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Dancing With the Devil

By       Message Stephen Pizzo     Permalink
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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H2 11/25/08

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Did you feel a rush last week as members of Congress dumped all over Detroit automakers, confronting them with their self-destructive, self-indulgent management of America's last remaining super-industrial base?

And how about the shellacking those guys who run CitiBank are getting from the press. Huh? Watching the news this month has been kind of like watching a virtual version of the French Revolution; “Off with their heads! Off with their heads!”

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But what about our heads? After all, those high-rollers on Wall Street weren't dancing that dance alone. No siree. They had eager and willing partners. We were like unpopular kids at school who never got asked to dance at the ball.

But the Wall Streeters and Bankers reached out to us, asked us to dance, and we swooned into their arms.

And  oh, did we dance! How we danced! We swirled to one commercial hit after another. And we loved it -- and we loved them. They swept us away to a place we had always been told we could reach, but never seemed within reach. But, as long as we danced, they lavished those things on us.

“But,” we sniffled, “we can't afford your SUV's?"

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Forgetaboutit. GMAC to the rescue with generous financing. "Four years too short, payments too high? You worry too much my dears,” they crooned, “We''ll extend it to six years, eight years if that works better for you.”

You said you'd also love one of those new flat screen TVs, but didn't have the dough?

“There you go again, dears” they reassured, “Here, take this CitiBank credit card and go get one today. Hey, while you're at it, pick up a second one for the kid's room. You guys deserve it. Enjoy!”

And we did. Did we ever. It was intoxicating be out there on the ballroom dance floor with everyone else -- for once. One by one, we were asked to dance as the bankers worked their way down the list to the lessers of us, the ones they wouldn't even allow to open a checking account just a few short years before.

In sort order there were almost no wall flowers left. Everyone was dancing, and dancing, and dancing -- to an ever manic beat.

And what's the American dream without an American home, a place to put all that stuff, with a two-car garage, fenced backyard, room for a pet  --and a boat?

Ah, you replied, flapping a teary eye, “We'd love to own our own house, but we don't the money for a down payment?”

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“Poor dears,” they replied. “You have a right to your own home. It's right there in the US Constitution -- something about the pursuit of happiness. And we're here for you help you claim your rights. We'll lend you the down payment as well. Go buy a house.”

“That's very nice of you, we replied, “but we tried and your bank said we don't make enough money to afford the monthly payments.”

“What?” the bankers were shocked. Simply shocked. “Well! That's outrageous. That's discrimination, that's what it is. We'll take care of that. Just tell our loan officers what they want to hear. They just need a number to put in the box marked 'Income” to show the regulators. Never mind if it's not true. Your new house is going to go up in value every day you own it, so don't worry about it. We'll keep the payments so low your kid's lemonade stand could cover them. Then you can sell it and make a bundle. I mean look around us, everyone's doing it.”

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a (more...)

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