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September 22, 2008
No One Can Relate to
the Bailout of a Disaster Like George W. Bush
Two thousand and eight, the summer of turmoil: Gas prices,
wars and the threat of wars, the economy, an increasingly bitter
presidential campaign. A dark cloud has hung over the country like an
ugly omen, foretelling of dark times ahead.
Through it all, it could be that George W. Bush has
delivered some piece of mind, a reminder that there are some things in
this world upon which we can all rely.
That is to say that the proposed bailout of Wall Street
isn’t just something that could have been seen coming through the prism
of the last eight years but based on an assessment of the president’s
The crisis Wall Street today labors through mirrors the
story of most of the president’s life. George W. Bush takes control of
something, augers it into the side of a mountain and then someone else
rides in to the rescue. It’d be no small wonder if the president
sympathizes with investment banks now teetering on the edge of collapse.
He must look at them and see himself.
What we’re seeing is an indictment of the 2000 election,
and also his 2004 election. Both times, the president’s life story –
take control of something, destroy it, rely on someone else to pick up
the pieces – were brought up; both times waved away as if a pesky gnat.
Today, we’re seeing that life story repeat itself, except that instead
of failure come by way of poor and lazy executive decision-making, it’s
via poor and lazy regulatory decision-making.
If there’s anything humorous about the situation, and it’s
probably only evident to those with a gallows sense of humor, it’s the
reaction of fiscal conservatives, who have suddenly figured out that the
president isn’t a member of their free-market club.
Of course he isn’t one of them. He never was one of them.
No one who will ever be elected to the presidency will be ever really
believe in free markets.
Yet, they purchased the ticket for the ride, eagerly and
unapologetically. They awarded him conservative street cred because he
hated regulation. To most everyone paying attention, that street cred
was based on someone just looking to dodge responsibility. The first
step for that is pretending that nothing’s wrong in the first place.
Now, it’s blowing up in their faces, with dislike of regulation exposed
as just a way for Wall Street investment bankers to dodge responsibility
for reckless decision making. Naturally, they want off the ride.
They’ve been the original useful idiots, providing a
useful source of support by Bush and other politicians. They’ve wanted
the same basic things – reduced oversight and regulation – but not for
the same reasons. The same human mechanisms that made communism only
look good on paper – greed and ambition – will always prevent a totally
free market from becoming a reality. This should be the free-market
movement’s version of the Berlin Wall, a final stake driven into the
heart of an idea that can never work when applied to real life.
What the president has proposed isn’t even a real, proper
bailout, but rather just the use of taxpayer dollars to buy overpriced,
risky assets. There is no forced reorganization, no stringent oversight
of operations. It’s George W. Bush’s way of saying, “Here, let me take
those problems off your hands.”
At this point, there’s no reason to attack him over this.
It might feel good, but really it’s like yelling at the fox after
putting him in charge of the henhouse. Anyone with a memory broader than
what happened five minutes ago could have predicted that, in response to
a financial crisis, the president’s inclination would be to bail out the
guilty. It’s been the story of his life.
America, I give you the
surest bet in all the land.
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