I hold these truths to be self-evident:
America's Captains of Industry, with the blessings and assistance of every branch on the government tree, have bottomed out our nation.
Our nation may never see full economic and social recovery from the personal and professional gluttony and fraternal cronyism practiced in the boardrooms and congressional halls.
We are culpable in our economic demise.
As I feasted upon three items from McDonald's Dollar Menu last week, on the flat screen behind me men in expensive suits sat before Congress, begging for the lives of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. A few of the legislators grimaced and paid lip service to the hard questions, but as we've witnessed over the last few months, this hearing was a going-through-the-motions-playing -to-the-crowd formality -- of course Congress is going to bail out the FMs, as surely as they bailed out Bear Stearns. Attached with the bailout of the FMs and the remaining institutions surely to follow them into default will be a veiled warning to the American taxpayer: "we had to bail them out. If they go down the tubes, so does America!" Unfortunately, we already down the tubes and floating threw the sewer system.
Richard Syron, Freddie Mac's CEO, received $19.8 million dollars in compensation last year. His counterparts at those other failed and struggling banks and financial firms received comparable or better compensation packages. For what it's worth, Mr. Syron should have been my dining companion if you compare his salary to the half-billion dollar annual compensation packages received by six big oil CEOs, and that half-billion dollars that made up the "Dear John" letter former AMEX CEO Kenneth Chenault received last year. Yep, chilluns, the man got five-hundred million U.S. bones for failing - and there continues to be a long line behind him at the Kenneth Lay Memorial Unemployment Office for the World-Class Wealth set, gathering their golden parachutes to land in greener pastures.
We're circling the drain and it's been a slow flush a'comin'. It all started in the late 70s, when almost every industry whined to lawmakers until they got the deregulation they needed to run amok. In the 80s the Automobile industry pleaded with Congress not to force them to design cars that would get better gas mileage or fund alternative fuel research. K Street lobbyists threw temper tantrums if there was a mere whisper that taxpayer dollars might go towards more public transportation. God forbid that the occupants of American boardrooms have to explain when jobs moved from urban to suburbs to rural America, and then overseas.
We witnessed firsthand the gas crisis in the mid-seventies, the occupants of the U.S. Embassy in Iran held hostage for four hundred and forty-four days, yet somehow we allowed Hal Riney's voice-over to hearken us to board the "Morning in America" train. Mattered not the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, the '83 Beirut barracks bombing, and the bombings of various European airports and public facilities - we continue to covet the biggest cars and the softest toilet paper, insatiable in our want for the biggest and utmost comforts, even after we got a taste of the reality to come with the '93 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Our public officials and corporate leaders convinced us that the Third World would remain that way to ensure our Way of Life. The tenants of corporate boardrooms had to know that it wouldn't last, so the late 90s and beyond became the new gelded age for the super-rich, and we helped. We bought their thirty-dollar braggarts rights books, believing they'd tell all of us that read their business bibles how we could get super-rich, just like them! We obsessed over their children's quick disposal of familial avarice on "My Sweet 16 Party" and "The Simple Life". We begged for more and more until shows were created with actors pretending to be vapid money-grubbing elites to satisfy our insatiable need to avoid our collective truths: the banking crisis, mass foreclosures, job losses in every sector, the loss of intellectual histories, American-borne industries, and a war that most of us passively went along with because we thought that gas would be seventy-nine cents a gallon. We're losing our homes and jobs. We can barely afford to eat, with food prices rising at pace that makes buying fast food meals cheaper than buying fresh produce and meats. No health insurance, so we cannot afford to sick. He/She that has the luxury of dying on a mattress, WINS.
We gave our blessings every step of the way to the poor house. That's what polarization gets ya'. We took a national Sominex. Asleep at the wheel for three decades, we've arrived, naked at the feast of a new world order.
It has been said that at the beginning of every century an empire falls. America had its' day. Those of us facing the worst wonder if when we'll ever see daylight again.