Saturday, September 27, 2008

Preach It, Sister!

This past week I've had endless conversations with friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even a few people I'd never met before, all on the proposed bail-out of the robber barons of Wall Street. The tenor of the conversations was always the same: if I screw up at work, I get fired. If those guys screw up they get multi-billion dollar severance packages and I'm expected to bail their companies out. What's the deal?

What indeed. Some of the people I've had those conversations with are my age, nearing or at retirement age. We've all seen what has happened to the funds we've saved assiduously over the years. One friend and her husband did everything they were told they had to. They fully funded their IRAs each year, they vacationed in the Poconos rather than Europe, they raised and educated their children. They were hardworking, they were thrifty, they saved and invested prudently. They figured when they retired they'd be able to loosen up and enjoy life a little. Right now, it looks like they're going to be screwed, and there isn't enough time to recover those investments gone south because of the current debacle.

Now they wonder why they bothered, especially in light of the knowledge that all that they did and all that they sacrificed enriched a few greedy bastards who will continue to be enriched by this bailout.


Ellen Goodman, in this op-ed piece really nailed it when comes to analysing what went wrong, and why.

For decades now the mantra of personal responsibility has kept a lock on our imaginations. And our political dialogue.

In the 1990s, we ended welfare for better and for worse with something called the Personal Responsibility Act. More recently, conservatives resisted the morning-after pill on the grounds that it would foster irresponsible behavior. When Hollywood puts sex and violence on television and Madison Avenue sells junk food, we expect parents to - guess what - exercise their responsibility. ...

Over time, the same rhetoric justified a huge shift in economic risks of the average citizen. In the name of the ownership society, many pensions became 401(k)s while health insurance costs moved from employer to employee. All of these risks were covered like a bad bet by the idea that people could take better care of themselves.

The ownership society turned into the everyone-on-your-own society. Three years ago, Congress passed a law making it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. Just six months ago, Henry Paulson, the treasury secretary who now wants to be czar, insisted the government actions to prevent mortgage foreclosures would "do more harm than they would do good." ...

Personal responsibility? The titans coming to Congress with cups in their hands and the economy in the balance were not too embarrassed to fight against caps on their salaries. What exactly do we have here? Socialism for the rich?

Exactly right.

At this point, after a week of the be-afraid, be-very-afraid barrage coming from the White House, the Congress, and (of course) Wall Street, my inclination is to issue pitchforks and hot tar to everyone in the country and urge them to descend on Washington, DC and New York City. If we have to go down, let it be that we all go down. Don't give those bastards one penny towards their next yacht. Let them fail, let them fail totally, and let them lose everything.

Then at least we'll all be in the same boat.

Then maybe we can recover, and recover sensibly. At least we'll all be starting from the same place.

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Blogger tech98 said...

What exactly do we have here? Socialism for the rich?

It's not even that. If it were socialism the government would be taking ownership of the banks, and the taxpayer would at least have some potential upside if the markets recovered.

This is just a blatant giveaway, a looting of the treasury to bail out reckless if not criminally fraudulent actions by the wealthy and politically well-connected -- Welfare for the Rich.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous yoh-there said...

I said it (here) before and I will say it again, with the risk of getting fried: if you are closing on your retirement date, I advise you to spread at least half of your savings into Euro's. If the bailout will happen, and it seems it will, $ inflation will skyrocket, even if to only let the Europeans and Chinese pay part of the bill. 1.45 and rising.

4:07 PM  

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