The Wasatch Behind: Bending the numbers
I got a call from Uncle Spud last week. He was excited about the prospect of a taxpayer bailout. You remember, the idea that the trillion-dollar corporate bailout money should be given to the taxpayers to pay off their mortgages instead of handed directly to the fat cats on Wall Street. Spud was intrigued by the prospect, but he told me that I might have some of the numbers wrong.
"I figured it up until my pencil melted down," he said. "And there is no way a trillion dollars can be divided among every family in America and come out to $200,000 per household. There are more zeroes in a trillion than in a box of cheerios, but according to my calculations, it comes out closer to $10,000 per household. That's assuming, of course, that we figure about 3.5 people per household, include illegal aliens and disregard the polygamists in Texas and the non-traditional civil unions in California and Massachusetts."
"I caught that after the column was printed," I admitted. "I should have run the numbers before submitting the column instead of relying on what I had heard about a radio broadcast. I assume that Derry Brownfield, the radio commentator I quoted, or misquoted, meant to say that every household in America with a failing mortgage could receive $200,000 under his plan. Not every household in America. To clear things up I emailed Brownfield and asked him what he meant to say, but so far he hasn't answered my query."
"It's a real good concept, anyway," Spud admitted. "The reasoning is sound. Why should taxpayers bail out Wall Street for any reason? We are supposed to have a capitalistic free market economy, not communism or socialism. Doing business in America has always been like playing the lottery. You pay your money and you take your chances. Sometimes you win big and sometimes you lose big. Uncle Sam shouldn't be using tax money to provide federal failure insurance for big businesses that have been mismanaged. Especially big businesses that contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians who sit on congressional oversight committees, if you know what I mean."
"Too late," I reminded him. "The deal is done. The bill was signed into law last Friday."
"In spite of the overwhelming opposition by taxpayers?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Even Nancy Pelosi said her email and phone calls were over 90 percent against it. But she said congress had to pass the deal anyway. 'The American people just don't understand how important this is,' she is quoted as saying."
"So how important is the bailout bill," Spud asked.
"Important enough that they added an additional $150 billion of pork to the $700 billion pledged to rescue the fat cat corporations," I said. That's a big pig in a blanket; enough to cost every household in America an additional $1500. But of course, all that 'extra' money went to buy the votes of congressmen who were smart enough to hold out until the last minute. It will be spent for the usual porky things like motorcycle tracks, tennis shoe museums, toy arrow manufacturing and bridges to nowhere. Things that have nothing to do with saving us from economic disaster."
"Let me get this straight," Spud growled angrily. "Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae are government sponsored lending institutions. Congress has oversight responsibility. But in spite of congressional watchdog committees, both outfits went broke from bad management. And now, president Bush, Nancy Pelosi, and congress are telling us that without this trillion-dollar bailout, the world ends tomorrow, stars fall from the sky, and there will be pestilence, famine, and economic disaster all across the globe. They ram it down our throats in spite of our howls of protest. They mortgage the future of our country and the well-being of our grandchildren to pay for it all, and in the process they add an additional $150 billion dollars of trivial, non-essential, unnecessary fluff. And then they pat each other on the back in front of the TV cameras, hand us the bill, and leave town for an extended winter vacation."
"You got it," I said. "That pretty well sums it up. It's business as usual up on Capitol Hill. Does it make you wonder why people don't trust their government anymore?