It's 'ants' v. 'grasshoppers' as economic crisis deepens

Two-and-a-half millennia before anyone thought of bundling toxic derivatives, Aesop knew what bugged people.

The foolhardy grasshopper in the ancient Greek fable “The Ant and the Grasshopper” enjoyed his summer singing while the ant worked in earnest, “toiling and moiling” to store up food. Winter came and the grasshopper, starving, took to begging from the ant colony.

Even today, “it goes to the very marrow of American society,” said Randall Miller, a scholar of political and cultural history. “Work hard. Take responsibility for yourself. Don’t expect others to bail you out for your own bad decisions…

“But who’s the government going to help in this economic mess? The grasshoppers!

“I sense something building, a cultural phenomenon. A lot of resentment has surfaced, and the people in Washington are feeling it.”

The anger of the ants — antipathy, if you will — rose up last week when Detroit auto titans hopped into their private jets to plead desperation for $25 billion in taxpayer-funded loans. Pummeled by bitter e-mail, lawmakers told the executives to come back with a plan to make the troubled industry competitive and more efficient.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City sits on the House committee that is weighing the Big Three bailout, and he plans to support it to spare local manufacturing jobs.

“I understand the anger,” Cleaver said. “All of this is causing people to wonder if the American way is changing.

“How many out there are saying, ‘I just want to buy Christmas gifts for my family, and these guys in their private jets want my tax money?’ ”

Certainly, not all species of grasshoppers fly so high.

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