Sunday, December 21, 2008

The financial sector, for a change…

Just a brief digression from health care and medicine to just social justice. The New York Times of Sunday, Dec. 21, is full of information. The right-hand column on page 1 (the most important story of the day) is: “In need of cash, more companies cut 401(K) match”. Not good for folks contemplating retirement, huh. Especially when the story on page 6 of the Business section is entitled “Maybe this time, it’s buy, buy, buy and hold”. A challenge for regular people who mostly “buy” (and “hold”) with their retirement money, which is now being cut. Hmm. There is also a very long piece beginning on page 1 and continuing with a full double-page spread detailing how the Bush administration housing policies encouraged, perhaps led the collapse. Oh, well, they’re soon gone, but have we learned anything? Frank Rich, in his column “Who wants to kick a millionaire?” details the continued irresponsible arrogance of the financial “leaders” and their enablers in the administration such as Henry Paulson:

“Last week ABC News asked 16 of the banks that have received handouts from the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program the same two direct questions: How have you used that money, and how much have you spent on bonuses this year? Most refused to answer.
“Congress can’t get the answers either. Its oversight panel declared in a first report this month that the Treasury is doling out billions ‘without seeking to monitor the use of funds provided to specific institutions.’ The Treasury prefers instead to look at ‘general metrics’, indicating the program’s overall effect on the economy. Well, we know what the ‘general metrics’ tell us already: the effect so far is nil. Perhaps if we were let in on the specifics, we’d start to understand why.”

Let’s get this clear. The American people, who are actually financing this bailout, just as they financed the wealth accumulated by these “titans of banking”, think that they should not get any bonuses. In fact, they don’t even think they should have jobs. We think that the ones who can be convicted of anything should be imprisoned, and the rest should have to give up all their money[*] and be living on unemployment (if their companies were keeping up with the premiums!) in second-hand FEMA trailers, before their companies receive dollar one from the bailout! Can we be clearer?

Obviously hasn’t happened with the Bush administration, and don’t get your hopes up for the incoming administration, not with Citigroup’s Robert Rubin (“I’d do the same all over again”) and his disciples being appointed to Obama’s key financial advisory positions. Sorry, the same people are going to win, and the rest of us are going to keep losing.

[*] For those of you who wonder if we can take all the money they already “earned”, I acknowledge that I am not a legal expert. For those of you who are, here is my question on what seems a parallel set of circumstances: I break into your house and steal the $1000 cash you keep in your sock drawer. For the next week I “put it on the street” in short term, high-interest loans and now have $2000. Then the cops arrest me for my original crime. My question: Do I get to keep the whole $2000, or just the $1000 I “earned”?

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