Bob Franken

Grim and Bare It

“Cheer up, they said, things could be worse. So I did. And sure enough, they were”

That pretty much describes the dashing hope of our desperate economic situation. It is quickly worsening from downward slide to free fall into the bowels of financial Hell.

It’s easy to conclude, to paraphrase the old song, that “The WORST is Yet to Come”.

We may as well come to grips with a dirty little secret: The people in charge of spending the trillions of dollars they’re seeking to turn things around HAVE NO EARTHLY IDEA WHAT THEY’RE DOING.

While not disparaging the President’s intentions, nor the bare boned details he’s shared about his recovery plans, we have no evidence that his policy people can flesh out all the details.

The ones President Obama has put in charge are from the same country clubs as those who just flew the coop with President Bush. All of them have demonstrated a remarkable knack to a) destroy the economy and b) get very comfortable themselves while doing so.

We need to be extremely wary of their claims that they will now tighten the regulation of the very same manipulative operators they encouraged to run amok. These emperors shouted down anyone who dared whisper that they might not have any clothes. Instead of common sense controls, their system was operated by naked greed.

Want to know why our world is crashing even after the hundreds of billions in bailouts and TARP distributions? It’s simple: The money was lavished on the failed institutions and those who ran them into the ground, the ones who should be facing punishment for their self-serving abuse of our financial system .

Contrary to John F. Kennedy’s justification for greed that “A rising tide raises all boats”, what we have painfully discovered is that the rising tide swamps all but the very largest ships and drowns all who are aboard the smaller ones.

We need public policies that share resources more evenly. I’ll stop here so the oligarchs and their apologists can scream “Class Warfare!!!”

OK. You finished? Ignoring the fact that we’ve actually been enduring a reverse-Robin Hood class warfare, the truth is that if only a few are benefiting from our system, sooner or later everyone else is going to opt out. Democracy cannot survive if no one believes he or she has a stake in it.

For starters, we need to revamp our tax system and RAISE how much the super rich should pay. Again, I’ll pause for agonized squeals.

Done? Let’s move on: We’re hearing a lot of lip service these days to the notion we need to reorder our priorities and values. The pursuit of wealth and celebration of excess has degraded our entire society. We need to place other accomplishments on our pedestals, like intellect and compassion and unselfishness.

Since tax policy is social policy, we can help accomplish this goal by using more of the money the few are hoarding and put it to good use so we all can benefit.

One more time, I’ll take a momentary break for the worn out charge of “Socialism”.

This is not socialism. This is simply a policy based on the idea that those who have prospered have done so because our country provided them the tools and the space to do so. They have an obligation to the rest of us who live here to share their good fortune so their gain is not everybody else’s loss.

But first things first. Job number one, as they say, is to resuscitate our collapsed economy, if it’s possible. Obviously, a stimulus plan that really does create many many jobs and rebuilds our infrastructure is essential. By “infrastructure”, we’re talking about our whole society, from transportation, to health care, to technology, to education…the decay is almost everywhere.

Actually, the real job number one is to pay very close attention to our geniuses here in Washington.

The members of Congress are doing what they do worst, creating the legislation. Needless to say, the plutocrats with their open wallets are hovering nearby to make sure real reform is thwarted.

The measure, as usual, is being larded with programs that are beside the point, which in case anyone forgets, is saving the country from collapse. House Minority Leader John Boehner complains about including family planning , asking “How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?” The best answer, I guess, is that we need protected stimulus to avoid dire consequences. Otherwise “…things could be worse”.

And they will be.

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