December 13, 2008

Better Main Street than Wall Street

I opposed the bailout of the Wall Street banks—which was sold to us, remember, as a means of stopping a stock market crash. The crash happened anyway, and the banks have all stopped lending despite the promises of great heaping gobs of taxpayer money. By which I mean debt. In essence, we promised that our children or grandchildren would pay $700 billion (plus interest) to fund the retirements and investment portfolios of America’s richest, most reckless investors and CEOs. Now that this gambit has proven useless, we plan to give them the money anyway.

Had we not bailed out the banks, I would have opposed the bailout of our deeply flawed auto industry, and on the same Market principles. However, if we are employing the State to pour money into Wall Street, it is outright offensive to deny the same kind of aid to much less prosperous workers in a less influential region of the country. Using taxpayer money to bail out the plutocrats of New York City, then discovering the importance of Market principles when it comes to spending less than 1/20th of that money to preserve the jobs of American factory workers…. Well, it’s just a gob of spit in the face of Middle America.

On the other hand, as Richard Spencer aptly demonstrated, the bailout as structured by the corporatist Democrats in Congress would have turned these once-proud private companies into clones of the U.S. Post Office—subjecting them to bureaucratic initiatives and endless political meddling, under the aegis of (no kidding) an “Auto Czar.”  (If we MUST have an Auto Czar, could we at least recruit a Romanov? Throw us Legitimists a bone from time to time.)  Might as well give up the pretense, then, and switch all the auto workers from the UAW to the SEIU…. Under that kind of federal patronage, the auto “companies” (ministries?) would go right on churning out the 21st century version of the East German Trabant. I think Henry Ford, if he could rise from his grave, would rather dynamite his factories (ala Howard Roark) than “save” them through a plan like this.

So I’m delighted that the Republicans defied the last, yellow residue of the Bush administration and refused to back the Democrats’ plan. So now, it appears, that to bail out the auto industry, the White House will have to dip into the cash it had earmarked for the Richistanis of Wall Street. Whatever money they give Detroit will have to come out of the slush fund set aside months ago to avoid the collapse which has already happened. It’s all utterly corrupt and destructive to our economy’s future prosperity. We’d be much better off with straight-out protectionism—a tariff whose revenues go to reducing Americans’ payroll taxes, for instance. But at least the money we’re borrowing won’t ALL go to pay for extra au pairs, surrogate mothers, Botox treatments, and vacation homes in the Hamptons.  Some of it will help a few hard-working Americans who actually go to church and encourage their sons to serve in the army. That’s cold comfort, but it’s something.

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