WAVE GOODBYE TO THE AMERICA WE ONCE KNEW
Some of those in the highest echelons of political power, in this and in the previous Presidential administration certainly, were aware that Americans by the hundreds of thousands were receiving improvident home loans and that this fact might eventually become a problem of untold proportion.
Do you care to know why I believe it? Well, allow me to borrow from a theory of legal liability that is captured by a Latin phrase, res ipsa loquitur, or "the thing speaks for itself." The catastrophe, which has loomed for a number of years over our financial markets like a foreboding black cloud, has finally burst forth with reverberating sound and fury. The nightmarish prospect of last week's near meltdown does not only speak, but also screams, of governmental nonfeasance, perhaps its malfeasance too. To argue that our most powerful politicians had little or no idea of what was going on with mortgage lenders and of what the consequences might be unless the tide was stemmed reminds me of the piano player in a bawdy house who claimed not to know what was going on upstairs. Oh, come on, let's wise up!
It is the business of governmental officials to be cognizant of these realities and to protect the public proactively against them. But, in case you have not noticed, our officials did not protect us; they did not serve us; and they can no longer be presumed to have our well-being and best interest at heart. They are enemies of the state. So, pardon my rude indignance, but I think they all deserve a one-way trip to Perdition.
Let me put it another way. If we were to assume for the sake of argument that the President, his top financial advisers (like Bernanke, Paulson, and Cox on the right) and the chairmen and highest-ranking members of finance and banking committees in the House and Senate did not know of this danger, then what? We would have to pronounce them, jointly and severally, dead from the chin up and too incompetent to occupy any position of public trust. Their pretense of service, shot through with such enormous incompetence, would be nothing less than a fraud upon us all.
So here is the dilemma in which they are ensnared: Either they are the most infamous criminals in the history of the world, or they are the most monumental bunch of dummies who ever lived. Which is it?
It may be a mixed bag. I believe that men like Barney Frank (on the left) of the House Financial Services Committee, Christopher Dodd of the Senate Committee on Banking, Christopher Cox of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Henry Paulson of the Treasury Department knew the score and played fast and loose with the fact. Their integrity and sense of accountability to the people are suspect according to any measure. They, along with other political figures, as well as their cohorts in the private sector, down to the persons who originated and approved these loans, should be prosecuted.
George W. Bush, on the other hand, continues to be the man who traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs. It is difficult to discern what he knew and did not know. Some have written that, when they think of him, they are reminded of H. L. Mencken's memorably acrid words concerning the evolution of the Presidency: "the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." Mencken offered up this prophecy in 1920, and whether it has been fulfilled by Mr. Bush I am content to allow historians to judge.
As I listened on Friday, September 19, to announcements from the White House of plans to prop up the devastated financial markets, I heard nothing about accountability to the American people for the infliction upon them of what could well be a trillion dollar debt. I heard nothing about bringing government wrongdoers to justice. What I observed was men, having breached trust with the people whom they were supposed to serve, reacting to a crisis by hoisting up the flagpole a remedial plan hastily devised. The idea of Congress "working throughout the weekend" was, I am guessing, meant to console us. Well, whoop-de-do!
I find myself wondering why these culprits should be entrusted to fix what they nonchalantly allowed to be destroyed. It seems to me that all those most directly responsible for this financial debacle should offer their resignations and then retire to prison cells in the general population of a maximum security prison. We are not concerned with only one company here. This is not a problem with definite parameters like the fall of Enron was. This is, instead, scorched-earth ruin.
In truth and in fact, after the bailout is a done deal, we will still be staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun that has a hair trigger. It is time to wake up! But for the fact of hasty, makeshift governmental intervention, our retirement funds would already be a memory and all our sources of credit gone. This is still merely the beginning of what might soon become a gaping, bottomless abyss. As uncertain as these times are in which we live, one thing is sure: America as we have known it is unofficially dead. The patient is being propped up, with vital signs maintained, by means of a respirator.
In the meantime, our glorious presidential contenders are continuing to expound upon the various financial programs they will pursue if elected. It is sheer demagoguery and nothing else. A significant percentage of the citizenry reasons that they should "throw the bums out," not realizing that "the bums" are both Republicans and Democrats. Mr. Obama, a socialist who loves to speak euphemistically of "economic justice," may well ride this catastrophe straight into the White House. If that should happen, the irony of it will be that his radical economic vision, complete with an all-consuming centralized government, will have been practically implemented before he gets there.
Americans continue to enjoy their morning coffee, smoke their favorite brands of cigarettes, and watch their mindless sitcoms and sports events. While some of the citizenry cannot remember the name of the current President, it is sufficient for them that "Big Brother" has pulled another rabbit out of his hat. How much longer can this outrageous charade continue?
This past week we turned an important page in our history as a people. Uncle Sam is dead, and those who murdered him are now the faithless, feckless executors of his estate. They are in charge. When will we, the beneficiaries, call a true sheriff into town and bring these criminals to justice?
September 22, 2008