During hearings before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown asked Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke if they believed that Wall Street owed the American people an apology for the financial meltdown. Neither man answered the question choosing instead to bob and weave and claim that there was too much blame to go around to warrant an apology and, besides, an abstract entity called "Wall Street" can't really be defined. They wanted to keep the details of the $700 billion bailout as opaque and as impossible to decipher as one of their "hybrid debt instruments." Senator Brown's question was simple enough, and if they had any integrity they would have offered a straightforward answer: Yes, we do owe the American people an apology for jeopardizing their livelihoods in a giant game of craps. But as with everything else we've come to expect from mouthpieces of the Bush Administration these guys refuse to take responsibility even while they expect Uncle Sam to pick up the tab.
Paulson and Bernanke spread the blame around thinly, as do many TV pundits and business journalists, to include ordinary first-time home buyers. But 65 percent of the people who were roped into bad sub-prime mortgages would have qualified for better loans. And average American home buyers were not the ones who sliced and diced billions of dollars of bad debt into securities and then made a killing by dumping them onto capital markets.
The Bush Administration and its Republican allies in Congress, as Barack Obama points out, have told us for years now that we are on our own in this world when bad things happen and that we should not expect any government "hand-outs" when we are all perfectly capable of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Now that the laissez-faire fantasy as shown itself to be a bankrupt illusion, requiring massive infusions of government money to stave off another Great Depression, we must come to terms with the causes of the crisis and not allow the Paulsons and the Bernankes and other cardsharps and swindlers to pass off the blame to others for this preventable and predictable financial collapse.
Blame must be affixed where it belongs: Not only on Wall Street but on the self-proclaimed deregulators like John McCain and his campaign manager Rick Davis; on anti-government crusaders going back to Ronald Reagan; on Grover Norquist and his "Americans for Tax Reform"; on Steve Moore and his "Competitive Enterprise Institute"; on the right-wing think tanks including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise and Cato Institutes -- Did any of them ever produce a paper that called for regulating anything? -- On CNBC and the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the business press generally; on every politician or pundit, including David Brooks, George Will, and countless Fox News commentators who called for privatizing Social Security; on an Administration that never met a regulation it didn't hate and that filled the regulatory agencies with foxes to "guard" the henhouses; and on a checked-out, ignorant President who functioned less as a "leader" and more like an ideologue who has spent eight years seemingly on a grand experiment trying to find the most effective ways to destroy the United States of America.
And after all of the years of deregulatory madness and legalized thievery under the Bush Administration the lame-duck President tells the nation last night: "Any rescue plan should be designed to ensure that taxpayers are protected. It should welcome the participation of financial institutions, large and small. . . . The federal government continues to enforce laws and regulations protecting your money. . . . Once the crisis is resolved, there will be time to update our financial regulatory structures. . . . Secretary Paulson proposed a blueprint that would modernize our financial regulations."
The top leaders of the Republican Party have jettisoned one of the hallmarks of their conservative ideology: laissez-faire capitalism. They now embrace government regulation as a vital means for managing the economy.
George W. Bush and John McCain have undergone a total transformation. They have CHANGED from being the most influential advocates for deregulating the economy into calling for a new regulatory regime.
Now that's Change We Can Believe In!