VOICES | The apologists for chiselers give us a lecture on bailout economics

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When Wall Street laid an egg in the 1920s to precipitate the Great Depression, the shorn millionaires and double dealers whose uncontrolled greed spread misery and poverty across the land leaped out of tall buildings and slit their wrists.

The good and privileged life was over. Living in disgrace without maids and footmen was not an option.

Today it’s easier. They contact the Secretary of the Treasury and by-pass those messier options. They also contact Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Bank, and the message loud and clear through these distinguished megaphones of high finance was this :

Save our cherished market place and the thrills and payoffs of speculation; forgive the shady off- the- books deals and transfers and the wreckage of millions of mortgages; forgive our brothers who invented those phantom hedge funds; they didn’t know what they were doing, which was okay because the investors and the bankers didn’t know what they were doing, either, and the White House didn’t care. Just fix this now and shut up. We’re in danger.

“Who’s in danger?”

America. The world. Wall Street. George Bush’s legacy. The Republican campaign.

“What about those millions of American taxpayers from the towns and farms and the pension plans and the fading value of their houses, the ones who are paying for the wars and the profit obsessions of Wall Street. Are they in danger, too?

Yes, but now we need them more than ever.

“Why is that?”

Because the country is going broke. The dollar has gone to hell. All that stands between the country and another Depression are the pockets of the taxpayers.

“Let’s say the reasons for that are the following: A needless war deceitfully and recklessly sold to the American public, kept alive with a shameless, flag-waving campaign of manipulation calculated to convince Americans they weren’t supporting the troops unless they loved the war. And let’s say American industrialists, some of the corporate pirates and stockholders made millions on the export overseas of hundreds of thousands of American jobs; and let’s say the speculators and investors of Wall Street and some of the bankers went crazy scooping up profits while the political hacks in the regulator agencies of the Bush government played Scrabble and let chiselers make any deal that came in over the transom. And the game went smash when the mortgage market caved in.”

That is correct, the architects of the bailout now before the country tell us. What we need now is speed. We don’t have time to deliberate. The Secretary of the Treasury tells us the economy is on the brink of collapse. We need to railroad this right now. It is so urgent that we have to swallow it without looking twice at what we’re swallowing. The Secretary of the Treasury tells America this is too urgent to allow discussion. Not by the courts. Not by any other agency of the country. It is like what? Well, Iraq.

Trust us. This from the people who have put America on the edge of bankruptcy with wars and threats of wars and by cherry-picking or actually stealing the easy fruit available to them while the regulators of the Bush government dozed or winked.

“But what about protections for the taxpayers? The ordinary people of Americans. Shouldn’t they be protected from the multi-millionare supplicants who have now squeezed themselves to the table en masse and created and unsightly food fight to make sure they get theirs? And if we’re going to be pushed into this de facto socialism to save capitalism, shouldn’t there be some language in there that gives the public a share in the benefits that ultimately accrue?”

The knights from the counting houses say there isn’t time. Pass it now. The way it’s written. Either that or you get the blame for mess the chiselers created.

Call it Democracy in America, 2000 to 2008.