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Just about two years ago, just weeks before the 2008 national election, JPMorgan Chase agreed to take $25 billion of taxpayer money.  Your money.  My money. And of course, what JPMorgan Chase did with that money was completely moral (major, major snark).  You know, because they are in the morality business.  In reality, JPMorgan Chase acquired companies!  To make themselves stronger and even bigger-than-ever-to-fail.

The "line" we the public were force fed back then was that the banking industry--which of course created the economic meltdown that led to "The Great Recession"--was going to take our money and "stimulate the economy".

Fast forward two years and see what JPMorgan Chase is thinking of doing this week.  Far from stimulating the economy, their proposed plan would shut down one of the nation's historic Asian museums. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

San Francisco's Asian Art Museum is in dire financial straits and could be forced into bankruptcy if it can't work out a new deal with its lender [JPMorgan Chase]...[which] plans to close the Asian Art's line of credit as of Friday [November 19th]- in which case, the museum would lose $20 million that it put up in collateral.

And of course in these difficult times, museum attendance is down (funny thing isn't it, when you lose your job and your home, you just don't seem to want to take in the beauty that a museum offers), so revenues at the museum are down.

In the sickest of ironies, back in 2005 the museum was thinking ahead and tried to save money by restructuring its loans. That's ironic because the museum was hedging against rising interest rates, but then thanks to the greed of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Washington Mutual (which JPMorgan Chase acquired with taxpayer money! when WaMu went belly up) and other shamelessly greedy financial sector companies, interest rates fell and fell and fell.

If you're thinking that elected officials in Washington DC (or anywhere for that matter) will rush to the aid of the Asian Art Museum the way Uncle Sam rushed in with piles of cash to bail out the financial industry, think again.  One San Francisco city representative...

speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "Nobody is using public money to bail them out."

And finally, what did JPMorgan Chase say to the San Francisco Chronicle about all of this?

A spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase promised to look into the matter late Friday, but did not get back to us by deadline.

I'm beyong disgust.  You?

Originally posted to BoxerDave on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:07 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  On the plus side, the Koch Brothers (3+ / 0-)

    will probably be happy to buy up the collections, they're quite the art patrons!

    Especially when the treasures can be had for pennies on the dollar!

  •  That Jamie Dimon is one savvy businessman. (3+ / 0-)

    Hustling those sucker universities and museums.

    Al Capone was more honorable.

  •  Hello? (4+ / 0-)

    These kinds of shenanigans in the not-for-profit world, using the not-for-profit status of museums, universities, etc. as financial leverage, have been going on since the Ford Foundation started the Common Fund in 1968 to help not-for-profits "improve investment management practices." We've long passed the stage where museums and stuff were built - invented, essentially - to create capital. (Pimp alert: read Paul Werner's book, "Museum Inc.: Inside the Global Art World," which describes this process as it affected the Guggenheim Museum under Tom Krens.)

    I'm not saying I enjoy the thought of another museum closing, by the way. On the other hand, I don't see why the Koch brothers should want to buy up museum's artworks, since the problem comes precisely from the fact that they've been sitting on the board of trustees of so many museums to begin with.

    Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

    by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:44:53 AM PST

    •  It's not a new problem.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HylasBrook

      ...as you point out.  What is so over-the-top ironic in this case is that JPMorgan Chase would have been bankrupt itself had it not been for the taxpayer bailout, and thus it would have been in no position to shut down any business. The taxpayer bailout:  the one that was supposed to stimulate the economy, not shut down an institution that brings jobs and tourist dollars to a major American city.

      •  Because (0+ / 0-)

        the purpose of museums was to "bring jobs and tourist dollars to a major American city?" That wasn't the original purpose of museums, it's not even close to the original charters or statements of purpose of museums in America. It just happens to be the excuse that museums and other not-for-profits used to claim their economic viability and raise funds. And, as I - I mean, as Werner indicates - it was a pig-in-the-poke to begin with. Most of those museums were not economically viable from the git-go, and I'm not saying they should have been, I'm saying the problem starts with folks who work on the premiss that the purpose of a museum is to improve business. People like Sanford Weill, who sits on the board of Carnegie Hall. People like the Koch Bros, who sit on the board of any number of not-for-profits. People like Peter Lewis, who at least had the decency to get himself off the board of the Guggenheim when he saw the crash coming.

        Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

        by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:22:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  What's next....? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BoxerDave, trinityfly

    Well they usually say, "Your money or your life."

    They have our money, so....

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

    by QuestionAuthority on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 09:52:32 AM PST

  •  We want banks to be liberal with credit (0+ / 0-)

    ...but when banks are liberal with credit, they lose a lot of money in loans that don't get repaid.  There's a lot of confusion about this, in my opinion.  Why any bank would loan $20M to a museum is beyond me; a museum of foreign art in a large city with many wealthy people (many of them from where the art's from, by the way) should get its money from those people, not from the government and not from the bank.

    The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

    by Rich in PA on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:29:48 AM PST

    •  Rich: it's the bonds. (0+ / 0-)

      Museums here are no different from pension funds, the New York City transit authority and the Greek Government: all of them were used to suck out capital over the past forty years. In the case of museums this also involved the creation of fictitious capital, otherwise known as "Priceless artworks." So now it's not just the bills coming due, it's the whole system being called out.

      And the interesting part - the most interesting part as far as I'm concerned - is the ways in which it's going to affect the actual evaluation and production of art. There's a nice passage in an article Edmund Wilson wrote in the 'thirties, in an investigative article where he tried to find out how the truly rich were taking the Great Depression. At one point he mentions all the artists who are having a hard time in their studios because they spent the past decades making stuff that sells, and now they may have to own up to higher criteria. That would be nice...

      Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

      by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:38:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow, you really dislike artists n/t (0+ / 0-)
        •  No, s/he dislikes commodification (0+ / 0-)

          I do, too.

          The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

          by Rich in PA on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:42:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ahhhhh, no.... (0+ / 0-)

            QMEB said:

            At one point he mentions all the artists who are having a hard time in their studios because they spent the past decades making stuff that sells, and now they may have to own up to higher criteria. That would be nice...

            Most everyone had a "hard time" in the Great Depression, not just artists.  In that quote above switch out word "artists" for "farmers" and the phrase "in their studios" for "on their family farms" and you see just how little value the writer has for artists.

            And by the way, QMEB conflates "museums" with "artists."  Even in museums of modern art, most of the art displayed there were created by people who are now dead.  Living artists create works for people who can afford the price of the art. Thus, in good financial times artists financially strugge.

            •  I substitute, and I see how much contempt (0+ / 0-)

              you have for farmers.

              As to your second paragraph - not, it's you that conflates. As to your sentence about "living artists creating works..." is that descriptive, or prescriptive? Because if that's your definition of a living artist I'm happy to share it. Unfortunately it doesn't exactly apply to those artists you'll find, say, at MoMA.

              Incidentally, I forgot to mention Kathy Fuld, who sits on the board of the Museum of Modern Art. Now that's a story.

              Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

              by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:58:14 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  No contempt for farmers here... (0+ / 0-)

                ...just contempt for that anti-artist quote by Wilson. Its ridiculousness is revealed precisely when one swaps the word "farmers" for "artists."

                You are correct about one thing:  of the (very few) living artists whose works are owned by the MoMA, they are not financially struggling (although they might have been when they began their careers).  But seriously, what is the percentage of artists in NYC whose works are owned by the MoMA? 0.00000001%, I'd guess.  To say artists don't financially stuggle is folly.

                •  Did I give the impression (0+ / 0-)

                  Wilson was contemptuous of those artists? Not at all. It's an interesting article in that he makes no moral judgments on those poor rich folks who jumped out of windows back in 1930 because they couldn't survive on 50,000 a year. Or on artists. In fact, I admire that Wilson sees the main issue for artists, which is one of personal integrity.

                  Nor did I ever say artists don't struggle financially, good times or bad - and I know whereof I speak. And, by the way, that would include artists whose works are in MoMA's collections - and I know whereof I speak.

                  Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

                  by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:18:50 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  Art has always been a commodity (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BoxerDave

              There idea of the artist creating art of art's sake is a mostly a myth. Historically, art has been created to sell, or has been created for a patron (which is like selling on retainer), or as a wealthy person's hobby (where you become in effect your own patron), or by the starving artist. While we might admire the starving artist who is only discovered after death, most of us do not look down on people who choose to eat.

              The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

              by A Citizen on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:58:39 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Oh, please. (0+ / 0-)

                You're playing games with the word "commodity," as most people do. One thing to say that it's okay to buy or sell the stuff one produces - in which case an artist is no different than a farmer. Quite another to say that the stuff that's bought or sold becomes incidental to the manipulations that produce capital, in which case an artist is little more than the self-describe "creative" types who engineer financial transactions. Which, as I said, is pretty much what people like Serra have become.

                Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

                by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:10:14 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  BTW (0+ / 0-)

                  The buzz-word when dealing with capitalist myths is always "always." I'll be glad to discuss, say, how art is or is not a commodity in Beowulf, or in the trove found in a Mediterranean shipwreck from 1350 BCE. Read the next book by Paul Werner. (There he goes again, pimping!)

                  Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

                  by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:12:54 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Yikes (again) (0+ / 0-)

                  I'm playing no games with the word "commodity."  I agree an artist is no different than a farmer:  what both produce is extremely valuable to the welfare and quality of a country; and, both are paid too little and thus valued too little by society.  

                  Again you mention your disdain for Serra, but you've got to realize he's 0.000000000000000001% of all living artists. Just like 0.0000000000001% of farmers are wealthy. You take the exception and extrapolate.

                  •  May I remind you, BD (0+ / 0-)

                    that this discussion is first and foremost about museums and how they define artists and art. And how they define art, not as a commodity in some abstract sense of "stuff you buy you sell" like carrots, but as "stuff you can put up for collateral" like the family farm. And so, to the extent that it's the museum that defines the artist, I have a problem with that definition, and have long had a problem with it. Must come from the fact that a) I'm an artist and b) I work in museums. I think our own definitions of what constitutes an artist in the "real world" (whatever that is) are not that far apart. Now if only I knew where to find that "real world..."

                    Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

                    by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:25:06 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

        •  That would all depend what you mean (0+ / 0-)

          by "artists." If you mean the Richard Serra types whose idea of art is to sit around figuring out ways to sell another four-million dollar piece of junk while pissing on their non-existent public, yeah. If you mean the B! boys whose idea of being an "artist" is getting smashed in Williamsburg, yeah. If you mean the women I've taught art to in the penitentiaries, nope. If you mean the retired factory worker I spent an hour with at the museum, figuring out the techniques on a Louis Sullivan design. nope. But then, Hitler, too was an artist. (I had a long conversation a few months ago with a colleague who teaches at the art school in Vienna that turned down the application of a certain Schickelgruber.  We both agreed it was a mistake.)

          Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

          by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:53:48 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I want governments not to be liberal.... (0+ / 0-)

      ...with "credit" (tax dollars) to for-profit companies who, by their own hand, brought about their near-collapse.

      A bank would loan a museum money if it thought it was a good risk, simple as that.

      While I don't disagree that museums could/should get money from private donors, I disagree that governments should not be in the business of financially supporting a museum. A museum adds to the quality of life and desirability of living in a city; thus, a museum makes a city more in-demand. Thus, it is in a local government's best interest to help finance its museum. Governments (local, state, federal) give all kinds of tax breaks to for-profit businesses for the very reason that a healthy business in a city will make the city itself a more financially healthy place to live.  

      Also, it does not matter that the original "purpose" of a museum was not to provide jobs and tourist dollars (as QMEB states).  The fact is, when financial times are OK or are good, museums do bring money to the city where it is located.

      •  You make a sound ethical point about banks... (0+ / 0-)

        ...that have been bailed-out, but it may not be a sound economic point.  Economics may, in fact, pull in the opposite direction: once we put money into a bank, we'd like the bank to operate conservatively so we don't have to put any more into it, and so we stand a better chance of getting back what we put in.  So the dynamics are a little weird and not necessarily progressive.

        The most impressive thing about man [...] is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist--Glenn Gould

        by Rich in PA on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:01:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I'd say this: (0+ / 0-)

          once we put (taxpayer) money into a bank, we've given up the notion of free-market capitalism. And once we've done that, we're fucked.

          As I look around at Main Street (and read any of bobswerms diaries), it's obvious to me:  the government wants the rich to get richer and the middle class to shrink and the lower class to grow.

          And so to squeeze words out of your quote we have:  "Once we put money into a bank....the dynamics are a little weird and not necessarily progressive."  

      •  Never said (0+ / 0-)

        governments should not be in the business of supporting museums - or public transportation systems. I did say that maybe government should not have been in the business of supporting the production of wealth through siphoning off capital from not-for-profits. Because that's where this particular crisis originated, in bond swaps involving the not-for-profit status of the cultural institutions as a form of capital. No different than tax-deductible mortgage payments.

        As to your last par. The fact is, museums were never the great business deal they were made out to be. Read Museum, Inc. It was published ten years ago, at the height of the so-called boom.

        Must. Crush. Capitalism. Grrr.

        by Quill Mike Eat Brains on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 11:04:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Should have broken them all up. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BoxerDave

    Too big to fail = Too big to exist. Break them up into smaller entities that can fail without bringing down the entire economy. Wall Street is not the economy. Argiculture and manufacturing are the engines of the economy. Banks are like motor oil. Your car may need motor oil, but it would me a mistake to think that the motor oil moves the car.

    The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

    by A Citizen on Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 10:49:26 AM PST

    •  Family farms began to fail in droves in the 1980s (0+ / 0-)

      because big agra started to get really big and because banks screwed family farmers while lending money to big agra to buy up land (foreclosed farms) to now make the agra business "too big to fail."

      Yep, the government should have let the shitty banks and S&Ls fail two years ago.  Broken them up, stepped up government oversight, and started to directly compete with banks by having a government owned and operated bank. That's what banks do to family businesses that don't pay back their loans:  they shutter them.

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