Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Financial Evil.
Over the past few days, the National Evil has read about Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson’s demands for . . . let’s see . . .
A. Seven hundred BILLION dollars of taxpayer money . . .
B. To use as he sees fit . . .
C. Without substantial oversight by any governing body . . .
D. To bail out the former Goldman Sachs CEO’s peer group.
. . . with an intoxicating mixture of fatalistic amusement, stark terror, and grudging admiration. First off, Evil is amazed Paulson has been able to shuffle between houses of Congress this Wednesday, as his hubris indicates Mr. Paulson’s balls must not only be forged of brass, but also be the size of the Liberty Bell. Of course, he is testifying in front of a combined body that sent the U.S. to war when half the intelligence community was screaming Iraq didn’t have WMDs and the other half was crying “Uncle!” while Donald Rumsfeld had it in a headlock and gave it Indian burns. So it seems a safe bet—so long as you schlep your big ol’ balls into the House and Senate, look like the Shakespeare-spouting arch-villain in an action flick, and shout “DO IT NOW! THERE’S NO TIME!”—that you can get just about anything you want from our elected representatives.
. . . Or can you?
. . . Or can you?
Well . . . maybe not. Oh, screw it—of course you can. Congress, like the mighty bamboo shoot, will bend, bend, bend . . . and finally be devoured by the panda of desperation. But kudos to our reps for at least raking Mr. Paulson and Mr. “No one with a beard like that could be stupid” Bernanke over the coals for a day before utterly capitulating.
Evil’s favorite aspect of this spectacle is how Mr. Paulson has positioned himself as the Action Man . . . as opposed to those dilly-dallying Congressional do-nothings. This is a time-honored technique—and believe this: if Evil is ever called before Congress to testify, he’ll pull that ripcord posthaste.
But . . . um. This is the same Mr. Paulson who, as recently as September 12, pledged there would be no more bailouts. After all those other bailouts he engineered worked out, you know, so well. So before you shake your head at our Congress for dithering while the economy collapses, remember that it’s lack of oversight that got us into this mess, not too much.
Or, put another way: if the Evil showed up at your door and asked to borrow your car for an attempted jump across the Grand Canyon, would you toss him the keys? Or tell him to stop tracking dirt into your house?