Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Government By FIRE



This week’s $30 billion federal gift to AIG exemplifies everything wrong with government by FIRE. The financial, insurance, and real estate sectors that, by virtue of having more money than god, have co-opted the democratic process, just dipped deep into our pockets to grope for another big wad of cash. By treating our economy as an enormous floating crap game, these sectors have enriched themselves by gambling with our lives, and when the dice come up snake-eyes, we’re all forced to ante up another round.

This is what economist Robert Kuttner has described as the “moral hazard” of economic bail-outs. Risk is socialized, profit is privatized, and the rules of the game more or less stay the same. Every time this occurs, the message to the high rollers is “go for broke boys, we’ve got your back.”

Big numbers make people’s brains go numb, but we need to ask, “How much is $30 billion?” The math isn’t hard. Divide $30,000,000,000 into about 306,000,000, the total U.S population, and you get about $96 for each man, woman, and child in America.

In itself, this doesn’t seem like all that much — about my monthly Verizon bill, once I’m raped for all the unsolicited corporate text message charges — but you know what they say. Thirty billion here and thirty billion there: pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

This latest public investment at economic gunpoint, where the governing structure of the company remains essentially in place with taxpayers having little to no guarantee of ever being repaid, isn’t something happening far away in Washington, DC. It’s happening right now. Right here, in your pocketbook.

If that’s not OK with you, it’s time to wake the hell up and say so.

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