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Politics

LET’S NOT PLAY CONFIDENCE GAMES

Other than sex, is there any other area of human endeavor that is so drastically affected by people’s mood swings as our economy? One keeps hearing that all that is needed for the world to climb out of this disastrous banking crisis is for people to have confidence in the markets again. This in spite of the fact that people were pretty confident in the economy for years and years, unaware it was being ruined by greedy criminal buffoons. Those people who died crossing the Mississippi River Bridge in Minnesota last year were pretty confident it wouldn’t collapse underneath them, weren’t they? that didn’t work out so well for the 14 dead and 145 injured, did it? Having confidence in something doesn’t make it okay if it’s rotten and broken. And so far as most of us can tell, our financial institutions are crumbling. So much for confidence as a repair tool.

What is it about the world of high finance that is so different from real life? If you build a house, say, using shoddy materials, its going to fall down no matter what your level of confidence. If the phone rings and you have no confidence in telephones, there will still be a voice on the other end when you pick it up. If you are brimming with confidence that Bush The Younger is the right guy to handle this financial crisis, well, there’s nothing positive to be said about your grip on reality.

President Herbert Hoover was the first guy to proclaim that confidence was what America needed, and his administration had a ton of confidence in “market forces.” When last heard from Hoover was presiding over the beginning of The Great Depression before being soundly defeated for reelection by Franklin Roosevelt, who then went about the business of cleaning up the mess created by greedy bankers and a hands-off Federal government. It took many years and an extreme makeover of the United States government to do so. Confidence had nothing to do with it. It was competence that ruled the day, and regulations were passed to prevent further financial meltdowns. America created social protections for its citizens and worked its way to better times, no thanks to the Herbert Hoovers and corrupt financiers of the day.

So for the President and the discredited CEO’s of these major corporations to tell us that confidence is the key to prosperity, forgive us if we want to take a peek at what’s holding that bridge up during rush hour. Maybe get explanation why the United States Treasury Secretary gets to have such expanded powers that don’t appear in the Constitution and nobody voted to give him. This guy Secretary Paulson is a member of the CEO club himself, a former Goldman-Sachs honcho who made $700 million in their employ. So when Goldman-Sachs arch rival Lehman Brothers was allowed to go under, the man moves heaven and earth to save AIG, who was in bed with Goldman-Sach to the tune of $20 billion dollars. So what you can have confidence in is that this was no coincidence.

Where are the sweeping federal investigations here? The Grand Juries? The subpoenas of corporate records before they get shredded (if it’s not too late)? How about invoking the RICO statutes designed to prosecute organized crime enterprises and confiscating these executives’ ill-gotten assets and money just like any other Cartel or Mafia boss? What’s the difference between them? Actually, it’s hundreds of billions of dollars in the executives’ favor. The mob and the cartels are small-timers, pickpockets even, by comparison. 

Maybe we need to install an economic system that functions because it is worth something, not because anybody thinks it is. Confidence is a fine human character trait an serves many people very well, but it is no substitute for actual worth or provable performance. How many blowhards do we all know that are very confident for no reason at all? There’s no shortage of such delusional incompetents, and in the banking and insurance industries there seems to be a dangerous surplus. And in the Bush The Younger administration, America’s worst ever. Americans have every confidence that our next president cannot possibly so stupid, lazy and venal. There are some things you can still count on.

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