I never thought I would agree with Tom Coburn or Jim Inhofe on anything, but this is a bailout, not a rescue. It should come as no surprise that the same crowd that rushed us to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction would now be saying, “Trust us, $700 billion is all we need to save Wall Street from the ‘imminent threat’ of financial destruction.” We will be greeted as liberators and CEOs will hand out flowers on the steps of the Stock Exchange.
What the Inhofe-Coburn-Bush crowd got wrong is that we have been headed for the edge of this cliff for a long time, and their party has been at the wheel oblivious to history’s dark truth about deregulation. One would think that with so many Jesus-loving Republicans around here, someone would take both greed and human sin more seriously.
“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” says Matthew 19:24.
I have been listening to good old boys preach the heavenly virtues of free enterprise since I was born in Oklahoma 56 years ago. But while the idle masses have been preoccupied with important things like football and Britney Spears’ navel, the great moral crusaders for the magic of the marketplace have been busy deconstructing free enterprise. While the U.S. Chamber of Commerce crowd lectured us all on personal responsibility and being accountable for one’s own decisions and their consequences, the “money masters” were quietly closing in on the Holy Grail of profits. Washington had become a corporate lobbying farm and free enterprise morphed into corporate socialism. Profits were privatized and risks were socialized. The market stopped working because the downside disappeared.
Once upon a time in Oklahoma, greed and corruption could bring down the greedy and the guilty and the innocent were not expected to bail them out. The people who made the mistakes were expected to deal with the consequences. Now taxpayers have become the insurers of last resort. The private sector sins and the public sector pays the indulgence.
Consider the insanity of this moment in history. We are being asked to save companies we did not ruin and in return for our investment we get absolutely nothing. Top executives go on making eight-figure salaries and no new regulations are allowed because, as we all know, if left alone with other people’s money, human beings will always do the right thing.
Taxpayers have been reduced to a public line of credit to salvage private larceny against our will. We’re being told to hurry up and re-float a boat we did not sink and will never board on behalf of a captain (Henry Paulson) who wants to bail out his old Wall Street cronies with complete legal impunity! A few weeks ago, this same crowd was telling us that the economy was “fundamentally sound,” and the crisis was “contained.” How stupid do they think we are?
George Orwell should have lived to see this moment. The same people who drove the economy over a cliff are demanding that they be trusted to save it with more of our money. Big Brother is addicted ” please send more drugs.
It reminds me of Reagan’s famous quip that launched the era of deregulation. These are the scariest nine words in the English language, he said: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”
The government is not the solution, he told us. It’s the problem. “Amen” roared the Republican faithful.
Funny, no one is laughing now. They are too busy telling us that only the government can save us while lining up to get on welfare. Perhaps we should offer it only if they can provide a street address and a pay stub, wear a tracking device, and pay back every penny. Otherwise, how will those slugs ever learn?
Meyers is minister of Mayflower UCC Church and a professor at Oklahoma City University.