In recent weeks we watched as our government borrowed billions from countries that could bury us simply by calling in their markers. They in turn channeled those billions to banks whose assets had been washed away in a tsunami generated by greed and permissive government policies that allowed untrammeled manipulation of consumers caught up in a largely lender-created, artificial real estate boom. Financing properties buyers couldn’t afford with terms that soon put families on the street, in a monumental shell game, the banks quickly bundled the bad loans, selling them to institutions as poorly managed and regulated as their own.
Despite other lackluster economic indicators: climbing unemployment, falling retail sales, weakened consumer confidence, etc. the Bush administration trumpeted strong home sales as evidence of their economic policy success. The banks wrote, bought and sold reams of bad paper and the market eventually hit new heights.
Ultimately though, high rollers made the same mistake that sealed the fates of once booming economies in memorial–investing on margin, purchasing over-valued properties with someone else’s money.
Eventually, they could no longer hide the mountains of bad debt they had amassed. With no money to lend, consumer credit stalled. Credit card companies, often divisions of the bad banks, had written bills favorable to them under Bush and consumers soon found themselves paying loan-shark rates. Bankruptcy laws, also rewritten by credit company lobbyists under Bush, favored the banks and creditors. The result was a spike in foreclosures, bankruptcies and homelessness.
When a glut of available properties “stopped” housing starts even in “hot” real estate markets like Phoenix as housing values tumbled, many home-owners found themselves “upside down,” saddled with debt that now exceeded their ability to pay.
Blocks of properties, even new builds, stood empty. Many eventually were systematically stripped of anything “scrappable,” siding, copper, steel, wiring. Arson rose. Properties in the inner city as well as what had been stable urban centers fell vacant and quickly decayed. Then it spread to suburbia.
Wall street traders and bankers still smoked fat cigars, drank champagne and wore expensive suits. Their bonuses didn’t reflect the performance of the market or their institutions. They fiddled as Rome burned, even as the bottom dropped out. The Fed and Bush business protectionists elected to shore them up.
A reluctant Congress agreed. Consumer spending as well as lending had to be stimulated.
So the billions were doled out, just in time for the holidays. The big bonuses continued as if nothing had happened. But that wasn’t enough.
Not only did Wall Street Bankers refused to loosen consumer loans, they withheld dividends from stockholders, went on junkets, redecorated their sumptuous offices, supplied escape hatches for the despotic hedonists at their helms and acquired more failing banks. Worst of all, no one kept records of where the money went. In their haste, our leaders overlooked accountability for the federal funds we provided.
Still, why must we borrow so much? Why aren’t our pockets deeper?
We’ve gone from being among the world’s leading lenders to its biggest debtor. Why? Because we’re “war poor.” We mortgaged our children’s futures to spend countless billions on wars in TWO countries, not against a COUNTRY but an EMOTION. We’ve chosen to occupy nations whose citizenry gleefully piss on our rotting corpses.
In Afghanistan, a country totally isolated from the rule of law–exploited ad infinitum by war lords and theocrats–we embarked on a vague, underfunded, inadequately staffed incursion. Our mission? To find and punish those who attacked us on 9-11. Fair enough. Bin Laden got away because we farmed his capture out. Further, our campaign was significantly weakened because our neocon leaders and their oedipal puppet messiah had a score to settle in Iraq, one they were willing to settle at any cost.
We knew from experience that Afghanistan would be no cake walk. They had prevailed in a 9-year nightmare against the USSR, with our CIA funding the Mujaheddin.
We were involved up yo our eyeballs, yet apparently learned nothing from it. Despite what we knew, we were determined to CRUSH Saddam Hussein in Iraq, where Al Qaeda WASN’T!
Ignoring staffing suggestions of his best experts, Rumsfeld deployed on the cheap. Once he bombed the piss out of Iraq, he sent limited numbers of ill-prepared, under equipped ground troops not ordered to guard weapon caches that wound up being stolen and used against us; troops that had to forage for sheet metal to up-armor Humvees designed for transport, not protection; troops that had to rely on outside sources for effective body armor; troops denied promised bonuses and stop-lost to extend their hitches. Injured soldiers who had to be evacuated for medical care under heavy sedation were charged by our government for expensive gear/weapons left behind in the chaos of battle. They also had to pay for their meals at Water Reed.
So, we went in. We chased Al Qaeda out. We defeated the Taliban in short order and they fled. But the prize–Bin Laden–slipped through our fingers at Tora Bora. And as we remain, the Taliban returns.
Today we’re no closer to accomplishing our mission and Obama announced deployment of 17,000 more troops to that Hell-hole. Obama says the war “winnable” and he may know but–pardon my cynicism.. why do we feel we will fare better than the Soviets?
Now, Obama’s the man. I’m in his corner. But I’ve got to say I’m not big on this decision. Enough of us being the world police. Let’s protect ourselves and let the fundamentalist theocrats find their own equilibrium. We tried. And so far, we’ve screwed the pooch. So let’s get the heck out of there. You can’t kill an idea. And no nation can vanquish an emotion. We need what we’re throwing away over there right here at home.