Whose Fault Is It? Assigning Blame for Tough Times at Home

With the recent turnaround in the stock market, happy days are here again, at least for a minute. And yet, if you are very, very still, you will a hear a faint rustling in the background, like something scary sneaking up on a rabbit.

That rustling you hear is everybody sneaking around looking for anybody to blame for our current economic distress. Soon we will witness a free-for-all blamefest.

Let me just get a jump on here that while no one is paying attention.

First of all, I don’t believe that we are witnessing the bursting of an ‘oil bubble.’ What we are seeing now is a combination of 1) an expected drop in prices due to a drop in demand and 2) a reaction to market turbulence that sent the dollar dropping rapidly against the euro. This happy time won’t last. It’s a blip on the screen; a shiny reflection on the water that survivors stranded on a deserted island briefly mistake for a rescue ship.

Calm down. It’s not a rescue ship. We really are doomed.

So let’s get back to naming names and assigning blame. Who caused this mess? Was it Alan Greenspan? Was it day traders and short sellers? Was it oil and commodities speculators? Whom should we string up for this? I think there is plenty of blame to go around, but it doesn’t seem to be settling in the right places. It may never settle there. That doesn’t mean I can’t assign it in my own special way, right here, right now:

Bad CEOs.

Why is it that if I go to the restroom too many times on my shift I get in trouble, but if our CEO loses us billions of dollars by making risky investment decisions that go bad, he gets to retire with a golden parachute of $132 million? Personally, I call that bad management. I mean, I could run our corporation into the ground faster and better and all I would require by way of a parachute is a single million dollars. That’s all I want, not a penny more. You see, right there I could have saved our stockholders $131 million but did anyone ask me? No. I’m not waiting by the phone either.

Dumb voters.

It really is the economy stupid. What did you think the spoiled son of a Texas oilman was going to do for you anyway? What ever made you think for one single second that he even cared? Molly Ivins sounded the alarm about Dubya over and over again, in book after book, and she kept on sounding it right up until her untimely death last year, but did anyone listen? They did not. You know those chickens that will be in every pot? First they have to come home to roost. That’s what’s happening right now. Try and catch one if you can. You’ll be needing the protein.

Consumerism.

Who ever heard of an economy that could sustain itself simply by buying tons of cheap crap from China? Which economic theory lays that possibility out in a way that makes even marginal sense? I used to like to troll the bargain end-caps at Target as much as the next woman, but no more. Even if it means the terrorists win, my pocketbook has forced me back to ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do’. I have been forced to ’stretch’ meat with noodles and mashed potatoes. Next I’ll be making Depression Cake. We should have known this all along, but, flush with cash, many Americans overspent while the housing boom was booming, and now that it’s bust, the party is over. Expect the next waive of credit defaults to be unsecured.

Congress.

Investment banks should not be allowed to chop up bad in debt and package it in ways that make it untraceable, then trade it in insane ways that bring down entire retail institutions. That is the sort of high risk gambit that regulation was invented to address, but no one in Congress got around to passing any regulation. Could it be because they themselves were making too much money while things were going well? No, that’s too cynical. Still, they have been less than effective. The current legislation meant to help out the five million homeowners expected to lose their homes this year to foreclosure, if passed, will help about 400,000 people, if the banks agree to work with them. It leaves the decision up to the banks. But it hasn’t been passed yet. There’s talk of a veto. God help us, because Congress won’t. You can count on that.

That’s my short list for today. I’d like to see a parade of CEOs held accountable for horrible decisions and unfathomable losses. I dream about that.

I may as well dream. You know what happens when we let dreams die.

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