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There Should Be Hell To Pay

Robert Downes - October 6th, 2008
Back in college economics 101, we learned that the Great Depression could never happen again because our wise legislators had enacted many iron-clad regulations and safeguards to ensure that the stock market would never again reach such a state of peril.
But, like the chaos theory taught by the mathematician in Jurassic Park, you can never say never -- the destruction of those market regulations over the years has let the T-Rex out of its cage.
Thus, the rampage on Wall Street last week and terror plastered across the media. Let’s hope we don’t all get eaten alive by this thing.
Now, millions of Americans are of the opinion that the gamblers on Wall Street should bail themselves out. Why should we contribute a nickel to help these pirates? They can sink or swim.
But unfortunately, we are chained to the pirates. In some pirate navies, if you killed another sailor, your ankle was tied to his corpse and it was shoved overboard.
So, if you oppose the bailout, consider that you’re likely to go under too.
Why are we chained? Because as the pirates have pointed out, they are the dispensers of credit. And when they run dry, they don’t have money to lend. They want us to pay off $700 billion in their bad debt.
In a sense, they‘ve got us by the throat: without access to credit, the business you work for may not be able to get its annual short-term loan to keep operations going (ie: paychecks), or buy inventory for the coming year. And you might not receive a student loan; or get the loan you need to buy a used truck for that snow-plowing business you’re planning to start, now that you’re out of a job...
So, that’s the boat we’re in today.
How did we get here? It started with the “Reagan Revolution” in the 1980s, otherwise known as the “Decade of Greed.” That’s when deregulation fever swept our government (lubricated by the oil of cash from lobbyists). It was felt at the time that those bothersome old regulations from the 1930s were getting in the way of business; we put our faith in a “free market” ideology of economist Milton Friedman, believing that the wisdom of the captains of industry would steer us to safe harbors, with a hefty cargo of earnings onboard to boot.
Regulations on banking, the stock market, and other financial institutions were ignored, deep-sixed, or went unenforced by the Reagan administration, with that trend continued by Clinton and the Bushes.
This fever reached its height in 1999, when Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas), the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, authored an act which repealed regulations in the financial services industry. Gramm and his supporters said the regulations were no longer necessary because we‘d grown so much smarter and more sophisticated.
This is the guy, by the way, who said Americans were a “nation of whiners” back in July when he was serving as John McCain’s chief financial advisor.
Gramm’s legislation opened a Pandora’s Box of “wild, casino-type operations” to gamble with the money that you and I have placed in the trust of the banks and Wall Street, with today’s sick results.
There’s not enough space here to go into the pros and cons of the bailout. You could wallpaper Wall Street with all of the opinions generated on this subject over the past two weeks.
But conservative
financial wizard Ben Stein (who made the casino analogy above) likens the bailout to throwing the Constitution out of the window, and possibly ranking as “the most dangerous attack on the law in my lifetime.” Stein says that raiding the U.S. Treasury and the taxpayers to bail out Wall Street gamblers takes America down the same communist/socialist road blazed by Vladimir Lenin or Fidel Castro.
Many people on the Left feel the same way, while those in the middle seem inclined to bail out the mess and move on.
One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that there should be hell to pay. In China, there would be firing squads for those involved.
Here, at the least, we need to ensure the end of CEOs making more than 344 times as much as the workers in their factories. No more tax breaks for companies that outsource American jobs overseas. No more “golden parachutes” of tens of millions of dollars for CEOs who run their companies into the ground and then bail out. We need to revive the regulations that keep us safe from Wall Street gamblers and make them pay us back for any bailout.
For once, we’re all in the same sinking boat: Republicans, Democrats, rich, poor, young, old: it’s our necks at stake here -- our jobs, our savings, our retirement. We need to lock arms and make the pirates of Wall Street pay for what they’ve done.
 
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