Let me just preface this story by telling you that I don’t even pretend to understand the fine points of accounting or economics, but why do viable, sensible solutions to the dire problems with our economy seem to be right in front of our eyes?
Why do mind-bending excesses pass as okay and why do we have to suspend disbelief to digest some of the events now happening?
I heard that the financial people at AIG are being awarded millions of dollars in bonuses. That’s right, the very people who got them into the situation we “bailed them out” of are getting rewarded. It makes sense, right?
In January, we got a new Treasury Secretary who did not pay his taxes in their entirety. The very person who will be supervising the collection of our taxes—the very taxes which paid the bailout dollars for the companies who are now giving bonuses to their employees—didn’t pay them himself.
Bernie Madoff staged the biggest “ponzi scheme” on record, bilked billions of dollars from people prior to getting released by a judge under his own recognizance to go home while awaiting trial.
Even then, he was still trying to hide as much money as possible with friends and relatives (giving an entirely new meaning to the retail term “friends and family”).
Exactly when will he be on trial? Ever? Maybe after he makes a deal with the feds to spend a few years in a cushy prison then abscond to Brazil? Moral of the story (I guess): If you are going to steal money, do it in a big way so you can hire the finest defense lawyers.
Rob Blagojevich blatently sold his soul, along with numerous favors, to supporters (allegedly, of course) time and time again.
He is now the new media darling, making the talk show circuit as if he is the wronged party. Even though we’ve heard actual tapes of him making deals, he is insisting that he did nothing wrong—and I heard today that he is so convinced about his own story of innocence that other people have begun to believe it too. Luckily the Illinois lawmakers didn’t.
Moral of this story: If you are going to lie, do it in a big way too.
Members of Congress got a pay raise this year of 2.8 percent. Did you?
Out here in the real world, hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs, their homes and their savings; cannot pay their bills; are looking bankruptcy in the face; and any relief we might possibly get is all subject to the usual wheeling, dealing and pork in Congress before any type of “rescue” plan can be implemented.
The banks that we have bailed out are now turning on us, the people whose mortgages and credit cards they hold and raising interest charges, lowering credit limits and reporting delinquencies—even due to job loss or other loss of income—to the credit bureaus at the drop of a hat.
And, the only people who can get any kind of relief—like lower interest rates or special payment plans—are precisely those who do not need it; they have great credit ratings and favorable credit scores.
Don’t even get me started on that subject. The whole credit system, along with the dreaded FICO scoring system, is as outdated as smoking commercials on TV. I always get a good laugh when Suze Orman or some other “money expert” gives tips on how to get through tough times.
Of course, don’t we all have that “rainy day” savings of at least six months worth of expenses? And I am sure no one has touched any of their savings or, (gasp) their 401K? And contrary to those families you see on Oprah who support a family of 6 on $18,000 a year by clipping coupons out of the Sunday paper and not going out to dinner, there are no answers for the real people out there who are looking real financial disaster in the eye.
I am so tired of hearing how, because people “got themselves into debt” by irresponsible spending, they should not get help— dare we say, “bailout”?
Really? I don’t think I know anyone who squandered a couple of billion irresponsibly (even by loading up on Louboutin shoes) as Citi, AIG and others have done. Double standards, anyone?
As I said at the beginning of this article, I’m certainly no economist, but I’m thinking that confidence in spending might possibly go up if people had actual money to spend. How about some type of “fresh start” for all households? Where credit card companies actually write off a lot of the insane interest which has built up unregulated on people who couldn’t pay even the lower interest debt?
And write it off without reporting it like a shameful occurrence on a credit report? How about mortgage companies and banks actually working with the people they let take out the crazy loans in the first place to come up with a reasonable repayment plan?
And take the credit bureaus and FICO and knock them down like the Berlin wall—and if there must be some type of credit regulator, then build something from the ground up that is actually reflective of the real world and is considered as only one dimension of a person’s financial situation.
How about reports which are easily correctible if there are errors—which there always are. And enough with the arbitrary credit scores which can change a few times a day depending on a million different reasons.
How come the “transparency” and all-around good spending behavior they ask the average American to show in their finances before a loan is granted is not asked of the huge corporations receiving what is our money?
Nobody there is getting fired or even reprimanded for the ridiculous and wasteful spending they do on an infinitely higher scale than a few regrettable shopping sprees we engaged in at Nordstrom. And that the government, in its infinite wisdom, keeps throwing good money after bad.
It almost begs the question whether we, as taxpayers, should initiate a class action suit against the AIG’s of the world—because, as their funders, aren’t we basically stockholders or even their Board? And haven’t they basically taken the bailout money, opened the toilet and flushed it? And they keep going back for more. And getting it.
I know that politics and bureaucracy are complicated—I quit student council in college because I couldn’t stand the ego clashes and pontification even at that level—but I really hope that President Obama is able to cut through the mess and actually help us in ways that will actually be meaningful to normal, ordinary people. And I am not talking about something like the feeble $600 rebate last year—what did that accomplish except indebtedness to China? I may be naïve, but the inequalities are so clear.
I really think that with every day more and more people are becoming disenfranchised, nobody is helping them, and there is a buildup of frustration, which, like the buildup of pressure in the San Andreas fault, will sooner or later result in an earthquake. Most people I know are disgusted when they listen to the news, read the paper, or hear about the latest double-standard.
There is a common feeling that they want to strike out—against something!—because of the insanity of it all. Why should we pay our taxes when the Tax Czar didn’t?
Why should we have to justify our spending and debt when the car companies, AIG and banks don’t? Will we end up with the US reverting back to wild-west-like behavior---a bunch of desperados trying to survive however we can, looting to just feed our families?
Ok, ok, I am taking it perhaps a bit far, you may say, but aren’t the bounds of reality, normalcy and believability challenged every day lately?
Who would ever have imagined all of the businesses filing Chapter 11, or foreclosure rates being sky-high? Where are all of the people—that would be just about all of us-- affected by all of these things going? Or living? Are we in for some kind of nationwide “Network-like" freakout?
Because I think that we are…mad as hell. We just might not be able to take it anymore.
Cindy McCartney is a regular contributor to Local Kicks and is the Owner of Diva Designer Consignment and Other Delights at 116 South Pitt Street in Old Town.