Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Silliness

One of the dumbest arguments in defense of the bailout of the banks is that we all participated in the bubble. It's hard to argue, though, that tenants participated in it. And arguing that someone who got a job as a clerk at Home Depot benefitted is pretty iffy. (After all, if the money had been put into something other than trading toxic securities, the worker might have gotten a better job doing something else.) We could, I guess, argue that real estate salespersons, construction workers and others received some benefit, but getting a job and then losing it happens to lots of people and we don't generally hold them accountable for the rise and fall of their industries. Some homeowners might have benefited, particularly if they sold their houses, but I can't see a windfall profits tax. And homeowners who face foreclosure or ruinous mortgage payments--I just don't see a lot of good coming out of their participation in it.

All this seems to be designed to cover the fact that the people who have done so much to collapse our financial system are the bankers and traders who packaged and sold mortgage securities they knew or should have known were junk. And it's possible that we'll have to deal with the problems they have wrought. But it shouldn't be easy for them. If they're going to get welfare, they should have to jump through the hoops we make single mothers with children jump through for a pittance and food stamps.

I have a vision of bankers filling out long, involved forms--maybe equivalent to the 28 pages that parents had to fill out in California to get their children insured through Healthy Families. How long would the equivalent form be when the bankers are asking for billions? Bankers would then bring their forms and the supporting documentation to a grungy office, either too hot or too cold, where they would sit on an uncomfortable plastic chairs, chairs that are bolted to the floor, for the day. Their caseworkers would then reject the application and the bankers would have to redo the forms and obtain more documentation. Oh, and don't forget the armed security guards protecting the office.

We wouldn't want them to develop a sense of entitlement, after all.

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