First, we heard certain Republican governors whining that they “didn’t need” federal bailout money and planned on either giving it back or refusing it altogether. It seems one of the big sticking points was that in order to accept certain moneys, the states would have to amend their unemployment policies to include part-time workers. Oh, by all means…we can’t extend benefits to part-timers. We’ll just overlook the fact that some people have to work two or three part-time jobs in order to make ends meet, because our 21st century service-based economy does not have an adequate number of full-time, living wage jobs available. Those jobs—along with the factories and the mills—are all in Asia now…supporting the Chinese and Indian middle class.
The situation kind of reminds me of the joke about the drowning man who refused a life ring, a boat, and a helicopter because “God was going to save him.” When he ultimately drowned and arrived at the Pearly Gates, he asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “What do you mean? I sent you a life preserver, a boat and a helicopter…”
Now that we’ve got that bit of insanity out of our system, the banks have decided to get into the act. Today, I spied an article at The New York Times about banks—big and small—contriving to refuse or send back bailout money. It seems that the Obama administration has put “onerous” conditions on banks accepting federal bailout funds. Things like suspending evictions and offering distressed homeowners the opportunity to refinance. Things like requiring banks to allow shareholders to vote on executive compensation packages. Terrible, awful, reprehensible things to require of a bunch of rich ***holes standing in line with one hand out and the other with fingers crossed behind their backs.
The banks have become so enamored of their unencumbered, unrestricted, unregulated status that they just can’t allow themselves to be controlled in any way. They were all in favor of the “Give us the money and we’ll figure out how to use it” style of bailout. They were overjoyed to stand in line with their stack of bags at the ready to fill up and then stash somewhere that no one would ever see it again (probably in the Swiss bank accounts of their highest executives…)
But now…what? We’re going to try to tell them what they can do with the money? We’re going to try to hold them responsible? We’re going to try to coerce them into some kind of social accountability? Well, then they’ll just have to sputter and turn all red in the face and cry “Socialism! Government control! Ack! Ack!”
All this crap about “socialism” that’s being bandied about these days… I have to ask: Why is it that any time government steps in to try to benefit the poor—or, god forbid, the over-burdened, under-appreciated middle class—the right-wing blares the “S” word like an air-raid siren? What is so wrong with the idea of the government “of the people by the people” making sure the people get a fare shake from time to time? Why does it so infuriate the “haves” when the “have-nots” steal a tiny, cap-gun-sized pop of their thunder?
In the end, I have to wonder: if all these banks are standing in line to give the bailout money back, how much did they need it in the first place? Because I really can’t believe that they’re willing to face certain doom rather than accept money with “onerous” conditions attached to it, just on principle. How does the saying go? Fool me once ($800 billion in unregulated bailout money from the Bush Administration), shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me...