_By Ed Tubbs
_September 19, 2008
Everyone was right, and everyone was also wrong, by stipulating the federal government had to step in and save AIG, which was after all “too big to [let] fail.”
As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson reportedly advised both the president and the leaders of both parties, the entire financial apparatus of the United States, and by extension the world, was “just a few days from total collapse.”
The only player with the wherewithal to prevent a collapse of such incredible magnitude was the government of the United States. For those on the left who are bleeding torrents of repulsion, for the government to have refrained from the bailout because those on the right were responsible for the calamity, would be like slicing off one’s nose because one wasn’t pleased with one’s face. In other words: STUPID!
Besides, as I note later, whether on the right or left, many, many of us are every bit as responsible.
But there exists one truly serious deficiency in the premise that underlies the first sentence in the third paragraph. Although the federal government may be the only player with the wherewithal, there’s not overriding evidence that the federal government actually has, in fact, the wherewithal. In fact, because we are indeed dealing with facts, it’s all a bet, and all of us are betting everything we have that the future is holding an inferior hand and that the present will win the hand.
And we don’t know that any more than we knew on September 10, 2001 that September 11, 2001 would call our national security hand.
Today is not is the time to take self-congratulatory pride in I-told-you-sos. That’s a lot like puffing your chest as a passenger on the bus that’s over the cliff, en route to the rocks below, telling all the others on board that “I told you we were on the wrong road!”
One thing today certainly ought to be is the resonant sounding of the death knell on every spoken and silent notion in support of the conservative-Reagan-McCain-GOP “hands off everything-regulate nothing-oversee nothing government is always bad-private enterprise is always good” philosophy. Everything that conservatives, Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party, and John McCain stood for has now been conclusively shown to be dust and should be ground underfoot as dust. I’m just not confident it will be.
Vietnam offered lessons. A generation passed. We forgot, or never learned the lessons. Rightwing spin, jingoism and revisionist history won the day. The S&L crisis offered lessons. A generation passed. We forgot, or never learned the lessons. Rightwing spin, jingoism and revisionist history won the day.
Another thing today ought to impress upon all of us is the fact that how our relatives, friends and associates vote is intimately important to all of us. It was the votes for Republicans cast by our relatives, friends and associates that led to the ascendance and maintenance of the conservative Republican philosophy that gave us the S&L crisis, the doubling, then tripling of the national debt, Iraq, and the economic plight we are confronting right this moment.
It was the votes for Republicans by those you know that led to Enron, to Tyco, to Bear Sterns, to IndyMac, to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to AIG . . . No one has the moral right to be ignorant of at least modest knowledge of history, of economics, of the civics of our government, to be aloof from it all, and then to complain when their home loses 50% of its value or their retirement vessels spring leaks and sink. Citizenship is not just an 11-letter word in a spelling bee. You can’t just yuk it up over Earl, swoon over Idol, go bowling with your GOP-voting friends, then fall back aghast when the fan splatters excreta over everything. It just doesn’t work that way, if it’s to really work.
That the government had no choice today cannot amend the fact that the government had plenty of choices and obligations yesterday, and must be a governing player tomorrow. That is, supposing we get to tomorrow. You, me, and at least two generations into tomorrow are on the hook for trillions. Let me repeat that, in all caps and bold, because everyone needs to understand we are in a mess: “. . . on the hook for TRILLIONS.”
That’s schools, medical research, bridges, roads, healthcare, national defense . . . everything you can think of that depends on being maintained and advanced in anticipation of our being competitive in tomorrow’s world is now on the backburner, behind the requirement of backing potentially and genuinely bad paper. And that’s if everything works out as hoped. Those are the words President Bush used today, explaining the administration’s decision, “. . . if everything works the way we hope . . .”