Commentary: So much for letting the free market rule

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 26, 2008 

Hear that humming sound? That's the printing presses at the United States Treasury running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, churning out an ocean of green paper to bail out the billionaire bankers, brokers and assorted brigands who are responsible for the economic disaster that's befallen us.

They're busy running off $3.7 trillion in bailout money for those who don't deserve it. It's a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas to the very pirates whose greed got us, and them, in all the trouble.

Isn't capitalism grand?

We're daily treated to the spectacle of the fading remnants of a Republican administration working 24/7 to dump the tax money of hard-working Americans into the leaky coffers of the robber barons.

These are the same Republicans who've been telling us for eight years that we needed to get government out of the business of big business. Let the market decide, they crowed; it's more efficient. Get rid of all those pesky federal regulators, by hook or by crook, and everything will come up roses.

Well, the market decided. It decided that the whole thing was a Ponzi scheme, worth about as much as a three-legged mule. It decided that those who'd cooked up all these derivatives based on bundles of bad mortgages were broke. Likewise for all the poor suckers worldwide who'd bought those bundles of joy.

Suddenly all those free market barons are pushing and shoving to get into the line for a government handout — the corporate equivalent of food stamps and welfare checks.

We're treated to the spectacle of a treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, whose statements and declarations are no longer operative by the time they leave his lips.

With nearly two months to go before Barack Obama is sworn in as president of the United States, the man he'll replace, George W. Bush, has virtually disappeared. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

But it begs the question: Who IS running the railroad?

The stock market reacts positively to even an off-hand remark by Mr. Obama, and it's positively giddy when he does something like name those he plans to appoint to run the economy.

Suddenly we discover that rock-solid Citibank is awash in red ink and needs rescuing from its own miserable management, and we dump a fresh load of printed green paper — $300 billion, a good dollop _ in food stamps on them.

And who can forget the spectacle of the men who've run the Big Three automakers into the ground boarding their private jets and zooming to Washington, D.C., to get in the corporate welfare line.

What happened to letting the market decide?

Now at the urging of Mr. Obama, Henny Penny Paulson announces a fresh printing of $800 billion worth of green paper to provide a bit of relief for the folks down near the bottom of this feeding frenzy. This money will rescue folks who are about to lose their homes, they say, and create millions of new jobs working on the nation's dilapidated roads and bridges.

Who's next? We're bailing out the big banks, so how about the little banks? What about the big banks that hand out credit cards like lollipops and suddenly wonder how all those unemployed people are going to pay back the money they've borrowed with their plastic?

What we have here is capitalism without consequences; a free market whose downside can’t be tolerated.

Inside the space of 60 days, we've witnessed a conservative solution to the meltdown — adding a third more, nearly $4 trillion, to the national debt in corporate welfare.

One day when the burden of that debt comes home to roost, when it takes a wheelbarrow full of printed green paper to buy a Happy Meal at McDonald's, ordinary Americans are going to wonder how free enterprise and the American way of life permitted so many incompetent, corrupt, thieving robber barons to rise to the top, take their companies to the bottom and be richly rewarded for that.

Those ordinary Americans may even have time, standing in the bread lines, to ponder how the good old rock-ribbed Republicans, the stand-on-your-own-two-feet conservatives that we elected and re-elected, led them down the path to ruin.

To quote the illustrious Pogo: We have met the enemy and he is us.

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