THE BLOG

Walking the Last Mile to Recovery

09/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hours of highly focused circular logic uncorrupted by the distractions of research or informed discussion have at last revealed the answer to our present fiscalamity. We need a scapegoat. Someone we can all enjoy taking down, who can be found quickly, and just as quickly dispatched. In the hopes that someone might come forward, we should point out that the post won't be without its rewards. After all, this person will enjoy celebrity, an elaborately choreographed execution, and a prolonged tenure as a dead national hero.

Why has this simple answer proven so elusive? Because until now we've been looking to "fix" the "problem," as if it might respond to a few whacks from a hammer, like a loose heel or juvenile obesity. But the economy is not a rational system, to be repaired by rational means. It is a Byzantine scam run by an elite who control the masses through a skein of indecipherable rules. Get it? It's a religion, and a religious problem requires a religious solution, i.e. something crazy.

So whom can we punish? The investment bankers and other pelfaholics truly at fault will forever be above justice and beyond our reach, so let's not even consider them candidates. Besides, the best of them are complete ciphers. We need a highly recognizable and instantaneously hateable victim. This way our blame, and hence our joyful release of anger, will be pure and unsullied by the stain reason. Publicly stringing up some notoriously arrogant creep will make everyone feel better, and once that happens, can the recovery be far off? Who cares, as long as we feel better.

Expedience is another reason we can't afford to bring scores of financiers and analysts to trial. Due process is notoriously time consuming, and economic stability must be restored quickly. This is the national mood we're discussing, not some triviality to be debated for decades like health care reform or climate change. Besides, those investment bankers have stashed all of our money somewhere. If we kill them, it'll just vanish into their mistress's off-shore trusts. Later, when cooler heads prevail, there'll be plenty of time to torture them into restoring what is ours.

The obvious first choice is Madoff, but who knows how many accomplices, witting or otherwise, he had? Sure, he's despicable fiend, etc. etc., but the SEC's failure to investigate him on ten or twenty separate occasions was what really let him soar. And knowing he'll rot in prison until Death escorts him to hell is pretty sweet already.

Then how about the SEC? Too vague and impersonal. Besides, the SEC is basically the nation's hall monitor. Scorned even by the nerds as too dumb, their self-esteem is low enough as it is. Humiliating them would just make us feel like bullies.

Carlos Slim Helu? The fact that the world's wealthiest man lives in the Western Hemisphere's low-rent district is reason enough to suspect him of at least some planet-wide financial nastiness, but most Americans couldn't pick him out of a line up, so he's no good for our purposes.

Bill Gates? Just being rich isn't enough. He's got to be a Slobodan Milosevic-grade scumbag. Bill is actually a swell guy. Sure, Windows Vista makes your pc run like it was thrown under two cement mixers, but we can't blame the recession on that. Or can we? No, no we can't. Or...?

Our villain must be the quintessential American bad guy, even if we need to manufacture him from whole cloth. He must be the complete opposite of the self-made man. Our boy is an unreflective ego-maniac, born into privilege, who did nothing to improve his own fortunes, but who gained everything by dint of his name, from prestigious degrees to entire corporations to high office. A sneering, lazy, fop whose undeserved sense of entitlement and willful ignorance of his near universal incompetence would, if unchecked, result in his unapologetically stumbling from disaster to disaster. A person whose penchant for ceding power to fellow plutocrats even less circumspect than himself might well, in this fabliau, have actually caused our present economic catastrophe. Such a man would be worthy of our screams of outrage as he was marched to his public doom, granting us all at least a passing sense that justice had been done. If only somebody like that was out there.