By Adrian Duyzer
Published September 22, 2008
Seven hundred billion dollars. A sum so large the mind cannot comprehend it, except by making analogies: grains of sand, stars in a galaxy. This is the amount of money the US government is about to squander on the corrupt corporations and the insatiably greedy individuals who have steered the US economy into disaster.
This will go down as history's greatest robbery: the theft of a prosperous future, a clean environment, and a robust society from generations of future Americans. Today's Americans are selling their children into servitude, turning them into indentured servants to a mountain of inserviceable debt.
All this simply to escape the inevitable consequences of unregulated greed.
This is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we are continuously told, as though the Depression is some ancient calamity, like the asteroid that impacted earth 65 million years ago, creating the Chicxulub Crater and perhaps wiping out the dinosaurs. Rare and terrible, we must do whatever we can to defend ourselves.
This is a fiction that only flies in America because most Americans have no sense of history. The Depression happened just a lifetime ago, for many of the same reasons we're in trouble now.
The most visible difference is that this time, those responsible are not leaping from the windows of their skyscrapers. Instead, they are reaping dividends betting that a government run by money, for money, will shift responsibility to those least able to afford it: the future generations of America's working class.
What does it say about a nation when its citizens have so little knowledge of their own past that they cannot even draw the connection between this debacle and the Savings and Loan bailout of the Reagan administration?
Reagan, bizarrely and incorrectly eulogized as the vanquisher of Soviet Russia, somehow shed the stink of that robbery in the minds of Americans. That his ideological successor is poised to carry out the same monstrous swindle boggles the imagination.
"This is a big package, because it was a big problem," said Bush, citing the advice of "experts":
"Well, my first instinct wasn't to lay out a huge government plan. My first instinct was to let the market work until I realized, upon being briefed by the experts, of how significant this problem became."
Since when does Bush listen to experts? He ignored the experts who said Iraq had no WMD and warned that invasion would be a long and costly disaster. He continues to ignore the expert consensus on the looming global disaster of climate change.
Of all crises, this is the one that cries out most for a response from the gut. But we all know that where Bush's gut ought to be there is instead a malignant tumour made of lust for power, greed, xenophobia, paranoia and religious extremism.
What's even more incredible about this bailout is why it is supposedly necessary. Without it, Bush says, it would affect the average citizen's "capacity to borrow money" to buy houses or education.
In other words, a crisis rooted in encouraging Americans to rack up debt they cannot afford must be solved by racking up public debt that America cannot afford - so that Americans can go back to racking up more debt.
I hope that right now a sense of outrage is percolating in the hearts of many Americans. I hope that they still have enough pride that they will decline to help those who have held them in contempt as they gambled with their future in front of their computer screens.
If so perhaps there is still hope for the United States. Otherwise, this latest travesty is yet another stumble by an empire in decline.
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