I can’t believe it’s happening, but it is. The administration, by which I mean the Bush administration, is failing in a colossal manner yet again.
They invaded Afghanistan, with the largest and most capable military the world has ever known, to track down and capture one man. One man. And they couldn’t pull it off. Here, seven years later, Osama Bin Laden is still at large and living large, tucked away comfortably in a Pakistani safe house, mailing us taunting home videos.
They attacked Iraq, for no understandable reason, telling us the Iraqis would shower us with flowers and, in no time at all, would be paying their own Visa bills.
Five years later, the country is a hopeless quagmire where unvetted private mercenaries have taken the role as our proxy fighters to the tune of nearly a billion dollars of borrowed money a day.
"They sat back, praising a hopelessly idealistic ideology of laissez-faire as the great engine pushing our economy along."
They patted themselves on the back for doing a “great job” as one of our nation’s greatest cities disappeared beneath waves of seawater and sewage. At the current pace of reconstruction, it won’t be back to where it was until 2030.
They sat back, praising a hopelessly idealistic ideology of laissez-faire as the great engine pushing our economy along. Then acted both clueless and guileless when it turned out that the Emperor of the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) Economy had no clothes, because he had nothing of actual tangible value and that an economy whose only remaining domestic industry was the manufacture of suburban sprawl, was an economy with no future.
So the bubble that Republicans overinflated popped, and the administration stepped forward with one final action-item: Bush trotted out two more experts, Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, and he told us to never mind the past and serial failures, this time they knew what they were doing.
Knew what they were doing and they had to do it fast. Crisis Capitalism invoked the shock doctrine: the world was about to explode, but, if you only handed them a trillion dollars, Ben and Hank knew which wire to cut to defuse the bomb. Only one catch: don’t ask any questions.
It’s an expert thing, you wouldn’t understand.
We’re in it, too!
And, just as they had when they passed the Authorization to Use Military Force, the Democrats were crawling over the Republicans to sign on and show the nation that nobody could accuse them of inaction in a time of national crisis.
"He told us to never mind the past and serial failures, this time they knew what they were doing."
Nobody could accuse them of being wimps.
Despite the fact that the terms of the bailout, terms that no one had even heard of, were so odious that not even the members of the administration’s own party could get on board. It passed not because Republican congresspersons backed their Republican administration’s plan, but because Democrats had come rushing in and signed on with Wall Street, Hank and Ben, and the mendacious administration only because they were terrified of the political consequences of not doing so.
But nobody bought it. In the early days after the “bailout” plan was green-lighted, Wall Street stumbled back and forth indicating no stability and certainly no recovery. The experts backpedaled, telling us the bailout wasn’t supposed to get things moving again, just keep the mother of all bottoms from falling out.
And now comes this week with Paulson’s boy wonder, Neel Kashkari, testifying before Congress that the Treasury department doesn’t really know where the first $200 billion of the bailout went and, yes, he (we) did get owned by ever-tragic A.I.G., which has been spending at least part of the $100 million that it’s gotten on executive travel perks and upgraded room service.
And the Dow Jones Index dropped another 5 percent, putting it back to where it was when Clinton started his second presidential term.
Oops, we did it again
In other words, like Afghanistan, like Iraq, like Katrina and like the bubble economy, the administration has brought us the bailout as another massive, unbelievably costly, failure. To put things in perspective, the $750 billion pledged for the bailout is a third more expensive than was, in inflation-adjusted dollars, Roosevelt’s entire New Deal.
"Just as they had when they passed the Authorization to Use Military Force, the Democrats were crawling over the Republicans to sign."
The New Deal that built Cascades park on Bloomington’s north side. The New Deal that built IU’s glorious auditorium, that festooned its buildings from Woodburn Hall to said auditorium with the masterpieces of Thomas Hart Benton. The New Deal that built bridges, roads and buildings from California to New York.
The New Deal that we can still see, everywhere.
But unlike that New Deal, the legacy of the bailout is nothing. The money was just flushed down the proverbial toilet and into the back pockets of the captains of crony capitalism.
And now we’re being implored to reprise failure with more failure, to “bail out” Detroit because the consequences of not doing so are more than anyone can imagine, or so says Disaster Capitalism. That we’ve got to prop up GM, despite the fact that it is precisely the expert management at GM that, arrogantly and with a bellicosity beyond imagination, forever ruined that firm’s chances of ever being a going concern.
The Wages of Sin is … what, more wages?
Wall Street largely got us into the bogus housing bubble that destroyed the American Economy. Then Wall Street, through its Manchurian agents, convinced us that the solution lay in giving Wall Street more money. Now the recalcitrant hacks who managed Detroit into a dead-end morass of gas-guzzling SUVs, hyper-trucks and oversized sedans tell us the only solution is to reward them with more free taxpayer money or all those workers they’ve directed to built the futureless SUVs and hyper-trucks will find themselves out on their asses, being evicted from their McMansions.
"Unlike that New Deal, the legacy of the bailout is nothing."
It’s insanity, but it may be just what we deserve, too. We’ve been all too complicit in surrendering our own responsibilities to those of a self-identified expert class that, it should be now more painfully obvious than ever, don’t actually know more than the rest of us. They’re just more willing to pretend they do -- for the easier to reach into your back pocket.
For as the experts brought us disaster after disaster, we were too busy distracting ourselves with the horrors of same-gender marriages, whether or not Johnny should be able to lead the class in a rendition of Onward Christian Soldiers, and striking reason and intellect from the public school curriculum to appease the loudmouths who insist we share their delusion that the earth was created 10,000 years ago and Jesus rode a dinosaur through the markets of Jerusalem.
We live in an idiocracy, and it should be no surprise that the appallingly bad performances by our experts is nothing but a reflection of that idiocracy. A culture war so corrosive and so injurious that we’re no longer capable of competently addressing even the most direct, obvious and pressing crises facing us.
Gregory Travis can be reached at email@example.com.