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Framing The $700 Billion Question

By Pablo Ouziel

26 September, 2008

Long gone are the days of delusion in which financial gurus and political pundits thought that the economic problems faced by America could be swept under the carpet. For this reason, it becomes redundant to discuss the details of the current financial turmoil. If one is interested in the details and consequences of the excesses of the last few years, I highly recommend commentary by Nouriel Rubini. When it comes to economics, he has bulls-eye precision on what has happened and is happening. I am fairly
certain his predictions will not be far from the mark when it comes to understanding the consequences we are all facing. Having Roubini¹s financial insights readily available, allows me to focus on other issues, which economists are not talking about and are of critical importance to the average taxpayer.

As the bailout of Wall Street is debated in the U.S. Congress, and world political leaders and global financial analysts, are all excited about what will ultimately save us from a ³economic Pearl Harbor², will prevent a ³financial Tsunami,² or the repeat of the Great Depression, I am surprised that no CEO has yet been arrested. I am amazed and perplexed; obviously the question has not been framed properly.

I will refrain from calling upon the citizens of the United States to do something about this, because the concept of citizenship has become so perverse over time, that in this ³Democratic Capitalism² we are no longer truly citizens, we are voters, taxpayers, consumers, producers, employers or employees. So I chose to call on the taxpayers, after all, it is them who are going to save the very rich, so that the very poor will perhaps have a chance of keeping their home, pension or job.

I call on the taxpayers to think very seriously about what is happening with their future, about how a few greedy people stole some of it from them, and not having enough, want to steal the rest. I urge the U.S. taxpayer to reflect seriously about the moves which are being carried out in Washington to bailout the thieves who created the mess. There is no morality in it, and certainly no coherent justification. At least not the way the issue is being framed.

If private institutions are requiring money from the taxpayer because their mismanagement is putting the whole economy under risk of collapse, then the bailout should be reframed and converted into the $700 billion bail. The taxpayer should demand that every CEO who requires money from the government be locked up and only released on a bail of $700 billion dollars. Otherwise it is just a blatant joke and an insult to the elementary functioning of a democratic society.

People are being urged by their government to approve legislation, which will ultimately allow the same people who created the mess, to have a blank check to play with the future of the American people. The same people, who until only a few weeks ago were certain that the fundamentals of the economy
were solid, are now rushing to ask for funds. They either lied, or they had no clue about what was happening. Either way, it would be wise to remove them from their posts before any decisions are made. Maybe Nouriel Rubini should be called up to become Chairman at the Fed or Treasury Secretary, after all he has been one of the few voices making correct calls on events as they have unfolded. Surely the American people deserve someone with a
successful track record, making the calls on the future of their very
fragile economy.

There seems to be in this society a rejection to simplicity, it isn¹t fancy enough, we want complicated mechanisms and complicated people telling us how things should be done. To a certain extent I can understand how that can impress the simplest of minds, but at some point, when the complicated mechanisms and the complicated people have proved to be wrong, they must be removed from positions in which they can cause greater harm. Yet, simplicity always finds a hard sell when it comes to telling people what would seem like coherent first steps.

Here are a few steps, which would convert the taxpayer bailout, into bail for the prison sentence of irresponsible CEO¹s. This will at the very least guarantee the safety of the American people, and the restoration of their tarnished democratic ideal. Yes, I am in agreement with policy makers and financial analysts about the fact that legislation has to be approved fast, in order to avoid the complete meltdown of the economic system. However, if those responsible truly agree with this view, they should patriotically
accept the demands of the taxpayer. The demands of the taxpayer, as manifestations against the bailout are set to begin, should state the following pre-conditions to any agreement:

1) Impeachment of George W. Bush for lying about the fundamentals of the economy.

2) Ben Bernanke¹s immediate removal from his post as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve, for lying about the fundamentals of the economy.

3) Henry Paulson¹s immediate removal from his post as the United States Treasury Secretary and member of the International Monetary Fund Board of Governors, for lying about the fundamentals of the economy.

4) Immediate arrest of the CEO and CFO of any organization asking for funds from the taxpayer. Bail should be set at $700 billion. Once the markets have stabilized, trials can proceed to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals.

5) Immediate return of bonuses by management teams in distressed institutions asking for taxpayer funds.

6) Immediate cancellation of the mortgages of American families owning only one home.

These pre-conditions might sound harsh, but we are talking about a rushed document, which is the biggest bailout in the history of the world. The last rushed decision of this magnitude created the mess in Iraq, hopefully this time around the U.S. taxpayer after having experienced the harsh consequences of rushed decisions, will hopefully be smarter. The difference this time around, is that instead of shooting Iraqis, the Americans are about to shoot themselves in the foot. I do feel for the majority of the American people, who frankly have no clue about what is happening to their
cherished country, but apart from writing to them, there is nothing much one can do. The blatant lies of their elites continue to dilapidate the little crumbs that are still left, of what was once the ³Great American Dream,² and has now become the ³Great American Nightmare.² Faced with this scenario, setting bail at $700 billion seems completely reasonable to me.

Pablo Ouziel is a Sociologist and Freelance writer

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