Columns 2009

Get out the tar and feathers…I’m gonna find me a hedge fund manager!

When the banks, brokerage houses and mortgage lenders were sucking under because of their greed, bad investments and utter disdain for reality, Congress passed a bill giving them billions of dollars in relief so fast that the ink had barely dried on it before the first check was cut. The Bush administration called for this money to be appropriated without any strings attached because there was simply no time for details. I believe the general attitude was, “Trust us. We’re from the government and we can handle this.”

How many times do we have to fall for a line like that before we wise up?  Even the dumbest blonde eventually gets that he won’t actually respect her in the morning.

When Wall Street was in trouble, we had to move like greased lightning to get money to the former masters of the universe. We were told we needed to shore up our financial institutions and get them back to normal before things got worse. What Congress really meant was that some of them were counting on their million dollar bonuses to make the monthly mortgage payment on their third home in the Hamptons. 

But when it came time to pass a relief package to create jobs, fix our infrastructure and maybe make life a little easier for you and your neighbor, our Congress found its voice. Suddenly they had questions. They needed guarantees. They had ideas on how things should go and who should get what. They were worried about what this would do to the deficit. They weren’t sure we’d spend our own tax money wisely if they just gave it back to us.

They were overwhelmed by the stress they felt at the idea of the government just handing out money and jobs to ordinary citizens as opposed to funding bonuses for the economic dolts who brought fiscal devastation to this country.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t felt this angry at anything my government has done since my rebel days of the sixties. I keep wondering when the populace will break out the pitchforks and the tar and feathers and march on congress demanding justice.  If there was ever a time when we had the right to rise up again and say, “Hell no! Not now, not ever”, while demanding those bankers return every cent to the US Treasury, now is the time.

When I see a headline that says we can’t afford universal health care, can’t afford to even think about it because of the budget deficit, I want to grab some hedge fund manager and hold him or her upside down by their heels and shake them until every penny in government money that they took falls out of their greedy pockets. 

Elderly people are trying to re-enter a workforce that loses jobs daily because they have no savings thanks to choices made by people they trusted to have some financial sense. And yet we have mortgaged our great grandchildren’s future to give these people bonuses because, the reasoning goes, if we don’t, they’ll quit and then the franchise will have no value.

Really? Because from where I’m sitting, those franchises don’t seem all that darn valuable to me right now. And the financial geniuses I’m supposed to worry about losing are the ones who drove those franchises into the ground. So let them leave. Let them leave and let them leave their bonuses behind. We can use the money to pay the Alaska Native Guard for their work keeping us safe during World War II.

Then I’d like to watch these geniuses as they try to find another place to ply their trade, another company willing to take a bet on a financier who could only make money when he or she was being given tax dollars with no strings attached. I want to see them wearing a paper cap, asking if I want a value meal and wondering how they are going to pay for both the rent and their doctor’s visit in the same month.

And I’d like every congressperson who voted to give the banks money with no strings attached, while voting against a package to help us ordinary folks, to be wearing a paper cap right along side of them. They deserve each other.