The Bailout & the Bluebird

When my kids were young and one of those things happened that no one could exactly remember doing… a bike was left in the driveway, a baseball went through a window, there was a large grape juice colored spot on the carpet…their nanny would smile and say, “the bluebird did it.” That bluebird became a constant visitor and to this day when no one will fess up to a transgression we blame the bluebird.

I have been thinking that the bluebird has been pretty busy lately because to listen to all of our elective representatives including Senators Biden, McCain and Obama, someone else made this happen. I guess the only good thing about that is that at least the finger pointing is over something substantive now versus such previous topics as who is more like Brittany Speers or who wears lipstick and who is the pig.

So, if the make believe bluebird led us in, will the make believe bluebird lead us out?

This has been what seems like the longest political campaign in modern history and it is now hard to imagine that in a little over 30 days we will actually elect one of these two guys to be our President. OK, if you are one of those who hold the opinion that George Bush is the sorriest excuse for a president that you can think of, well then based on this alone, all is not lost.

However, the sheer impact of this economic crisis that almost instantly rearranged the US financial landscape just as 9/11 rearranged the New York City skyline, seems to have diminished both candidates and made them seem too small for such big problems. They both talk about the need for change but we woke up one morning to find Bear Sterns, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers no longer existed and that the US government had “rescued” Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac who were supposed to be there to rescue the $5.3 trillion US home loans that they guarantee. Maybe we have had too much change already?

Does it seem like either candidate really has a firm grasp on how we got to this unhappy confluence of acronyms and euphemisms :   FOMC, GSEs, Community Reinvestment Act, AMT Patch and now the unfortunately acronymed Troubled Asset Relief Program,  TARP,as in tarp.

Could any of the candidates give a quest lecture or better yet, pass a qualifying exam, on say Keynesian economics. We know that Joe Biden thinks that FDR addressed the nation on TV after the stock market crash in 1929 so we won’t even bother to ask him.  Peggy Noonan, who more often that not, calls it as I see it asks, “Do you worry that neither of them is up to it? Up to the job in general? Is either Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama actually up to getting us through this and other challenges?”

Well, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. In fact, it feels scary.  Rex Hammock who has been writing blog post nuggets of brilliance, one after another, about this mess pointed  in a blog post titled Who’s to Blame? to an op-ed piece by David Brooks in which Brooks writes that none of the political leaders has been able to instill confidence in the American people that they get the situation and can and will take charge and lead us out.

The Congressional plan was nobody’s darling, but it was an effort to assert some authority. It was an effort to alter the psychology of the markets. People don’t trust the banks; the bankers don’t trust each other. It was an effort to address the crisis of authority in Washington. At least it might have stabilized the situation so fundamental reforms of the world’s financial architecture could be undertaken later.”

We have a problem. A big prolem. A crisis in fact. Point a finger at someone else. Oh, we can blame the bluebird. The bluebird did it. That’s settled. Now, how do we get out of here? The bluebird? No, he got us into this mess. We can’t trust him. We will just stay here.

Steve Pearlstein writes, “But it is a measure of how little trust remains in both Washington and Wall Street that voters are willing to risk a serious hit to their wealth and income rather than follow their lead.

OK, so we are staying but that makes us……angry?

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad, everybody knows things are bad: It’s a depression! Everybody’s out of work, or scared of losing their job; the dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shop-keepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street; nobody anywhere seems to know what to do and there’s no end to it! We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat…. We know things are bad, worse than bad: they’re crazy! It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore! We sit in the house and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller…. I want you to get mad! You’ve got to say “I’m a human being goddammit! My life has value!” I want you to…yell “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Yes, we need to get angry. Junk bonds, Savings & Loans, Enron, We have been here before. We are about to send the same people back to Washington that got us here; that we laugh at every Daily Show, Colbert and SNL that we watch.

My son asked me earlier tonight who I thought was more popular Sarah Palin or Tina Fey. John Stewart IS funny; but should he be the most trusted man in America?  Let’s get mad and make some change ourselves. Then we can believe it.

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