In a Huffington Post column last year (see below), I wrote that I felt that the American people were being conned. As I watch Paulson testify in front of Congress today, I KNOW we're being conned.
Its stunning how many people in Washington fell for it. Paulson continues to defend behaviors that will result in partners in his former firm, Goldman Sachs, getting record bonuses while the rest of the United States is mired in recession and high unemployment.
From watching the testimony, it looks like Congress will continue to let him off the hook. I don't see as much outrage from the American people as I did when AIG employees were getting bonuses. Maybe people are tired of fighting and maybe they are too worried about their own finances to worry about what is going on in Washington.
I'm watching the testimony on CNBC where they keep dragging out people who echo Paulson, just like they did when Congress was wasting billions on Paulson's bailout plan.
I hope someone notices and hope someone cares.
Huffington Post, November 12, 2008
And a white blinding light
Makes it all seem so right
And you feel like the king of the hill
At the beginning of John F. Kennedy's administration, Vice President Lyndon Johnson told Speaker Sam Rayburn about the well-educated, Ivy League aides that Kennedy had attracted.
Rayburn responded, "I'd feel a lot better if some of them had run for sheriff just once."
Someone who has run for sheriff has had a good taste of reality. Candidates for sheriff don't drive flashy cars or wear Rolex watches. They have their thumb on popular opinion.
It's obvious from watching the parade of CEO's coming before Congress that none of them have ever run for sheriff. They have a "posse" but it is the same kind of posse that heavyweight boxers get.
Sycophants and hangers-on shielding them from reality.
CEO's start to think that everyone flies in corporate jets, rides in limousines and get multi-million dollar bonuses. They consider them part of every day life. They can't imagine why they should give them up.
Even when their companies are getting bailed out by taxpayers.
Since the Wall Street bailout, you would think that someone, somewhere would get it. You see AIG have a $400,000 junket, followed by a $300,000 junket and announce plans to pay corporate bonuses.
People don't get upset that we have given AIG $150 billion but they go crazy about the junkets and bonuses.
You see three separate CEO's of auto companies, begging for tax dollars, fly from Detroit to Washington in separate private planes.
They would have made a better statement if they had driven one of the cars they manufacture to Washington. They are in the car business, not the private plane business.
I've driven from Kentucky to Washington many times, without a driver or entourage. Detroit is not that much further.
I can tip them off to places to buy gas in West Virginia.
I feel like I am in a Yogi Berra world of "deja vu all over again."
My first book in 2006 was about then Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher. Fletcher had been a fighter pilot, minister and doctor. He had a short career in Congress before being elected the first Republican governor of Kentucky in 33 years.
He was trounced in his bid for re-election. Sheriff had never been on his resume.
Likes the high powered CEO's, Fletcher was isolated from the outside world. One of his first acts was to spend $5200 of taxpayer money on a secret door to the Governor's office so that he didn't have to interact with the press or public.
His next move was to use a limousine to drive him 500 feet from his office to the Governor's Mansion. He then spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on a Web site, video and book about his dog.
To the bitter end, Fletcher never got it. He was making million dollar decisions and the money spent on the door, dog and limo were pocket change.
Although it was pocket change, it was taxpayer funded pocket change. The voters were more angry about the door and limo than any policy decision.
The same way that people are angry about the junkets, bonuses and private jets.
I've been opposed to the bailouts since day one. They were a bad idea, poorly implemented, but they were sold as the only way to save the financial markets.
The financial system was supposedly broke. America wants the CEO's begging for cash to act like broke people.
It reminds me of the time my (now) former friend borrowed money from me and I saw him at a fancy restaurant a day later.
I felt like I had been conned.
A lot of Americans feel like they have been conned out of $700 billion.
CEO's need some kind of training on how to understand the average, working American.
Maybe they can get some former candidates for Sheriff to show them how.
Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC, is the founder of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky and an award-winning, syndicated, financial columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or read what he has written at www.donmcnay.com. McNay is Treasurer of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the author of The Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher and Son of Son of a Gamblers: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery.
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