The American people spoke last week, and their rulers ignored them. That's nothing new, I know, but the passage of the bill to rescue Wall Street and other corporate interests from being grievously injured by what they themselves created in a frenzy of runaway greed is the most egregious, morally repugnant piece of legislation to be signed into law since - well, since when? I can't think of anything more ghastly in not only what it does but also what it implies about the future of this nation of ours.
It provides welfare for the mega-rich from the ordinary taxpayer. The rulers will ride out falling markets on the backs of the masses, who were told time and again during the drama preceding the enactment of this thing that the reason they didn't like it one bit was that they - the little people - didn't understand it and were too stupid to applaud forking over hundreds of billions of dollars to their betters in just the manner being prescribed. This unprecedented raid on the public till had to be done lickety-split. Authority figures agree, so who are we to argue? Why should there be hearings when the experts were in agreement as to what should be done? Why listen to any of the many dozens of economists who thought the measure to be insane? It's become trite to call this swollen, pork-laden bill "socialism for the rich," but it is precisely that.
And these men we have running for president, where are they on this? Initially, both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama expressed their tentative approval of the bailout, oops, I mean rescue bill, and then began backtracking when the extent of voter disapproval made itself known. A few days later, they came to agree on the necessity of it, thereby illustrating beyond any lingering doubt that, as Ron Paul puts it, "our one-party system is complicit in yet another crime against the American people."
People being what they are, many folks of a partisan bent like to blame the other party for the mess we find ourselves assigned, against our will, to clean up. Who dug the hole? Be assured that both Republican and Democratic politicians have been shoveling away at it for many years. Democrats say the GOP is at fault for foisting upon us various deregulations that caused the mortgage mess that triggered the credit implosion. But Tom Donlan says in Barron's that the problem is not that there weren't enough regulators or regulations, but that the regulators "were not sane." In an opinion piece, Mr. Donlan says, "Regulation and regulated institutions encouraged the risk-taking, helped to finance it and continue to excuse it."
Republicans accuse the Democrats of pressuring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into creating a market for toxic mortgages. Again, Mr. Donlan: "Who did the pressuring? A string of presidents and their appointees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a legion of congressmen inspired by housing activists dreaming of home ownership for all." Republicans. Democrats. They're all in it together, an idea those partisans and their media champions find difficult to accept, even though it seems to me undeniable.
I find it strangely satisfying that Congressman Paul, the little Texan who was soundly thrashed in his Quixotic quest for the Republican presidential nomination - the man who was laughed at and mocked as a kook when he tried to alert us all to the fragile and unsustainable nature of our money system - is now seen by more and more Americans as the one politician who told us the truth. No wonder the system spit him out.
The plan bulldozed through Congress last week carries with it dire implications about the future of our country. To redistribute income upward as this does means the game is over. We live in an age looking suspiciously like that of other empires in their late periods of decay, and if you don't know what that portends, it's probably just as well.
Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL.com. His column appears Wednesdays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.