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Wise Guys, Shock and Awe, and the Great Depression Sequel

Wise Guys, Shock and Awe, and the Great Depression Sequel .

The top of the news is still dominated by fears of Great Depression II. No mention of hope fever, field stripping moose, or lipstick.

I’m sure that the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are tirelessly working behind the scenes to insure a better deal for voters. Yet, from the ghost-like details of their bailout and accountability plan, it seems more like they are in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

To be fair, there was a little item reporting that Senator Obama thought the bailout needed a more “muscular regulatory” component. A cool observation. John McCain has gotten deregulation religion, and he is angry — angry, my friends, demanding a 9.11-type commission to get to the bottom of this, dammit.

Sneaking a glimpse of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — heralded as “King Henry” on the cover of Newsweek — testifying before the Senate reminded me of Godfather II. But this time, it is not Michael Corleone at the table.

The new wise guys of Wall Street have brought their remorseless schemes from the corporate syndicates to Washington –the taxpayers — for a $700 billion bailout, which some predict will likely balloon to $ 1 trillion.

It’s kind of like when things get tight and the wise guys need more money. There is no real fretting, they just shake down the neighborhood — customers, neighborhood businesses, ordinary citizens, and everything is fine. Like in Good Fellas, “Just pay me!” Hauntingly similar to William Greider, writing in The Nation, predicting that this bailout will be one the great swindles in American history. Something you can tell your grandchildren about.

To switch analogies, the media atmosphere driven by the Bush Administration is starting to feel like a 9.11 moment, complete with CNN alerts (minus the flags) that bipartisan and passive compliance with its dictums is urgent to save the nation from catastrophic collapse. No time for annoying questions about the fine print, executive accountability, and certainly don’t bring up that little quaint document called the Constitution.

Senator Mitch McConnell bravely warned the skeptics on Capitol Hill, “When there’s a fire in your kitchen threatening to burn down your home, you don’t want someone stopping the firefighters on the way and demanding they hand out smoke detectors first or lecturing you about the hazards of keeping paint in the basement.” The good senator from Kentucky is a great one with metaphors, but rather than firefighters I think arsonists would be a better one to suit this burning house. Still, there is a “shock and awe” feel to King Henry’s media campaign to save Wall Street — sorry, I meant the nation.

President Bush is looking a bit befuddled these days. Always the courageous and mighty cheerleader, however, he is at his best with the much-rehearsed line about “protecting the American people,” a kind of template for media consumption. But, no questions please, time is of the essence. Foot-dragging is un-American and a danger to national economic security. To beat back the quarrelsome skeptics, all we need now is a Power Point presentation from Colin Powell. This time in the U.S. Senate rather than the UN.

Re-tool the message from WMD to GFM — “Global Financial Meltdown.” Instead of “invade,” they could just use “give us all the money we want from taxpayers with no questions asked, no strings attached. Now.”

Powell could even hold up a little vial and announce that is all of the money left in the U.S. unless we fork over the bailout.

Mercifully, we have not heard Bush bellowing warnings about mushroom clouds. The problem with the boy crying wolf is that when there really was a wolf, no one believed him. As for the Wall Street wise guys, we should have heeded the warning that if we didn’t fight them there, they would just follow us to Washington and we would have to fight them here. That is the fierce urgency of now.

Charles Fulwood
The Nader Team