Commentary: Trust us? In a pig's eye, I say

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 24, 2008 

"Trust us!" the earnest Capitol Hill staffer told me.

I'd wandered into a trendy watering hole not far from the marble halls where our nation's legislators gather regularly in apparent violation of parole board regulations, which forbid felons from consorting together. A McCain campaign meeting was going on in one back room. Who knows what was going on in the other back rooms?

All I wanted was a quiet drink after a long day. What I got was ambushed by said staffer, who was all hot and bothered over a recent column of mine taking both Republicans and Democrats to task for passing an expanded and extended FISA act legalizing illegal wiretapping and surveillance of every American citizen with a cell phone or a computer.

He claimed to have labored mightily on said Act, and declared that even though the NSA (No Such Agency) was gulping down terabytes of data every hour, there was no way the National Security Agency could misuse that information.

They were really only sifting and sorting it for pinpointed terrorism targets, he said, so we were just as safe from their snooping as if, well, as if they weren’t snooping at all.

"Trust us," he asked most earnestly.

I howled with laughter. "Trust you? Trust YOU? After all that's gone down in the last seven-plus years?"

He at least had the decency to begin laughing along with me at so ludicrous a suggestion falling out of his own mouth.

Now they're at it again. The Bush administration is telling Congress and the president himself is on television telling the American people: Trust us.

Trust us with a check on the national treasury for $700 billion, and that's just for starters. We don't need no stinking oversight. Trust Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — a Wall Street critter whose last civilian paycheck was for $38 million for a year's work — to make sure the money is wisely and conservatively spent.

Trust a man of Wall Street to bail us all out of the financial disaster visited upon us by Wall Street.

Trust the people who've run the national debt from $3 trillion to well over $10 trillion in just under eight years to ensure that no one takes unfair advantage of a Wall Street rescue plan that was slapped together in another back room in a long weekend of camaraderie among the robber barons.

Trust us, they say, and pass our rescue bill. No need to read it. No need for anything like due diligence. Pass our bill or we'll blame Congress, or at least the Democratic majority in Congress, when the wheels fall off the wagon.

Perhaps my memory is faulty, but wasn’t it the greedy bankers and brokers on Wall Street who decided that gravity no longer applied in the housing market and that simple credit checks were no longer required before granting big mortgages to people who couldn’t even afford to pay the interest on those loans?

That didn't matter. They'd just pool all those bad loans together and slice them like so much bologna and sell them to other capitalist institutions blinded by their own greed.

People who couldn't even afford to pay the taxes on their overpriced homes needn't worry. Each year they could just refinance their mortgages, pull out the 20 percent growth in appraised value and use that to pay their taxes, lease their Mercedes-Benzes and pay some of the interest on their debts.

This Ponzi scheme worked like a charm until the day it didn't. Home values suddenly started going down, not up. People couldn't do the re-fi cha-cha anymore, and couldn't afford to pay the interest on their mortgages.

The economy began going south at Warp 6. People started losing their jobs in an economy that John McCain insists is still fundamentally sound. All those tangled webs of high finance and low morals started unraveling. A few of the biggest gamblers went bust, and Uncle Sam stepped in. A few even bigger institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, private corporations with some government backing, had to be taken over by Uncle Sam.

And so it was that panic set in and the economic forecasts began to sound like the weather forecasts for Galveston Island a couple of weeks ago.

Now the same Republicans who sat back cashing campaign checks from Wall Street fat cats for seven plus years and busily deregulated everything in sight, including those who'd watched over everything from baby milk powder to brightly colored lead-painted toys to pet food, want to use our money to rescue the robber barons.

If we don't go along, and pronto, they say, the Second Great Depression is right around the corner, and don't bother blaming them, because they at least tried to save us from themselves.

If you needed any further evidence that there's something rotten at the heart of this deal, just look at the Wall Street lobbyists circling around the rescue bill like so many ravenous wolves.

We the people and our national treasury are going to buy all those bad mortgages out of the portfolios of the guilty and the innocent alike. We're going to have to pay some of them to maintain that property, auction off that property and hold the money earned from the auctions.

The wolves smell blood and they smell money, and we the people are supposed to rescue them and make them whole and forgive them and, oh yes, let them make more money in the process.

If you're ready to buy this deal from a used war salesman like George W. Bush and his cronies on Wall Street, then I have a real deal for you on a bridge to nowhere.

Trust us, they say. In a pig's ass, I say.

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