Friday, January 28, 2011

United States Savings and Loan Crisis

Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower is a criticism of what she believes the future of the United States is going to be like. We are able to assume that the ideas brought forth in the novel were from immediate issues prior to the publishing of this novel. One of the most crucial issues of the late 1980’s into the early 1990’s was the Savings and Loan Crisis. The Savings and Loan crisis directly relates to the economical issues in Parable of the Sower. The people in the novel were living in a time of great inflation and economic distress, which is what happens to America during the late 1980’s to early 90’s. There were many other issues that were occurring during this time but this financial crisis was major; the worst the world has seen up to that time (erisk). This gives Butler all the reason to believe how the average American will be living in 2024 and the right to criticize the insanity that the current (early 1990’s) America is creating for future America.

The Savings and Loan crisis more or less starts in the 1970’s when congress deregulates interest rates. The deregulation of the interest rates was surely the main cause of the future disaster to the United States taxpayer. As new money markets began to fiercely compete in the industry, S&Ls faltered quickly and dramatically. Due to the strong competition between the two, an unsustainable gap opened between the interest rate asset and liabilities within the S&Ls. The assets were very low while the liabilities were extremely high. Then when oil prices sky rocketed, matters were made much worse, causing inflation to soar (erisk).

A great deal needed to be done and a lot of obstacles overcome to fix the future fatal attack on the American wallet. Instead of taking the necessary actions, S&Ls decided to be risk takers and gamble with the little bit of money they had to earn higher profits, they were able to do this because the rules and regulations for the industry had become way too lax. This ultimately dug their grave; and really deep at that! In 1986 government was attempting but greatly struggling to restructure the industry to mend where necessary. All attempts were too small to match up with this large scale problem though. Finally in 1989, President George Bush addressed America to explain the issue that was at hand, the news of this frightened Americans immensely, but little did they know how much it was really going to effect them. Up until this speech everything was done to make this problem as unknown to the American public as possible (erisk).

When it’s all said and done, industry funded measures were not great enough and the American taxpayer would end up paying for a great portion of the S&L fiasco. The American taxpayers dished out 124 billion dollars; four times the amount that the thrift industry itself paid (erisk)! This situation boils down to incompetent risk-reporting and long-term economic struggles for the United States taxpayer.

Butler shows the struggle of the everyday American in Parable of the Sower. She shows their economical struggles through their incapability to pay rent, adapting to forms of slavery, inflation of water prices to the point where it was comparable to the gas inflation of the 90’s, and the lack of paying jobs. I think she dramatizes these situations because this is what she truly believes America will be like; give or take a little. The gambling of the S&Ls correlates to the monopolization the American society went under in the novel. Everything is a chain reaction in the novel that started with the greed of big corporations; parallel to the pride and greed of the S&L crisis of the early 90’s.

Although the economy in the early 90’s was no where near as depressed as what Butler creates her society to be like, it still represents her thoughts and fears as to what the United States has in store for its future generations. I can understand where Butler is coming from but we are also in a time of economical recession and I at least have more of an optimism of where our future will lead us. I do not feel that we will ever regress as much as what she believed would happen. The United States, like any society has its ups and downs, just like the repression of the 90’s, but we always make it through and pull ourselves upwards.



  1. One question stands out to me here: why do you believe the S&L crisis to be central to Butler's novel? Your summary of the S&L crisis was ok (a little long and a little exaggerated, maybe - it was far from the worst financial crisis in the history of the world!), but establishing what it was is not to say that you've established that she was interested in it.

    I think the best way of answering that question would have been an detailed investigation into the economics of the text - what are the sources of the economic problems, and what can be conclude from that? It is my *opinion* (which has some basis, but is far from conclusive) that she is founding the economic crisis on a combination of corporate greed and climate change. That doesn't exclude your definition by any means - my point is not that you're wrong, but that you need to do more than show that the S&L crisis *could* have been an influence - demonstrate *why* we should understand it as such, and what that understanding would mean.

  2. Brittany,

    I personally had very little experience or knowledge on this issue, so your summaries did prove enlightening. However, I felt like you were trying too hard to fit this issue into the context of Butler's novel. Whether it did or didn't have a direct influence on Butler, there are probably much bigger events that had a much bigger affect on the novel.

    I liked the line, "The gambling of the S&Ls correlates to the monopolization the American society went under in the novel." While reading the novel, I was also wondering how companies like the KSF could ever exist without opposition. It's a good start and you can expand a lot more on this topic.

    I also felt that you over-summarized the S&L crisis, as three of your six paragraphs are devoted to the event. I think it would be beneficial to integrate more Butler and abridge your factual paragraphs.