Thursday, March 19, 2009

Go to your room, hussy!

With the economy hurdling downward like Natasha Richardson on a bunny slope (too soon?), it is incumbent upon us, as a nation, to be angry about it. Sure, the recession might stem from a confluence of fraud, bad personal decisions, political incompetence, and the cyclical nature of the market, but that’s a lot to think about.

Worse, there seems to be some sort of lesson in personal accountability. This isn’t time for learning, it’s time for outrage! Like a James Horner film score, our media and political elite are more than happy to tell us what to think, who to condemn, and how to be outraged.

We are, if I understand correctly, to be outraged at the dispensation of lavish bonuses at insurance giant AIG. Barack Obama’s Teleprompter has informed him that we own 80% of the company, and people are out of work, don’t you know.

Congress, too, seems to be outraged. This is a bit odd, like a mother who gives her teenage daughter $20 to go to the pharmacist, and it later perturbed to discover condoms in the backseat. “And to think, I thought you just needed lots and lots of ibuprofen. Go to your room, hussy! Just wait until your father gets home.”

Only the father in this case is Tim Geithner, whose credibility rates somewhere between Jocelyn Elders and Jeremy Davies at the end of Saving Private Ryan. He’ll stammer about for thirty seconds before arbitrarily unplugging her alarm clock and tearing her Twilight movie poster off the wall.

Also lining up to spoon feed the hate is Jon Stewart, who was once a comedian of some repute. He upbraided Jim Cramer, host of the absurd Mad Money on CNBC for encouraging people to invest before the market tanked. ‘Cause, you know, everyone knows precisely when that’s going to happen. Stewart’s pivot from dry comedy to righteous indignation is awkward at best (he has a cable show too, you know), but Monday morning quarterbacks can be prophets too, right?

If you took financial advice from a guy whose shtick is to pound tables and throw papers in the air, well, suffices to say, everyone is to blame but you.

Especially Bernie Madoff, whose dalliances are symbolic of, but entirely unrelated to, our present crisis. Madoff started a Ponzi scheme in the early 1990s that had duped investors into giving him money he did not invest. He is arguably the person least responsible for the recession.

No matter. Bernie Madoff might as well be the guy who sold you that Jeep Cherokee you bought for $33k two years ago. There is no way you could possibly have known this was a bad decision. But the “Madoff’s of the world” sold you a bill of goods. What? Your Jeep hasn’t broken down yet? Donate it while you can still write off the full blue book value.

Of course, I’m just raining on the parade here, but there is a good reason to be leery of scapegoating. If Congress can stoke enough outrage to make themselves look heroic by legislating, we’ll wind up with a law that bans bonuses, cable news and… Well, whatever it is Congress can convince America that Bernie Madoff is guilty of outside of that which already constitutes a crime.

This is known as window dressing. Meanwhile, our leaders will continue to reap the benefits that come with ignoring the maladies that are genuinely in need of redress. The mortgage fraudsters, unhinged speculators, and Jeep Cherokee buyers will emerge unscathed, lessons unlearned. The AIG execs and Jim Cramer will be back to work.

Of course, if you ever work your way into the position of receiving a seven figure bonus, well, too bad. Congress banned those. You know, Madoff and all that.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so confusing living in a society where everything and nothing is legal.....depending on who the person is and the state of the economy.

11:01 AM  

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