Monday, September 21, 2009

Strange priorities

By Don Klein

Now imagine this scenario. You have a thriving business but you are not satisfied with the returns. Your greed tells you there will be additional profits if you invested in and sold risky widgets. Your key business advisers encourage the idea. You go ahead and fall flat on your face, but you have an ace up your sleeve.

You know your business is too important to the country to fail and as you are sinking into the quicksand of oblivion you hear the cavalry bugle call for charge and before you know it there is Uncle Sam with all the resources of the country to keep your head above the slime. Hurrah! You are financially restored and decide to offer bonuses to all those employees who advised you to sell widgets in the first place.

What have you learned? Most people would not go near such a scenario again. They would stay clear of shady deals and bad business plans. That would be the wise thing to do. No one likes to feel the pull of quicksand, do they?

Maybe not, but that is if you are talking about normal people, not Wall Street bankers and manipulators. They seem to think they are too important to the nation’s economy for the government to allow them to go under. And the government at this point is doing nothing to give them a contrary thought.

So here we are one year since Lehman Brothers went under and the start of the worst economic free-fall in the country in 80 years and the guardians of our freedom and economy – the US Congress – has done absolutely nothing to change the rules that run Wall Street. They have imposed no new regulations to avoid what happen last year to happen again.

To be fair neither has the president.

Just take note. It is one year after the most disastrous economic plunge in decades crippled the country where millions have lost their jobs, millions more have lost the value of their property and stocks and millions have been swindled by stock market sharpies, and nothing has been done to curb these excesses except to bailout the bad guys and give million dollar bonuses to the rodents who got us into this mess in the first place.

We have 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 senators, a president and his cabinet, and none have acted with any urgency on this matter. We pay each member of both houses of Congress a minimum of $174,000 annually and the president is recompensed at $487,000. In addition almost half the senators (40 to be exact) are millionaires.

They are paid by the people of this country but it is clear they do not work for the people. If they did they would have enacted legislation by now that would put a crimp in the ability of the swindlers and bottom feeders of Wall Street to squirrel away all that money while making risky deals which took them to the brink of bankruptcy only to be saved from financial calamity by the taxpayers.

It is hard to believe that as the economy sunk into the bottomless pit it was heading for last year that responsive and responsible elected government officials would still be picking lint from their $800 suits and scratching their noggins 12 months later like the classic slapstick artist Stan Laurel. If it weren’t such a serious problem it would be laughable.

This is what President Clinton's secretary of labor, Robert Reich, said recently:
"The mega-bailout of Wall Street accomplished little. The only big winners have been top bank executives and traders, whose pay packages are once again in the stratosphere. Banks have been so eager to lure and keep top deal makers and traders they've even revived the practice of offering ironclad, multimillion-dollar payments -- guaranteed no matter how the employee performs.

"Goldman Sachs is on course to hand out bonuses that could rival its record pre-meltdown paydays. In the second quarter this year it posted its fattest quarterly profit in its 140-year history, and earmarked $11.4 billion to compensate its happy campers. Which translates into about $770,000 per Goldman employee on average, just about what they earned at the height of the boom. Of course, top executives and traders will pocket much more."

Was it Obama who said he would chase the lobbyists out of the halls of government when he became president? That was before he tried to appoint lobbyists to his Cabinet and other high positions. And before he tried to control the rich on Wall Street and in the insurance industry. We need a fighter on our side, and we need him or her now.

Isn’t it about time we faced the reality of Washington. It is no longer our government, nor the government that Thomas Jefferson envisioned. It is the corrupt creation of what big money does to good intentions.

For more than a year we could not find the language to curb Wall Street excesses, for eight months now we cannot find the language to provide a decent health plan for ordinary people but we can act within hours to declare as president a man who lost the popular vote in 2000 and keep a husband from relieving his decade-long comatose wife who was "living" with the help of tubes and electronics in a vegetated state so he could bury her in peace and dignity.

We certainly have strange priorities in this country.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

You are covering too much ground on this one. I'll confine my remarks to the financial reform issue. Few disagree that we need to stop the excesses, and likewise, few completely understand the global nature of the meltdown and, consequently, the global nature of the reforms that need to be enacted. If we can't get the G20 nations to agree on how structure reform, we will simply be shooting ourselves in the foot, driving the financial markets outside the U.S.