For the last 15 years of his life, my Daddy lived in a brick ranch house, 1,700 square feet, not including the full basement, in Cornelia, Ga. Outside was parked a two-year old Chevrolet Suburban with three rows of seats and a motor boat big enough to take out deep-sea fishing. House, car, and boat all paid for. Overhead in the basement was the most elaborate HVAC duct work I have ever seen to this day. All the insulation, every strip of shiny duct tape, diverters and controls, all personally and painstakingly installed by my Daddy, whose training as an air conditioning tradesman was obtained under the WWII GI Bill. One-third of the floor space in my Daddy’s basement was devoted to work benches and storage of his large collection of tools. The rest of the basement consisted of shelves full of canned food, both commercially produced and home-made in Mason jars. String beans, lima beans, and navy beans. Black-eyed peas and crowder peas. New potatoes. Yams. Hominy. Corn. Bread and butter pickles. Watermelon rind pickles. Chow-chow. Corned beef. Spam. What was he expecting? Nuclear attack? No, he had lived through The Great Depression, and these were the scars to prove it.
My Daddy was not quite 20 years old when Herbert Hoover announced “The fundamentals of our economy are sound,” despite the stock market crash, banks closing, people losing their homes, no jobs, no money. Franklin D. Roosevelt came along and saved everybody’s bacon, including the Republicans, with government regulation, work programs, and social welfare. Maybe it will see us through things yet. All my life I’ve thought it could not happen again. How could anyone gamble borrowed money on the stock market? Who could let all the money just disappear? Margins. Derivatives. Hocuspocus. Now you think you see it. Now you wonder what happened.
Now the U.S. government, the insurer of last resort, is taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Of course this will not impact the federal budget, because it will just not be reported on the books. Like privatizing the war in Iraq by hiring private security forces. Hessians. Keep it off the books and keep it quiet. Government by administrative fiat and secrecy. While we are at it, we will lend $85-Billion to giant insurance company AIG to keep it from going broke. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi describes this new economy, “All the profits are privatized and all the losses are nationalized.” You would think George Bush and the Republicans would be too ashamed to show their faces in public. John McCain’s chief economic spokesperson, who was fired from her last corporate job, says none of the current candidates for President or Vice President would be qualified to run a major corporation. I guess any jackass can run one into the ground. It takes special qualifications to run the entire country into the ground.
The only good thing about the Wall Street meltdown is maybe now the silly talk about privatizing Social Security will be too self-evidently preposterous and embarrassing even for Republicans to try to sell. Maybe seniors who support John McCain will get real. If Social Security had been in the hands of Wall Street, the September surprise would have been the lines of seniors at the grocery stores stocking up on Alpo.
Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter