A.I.G. fatcats are still partying as their excesses flush our economy swirling down the drain. A British journalist caught them on a hunting expedition, to which they were ferried by private jet. A.I.G. honcho Sebastian Preil told an undercover reporter:
The recession will go on until about 2011, but the shooting was great today and we are relaxing fine.
In addition to the $700 billion (at least) bailout plan, the Wall Street Journal reported today--
Operating mostly under the radar screen, Congress, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have been rolling back various provisions of the tax code to help out industries and investors caught up in the turmoil.
The most costly -- and most controversial -- of the moves provide billions in extra tax relief to big banks such as Wells Fargo & Co. and Spain's Banco Santander SA.
I am increasingly peeved by Obama's reticence to concede that given the economic maelstrom we're battered by and will be, that he will not be able to fulfill some of the promises he's made. Why state the obvious? I find it insulting and disingenuous, at the least, not to. Some have said it's a replay of Bill Clinton's approach, to make all sorts of promises while campaigning, then allege that more information came to light after inauguration that proscribe fulfilling certain promises. I think it's an unnecessary risk for Obama to take. You've got the people's ear and good favor, give 'em lofty inspirations but harsh truths too, or regret it later.
The only choice for fiscal conservatives in this election is Obama. By electing Obama POTUS and other fiscally sympathetic representatives, the middle class can then exercise its newfound power over insurance companies, corporations and bankers. You want us to bail you out? Here are some of our demands:
1) Corporations and the rich need to pay higher taxes, period. We are tired of hearing that higher corporate and upper class taxes will increase the jobless rate and slow the economy.
Even Warren Buffet (an Obama supporter) says that our current tax system unfairly puts more of the tax burden on the working class than the rich. The rich pay more taxes as a total collected, but much less of a percentage as the middle class.
Mr. Buffet goes on to say, "There's class warfare, all right," Mr. Buffett said, "but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."
The campaign is a riveting distraction, but it's going to be over in a couple of weeks and we'll be forced to face with clear eyes the harsh economic realities of our lives. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the next big escape won't come till American Idol season starts in January.
Fareed Zakaria, who endorsed Obama on his CNN show GPS today, continues to be a lonely voice in the wilderness, attributing much of what's gone wrong in the economy to Alan Greenspan's practices while Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and quoting Warren Buffet's frank talk:
"Leverage," he said, "is the only way a smart guy can go broke. . . You do smart things, you eventually get very rich. If you do smart things and use leverage and you do one wrong thing along the way, it could wipe you out, because anything times zero is zero. But it's reinforcing when the people around you are doing it successfully, you're doing it successfully, and it's a lot like Cinderella at the ball. The guys look better all the time, the music sounds better, it's more and more fun, you think, 'Why the hell should I leave at a quarter to 12? I'll leave at two minutes to 12.' But the trouble is, there are no clocks on the wall. And everybody thinks they're going to leave at two minutes to 12."
Don't ask for whom the bell tolls...
Listen. A silver lining in this whole debacle will be a halt to the rabid consumer culture that had come to characterize the 'American way of life'. Maybe there will even be a return to values, informed by family or church or community (or, dare I to dream--reading, reflection, critical thought) rather than by whatever the marketers of pop culture determine is "in". It could even be, as Andrei Codrescu envisions it in After the Bailout.