman-Sachs, Citigroup or JP Morgan Chase influencing Republicans and Democrats alike.

Everyday citizens mostly watch and wait.

That’s brought home in compelling – and comedic – ways in the film “Bailout,” directed by Peoria native Sean Patrick Fahey, set to premiere in downstate Illinois at Peoria’s nonprofit Apollo Theater Oct. 5-11.

An 85-minute documentary about the human cost of the 2008 financial crisis and the one-sided government assistance to Big Banks, “Bailout” is the tale of unemployed Chicago lawyer John Titus, who stops making mortgage payments and recruits four friends to join him in a month-long trip in a 30-foot RV to Las Vegas. Their plan was to take a page from Wall Street’s playbook and spend the bank’s money by gambling and partying.

Why let Wall Street have all the fun? “Bailout” says.

Fahey describes the film (subtitled “The Dukes of Moral Hazard”) as a muckraking social documentary. It also shows Americans’ anger with “the Wall Street elites who survive and thrive on their cancerous system of bailouts, fraud and political corruption that actively work in concert to destroy Main Street,” says Fahey, who since the 1990s has made feature films, music videos and commercials.

Effectively explaining the background, process and intent – not errors or incompetence – that wrecked the economy, the motion picture shows that what happened was the “ghettoizing of our entire nation,” Fahey says.

Fahey partnered with Titus, a patent lawyer whose father was involved in Republican politics.

“The line from both political parties was that the crash in 2008 wasn’t foreseeable and that the Big Banks just had to be bailed out,” Titus said. “Both notions are totally ridiculous but are gospel among the talking heads.

“The media has tried to ignore or explain away the widespread criminality by banks that’s destroying this country, to put it bluntly,” he added. “Both political parties condone it.”

Enlisting comic and actor John Fox, musician Sergio Mayora, journalist Nicole Erhardt, and ex-con buddy Ruben Castillo, Titus and friends – different generations, races and genders united in joblessness, confusion and rage – travel from Elkhart, Ind., to Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Roswell, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Part travelogue and part educational film, “Bailout” is entertaining as well as informative. What results is a heartbreaking history of the crisis and the improper response by both the Bush and Obama administrations. It’s inspiring and depressing, with laughing and weeping by ordinary people who joke and swear, sing and cry and wonder what went wrong and what to do next.

In another time, activities like the Big Banks took – and take – might be called “rackets.” Insolvent banks, phony insurance, questionable ratings agencies’ judgments, forgery, collusion and corruption apparently occurred. There was no real due diligence on the front end, and no real consequences for any criminality on the back end.

The exploitation of the deregulated financial system allowed not only conventional wisdom about real estate to become ridiculous, it made the rule of law itself meaningless. Note:

• Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson worked for Goldman Sachs from 1974 to 2006 and protected his long-time colleagues from financial or criminal consequences.

• Obama’s Treasury Secretary is Tim Geithner, the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York who demanded that Goldman Sachs suffer no losses in its shady dealings with AIG.

• Ben Bernanke was Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for Bush and Obama.

 Besides Titus and his pals, Fahey interviews experts and gains insights from progressives and conservatives alike: liberals such as economist Yves Smith, commentator Noam Chomsky and journalist Chris Hedges, moderates including hedge-funder Steve Megremis and banking analyst Christopher Whalen, and Florida Tea Party founder Karl Denninger and self-described conservative Dylan Ratigan.

“Paulson is a formidable individual who should be held to account for his failure to muster his own cajones,” says Ratigan, from MSNBC. “He should have said, ‘We have to restructure this debt; this is not a fair solution.’

“Banks did not have negotiating leverage when they failed,” Ratigan continues. “But they were negotiating with morons [Congress]. They were able to scare the living crap out of the morons and get the leverage back.”

It’s not about Left and Right, but Top and Bottom – people vs. Big Banks, “Bailout” shows.

“We’re going back to a monarchy/corporate statism,” says Whalen, a respected independent. That’s really what it is.  It’s not Left and Right anymore. It’s the individual versus the corporate state.”

The film’s also a call to action, Fahey adds.

 “A big part of the movie is about how people have a civic duty to protest what’s going on,” he says.

 Admission to the screenings is $5 at the door. For advance tickets and show times, go to: http://bailoutusa.eventbrite.com/

— Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; columns archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com