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Doomsday financial journalism at its best (or worst)

October 25, 2009 |  7:34 pm

Paul Farrell at MarketWatch.com has written some pessimistic columns in the past, but his latest piece is the be-all and end-all of doomsday financial journalism.

Take it from the headline: "20 reasons America has lost its soul and collapse is inevitable."

Whew. Farrell makes Michael Moore look like a font of hope.

The column, published last Tuesday, has been among MarketWatch's most-read features since then. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but Farrell preceded by two weeks Hollywood's newest attempt to depict the apocalypse, the film "2012," which will premiere Nov. 3.

Farrell basically believes the capitalists have destroyed capitalism for good, an understandably popular theme (including with Moore) since the financial system went on government life support a year ago. Farrell writes:

A year ago, too-greedy-to-fail banks were insolvent, in a near-death experience. Now, magically, they're back to business as usual, arrogant, pocketing outrageous bonuses while Main Street sacrifices, and unemployment and foreclosures continue rising as tight credit, inflation and skyrocketing federal debt are killing taxpayers.

Yes, Wall Street has lost its moral compass. It created the mess, but now, like vultures, Wall Streeters are capitalizing on the carcass. They have lost all sense of fiduciary duty, ethical responsibility and public obligation.

Wall Street once had a moral compass? I'm trying to remember when, in my lifetime, that might have been true, but I'm coming up blank.

Farrell presents the "top 20 reasons American capitalism has lost its soul," but he way overpromises. I like reading about financial doomsday as much as the next guy, but many of Farrell's "reasons" are non sequiturs. His No. 1 reason is that "collapse is now inevitable." Wait -- we've lost our soul because we're going to collapse? Wouldn't it be more like we're going to collapse because we've lost our soul?

His No. 10 reason: "Oil and energy costs will skyrocket." Huh?

No End Times column would be complete without input from Marc Faber of the Gloom Boom and Doom Report, so Farrell dutifully rings up Faber. This is where it gets comical. Farrell writes:

Faber knows that capitalism is not working, capitalism has peaked, and the collapse of capitalism is "inevitable."

When? He hesitates: "But what I don't know is whether this final collapse, which is inevitable, will occur tomorrow, or in five or 10 years, and whether it will occur with the Dow at 100,000 and gold at $50,000 per ounce or even confiscated, or with the Dow at 3,000 and gold at $1,000." But the end is inevitable, a historical imperative.

How about that for a range: The end could come anywhere between Dow 3,000 and Dow 100,000.

Farrell, at least, gets a lot more specific about the timing of economic and market Armageddon. Sony Pictures, which is releasing "2012," should appreciate the plug, as Farrell writes:

Faber is uncertain about timing, we are not. There is a high probability of a crisis and collapse by 2012. The "Great Depression 2" is dead ahead. Unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing you can do to hide from this unfolding reality or prevent the rush of the historical imperative.

That's it, folks. Nothing you can do. Move along, into the bunker.

I'm assuming Farrell is about to retire. Because after you've written a column ending like that one, what else is there to say?

-- Tom Petruno

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