As skiers and backcountry hikers know, a whiteout is a blizzard that’s so intense that those caught in it can’t even see the blizzard.
That’s how I think of the Wall Street bailout now swirling around us. So many trillions of our tax dollars are being blown at the financial giants that we’re blinded by the density of it, unable to see where we are or know what direction we’re headed.
However, one way to get your bearings in this bailout blizzard is to focus on the central point that both the bailors (Washington) and the bailees (Wall Street) keep pounding as an irrefutable truth that everyone simply has to accept — namely, the institutions being rescued are too big to fail.
Even sheep know to flee when coyotes howl in unison — and we commoners need to confront the absurdity of this “too big” claim, which forms the rationale for the entire diversion of regular people’s money into rich people’s pockets. Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG — omigosh, cried the Powers That Be, these behemoths are linked to every other behemoth, so if we don’t stuff them with tax dollars … well, we have no choice, because they’re just too big for the government to let fail.
Point No. 1: They have failed. They are kaput. It costs more to buy a snickerdoodle than to buy a share of Citigroup stock. AIG is 80 percent owned by you and I, the taxpayers. These once haughty outfits are insolvent — wards of the state.
Point No. 2: If they’re too big, why should we sustain them? Let’s be clear about something the establishment doesn’t want you and me to understand — these giants did not get so big and interconnected because of natural market forces and free-enterprise efficiencies. They amassed power the old fashioned way: They got the government to give it to them. In the past 20 years or so, they lobbied furiously to get Washington to rig the rules so they could latterly bloat … and float out of control.
Please contact your local newspaper editor if you want to read Jim Hightower’s column in your hometown paper.