His Name is Henry Paulson

Everyone has read the news today, or heard it on the radio/ television news complex: The financial sector is experiencing a “restructuring.” First Bear Stearns, now Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch & Co.:

NEW YORK – When Wall Street woke up Monday morning, two more of its storied firms had vanished.

Lehman Brothers, burdened by $60 billion in soured real-estate holdings, said it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after attempts to rescue the 158-year-old firm failed.

Bank of America Corp. said it is snapping up Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. in an $50 billion all-stock transaction.

The demise of the independent Wall Street institutions came as shock waves from the 14-month-old credit crisis roiled the U.S. financial system six months after the collapse of Bear Stearns.

The world’s largest insurance company, American International Group Inc., also was forced into a restructuring.

I am Jack’s cold sweat.

Notice how they did that? Dropped in that little bit about the “world’s largest insurance company, American International Group, Inc” right at the end of the lede? They do not expound upon it in the article. Now, I’m no economist. I actually think the facts of my life speak to how much I know about money, which is to say, I live paycheck to paycheck, though I think I’ve got money properly prioritized. So I’m less than know-nothing when it comes to financial matters. What I do know is that business and insurance operate like joint compound and drywall. Neither works well without the other. So I’m wondering: Are we headed for worse?

Worse than gas at $4.16 a gallon, up from $3.79 just the day before yesterday? As bad as the $9.99 a gallon sign I saw on the closed Meijer’s gas station today? Worse than the fact that my grocery bill is up from $125 2 months ago to $180 now? Certainly it can’t get any worse than today, where my bank account has been depleted entirely by a region-wide power outage that may last for a week. I am Jack’s empty wallet.

As I drove around today looking for a place I could charge my cell phone while I accessed wifi, I grew increasingly angry. Everywhere I looked businesses where up and running, the first serviced in the power outage. Having spent countless hours driving around looking for basic services and documenting the damage, I can tell you that is true everywhere in the metro area. Last night as I drove past Clark Memorial Hospital, I noted that they hadn’t regained full power. But I had eaten at IHOP just a few hours before, on a street where all the stores were open. It’s not like they hadn’t lost power too.

How is it that people that sell stuff get preferential treatment to people who are sick, possibly struggling just to live? How is it that these business folks with savings accounts and houses and health insurance and credit lines with venders are more important than families that spent nearly the last of their money on two weeks worth of groceries a day or two before the storm? That food is now wasted, and those families can’t eat, but the grocery stores sure are open to take advantage of two grocery hits in a week for those families who can afford it.

Then Henry Paulson comes on the car radio to talk about the new rhetoric of “restructuring.” And do you know what? That’s exactly what I’d been stewing on all morning. I may not know much about economics, but I do know that rich people, people who own companies and a lot of fat cat stockholders, have “made” an indecent amount of money in the last 20 years.  And they aren’t anywhere near hurting like those families are. I put “made” in quotation marks because my opinion is there is nothing you can possibly do to “earn” a salary of multi-millions of dollars. Nothing.

I once had an idea for a website called Paid by the Calorie (freebee idea-if you can do it, take it). If we could calculate how many calories these CEOs spend per day doing their jobs and compare that with a construction worker, who makes a decent living if s/he’s a skilled worker, and divide their caloric outputs by their earnings, then the truth of all this ridiculousness would be obvious. I suspect that these companies and stockholders have gotten so bloated with their cash flows and their profit margins as they operated within the largest stock market expansion in history that they are having a hard time doing what working stiffs like you and I do every day-cut back, expect less, and appreciate what you’ve got. Color me Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

I want to shout from the rooftops: It’s about GREED STOOPID! But I won’t. My own apathy is still too thick. I wanted to go to K-Mart earlier today to buy a stack of poster boards and paint them with ideas for protest over this outage. DUMP YOUR ROTTEN FOOD ON DUKE ENERGY’S DOORSTEP kinda thing. And I almost woulda, but I was exhausted from searching for places to stash my groceries, which I can’t afford to replace, and a place for my daughter to stay that has energy–cool air and TV for her 14-year old habits and customs. I was also too broke from paying for the gas it takes to do all of this. Ironically, we’ve used the money we budgeted to pay the energy bill to survive the energy crisis, which is not yet over. I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude, but it’s hard when I wake up to continued blackness, and when I jump in my car to secure my survival I hear HENRY FUCKING PAULSON telling me the recession is off with a bang starting three days ago. I at least know enough about economics to parse that much. I am Jack’s wasting life. And it’s not even my fault.

I am doing everything right, as are millions of Americans today. As we continue on this downward spiral and more people suffer economic surprises the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1980s, all I hear in the media is how it’s the fault of regular lower class and working poor folks. They were the ones, the media tells us, who lied on mortgage applications about how much they made, or worse, were too stupid to know that supposedly trained mortgage loan professionals were lying to them about what they were signing. They should have read the fine print! is the constant refrain. Not that the financial companies should have made damn sure all the Is where dotted and the Ts were crossed. Not that they should have vetted applications more thoroughly. Not that ethical standards should have been in place to prevent this sort of thing. Oh no! Not the dreaded regulation!

When I consider all of this-and I consider it often-I am Jack’s raging bile duct.

So what is the answer? I wish I knew. It looks like I won’t even have much time to consider it at this rate, as all of my time will soon be eaten up in the pursuit of survival. I do have ideas though. Earlier this year I asked my husband what he thought about creating an Anti-Incumbent Party. The idea is to just keeping voting them out, constant roll-over, just like so many poor folks today, until they learn some lessons and start doing their jobs. And let’s face it, no one, not even Russ Feingold, bless his not-as-corrupted heart, is doing his or her job in government today. I’m frustrated, but I’m not ready to give up my vote. I will not be demoralized into not participating anymore. And neither should you. Maybe we should start that Anti-Incumbent Party and be Jack’s smirking revenge.

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18 comments on “His Name is Henry Paulson

  1. propertius says:

    This is an absolutely beautiful post. I want to send it to every Congress[wo]man and every single candidate for public office in the whole bloody country. Thank you.

  2. roofingbird says:

    snarky, snarky and more! I had to tell you about one of the poorly known aspects of AIG. In one of my husband’s jobs, they had created a sort of annuity/401 hybrid as a retirement fund. The base of it was a choice of mutual funds based on what you thought your risk factors were. He never fully participated and that meant his money, (not much) got left in the money market fund.

    Everyone around was investing and lost their shirt in the AIG funds in the last downturn. When I looked at it I saw the funds were blind. You couldn’t really tell what was in them, and they weren’t being run by anyone we could research. We took the money out, paid the early withdrawal penalty and still came out ahead of everyone else.

    I bring it up because AIG is a prime example of where companies put their client’s funds. it’s too easy to have poor fund managers make poor decisions in that kind of environment. It wasn’t too long ago we were fighting off the Bush hybrid retirement fund. So you know what I thought about it.

  3. annabellep says:

    I hear you, RB. My mother lost a lot of her retirement in this shit too.

    Regarding privatizing SS, did you know the Dems want to too? It’s all in Rahm Emmanual’s “The Plan,” though it’s kept to subtext. They don’t talk about it explicitly, but you can see that’s how they are going. When I can afford to get my hands on a copy (instead of reading parts of it via google books), I plan to write a post about it. You know how the neocons have The New American Century and their textual foundation? I think The Plan is the rhetoric of the neoprogs in the same way. I’ll know more once I can review it fully and analyze it.

    Hey, thanks for that comment, propertius. Feel free to copy and paste at will. I’d appreciate a link if you wouldn’t mind, is all. 🙂

  4. roofingbird says:

    Yeah, I knew, but I hadn’t found The Plan to see how it goes. I’ll wait breathlessly for your thoughts! I think I remember that being part of Kerry’s platform too? It slays me that they want to further fuck up SS with this mess. If someone really wants to put their money in the Stock market, there’s lots of retirement type ways to do it. Hey, I wonder how the Senate retirement fund is doing?

  5. bluelyon says:

    Beautiful post Annabelle! Gawd…I don’t know the answer any more myself.

    Off-topic – but important: can you get to bitterpoliticz hese days? I’ve not been able to go for well over a week. It keeps telling me it’s protected and that I have to log in with my WP account, but then I still can’t get in. If you can get in, can you let them know?

    I ran into the same problem with Charles Lemos’ site, but that resolved itself.

    Thanks.

  6. CognitiveDissonance says:

    Great post, annabelle! I’ve been worrying for the past year at what I’ve seen as the coming financial meltdown, and here it is where no one can any longer sneer at the idea. Hillary warned about these problems all during her campaign. But our stupid media was more interested in making up scandals than reporting. We are indeed in a mess, and I don’t see anyone who seems to know how to fix it on either side of the aisle.

    Bluelyon, I’ve been having the same problem. I tried what I thought was my username and password, but keep getting told that it doesn’t exist.
    And if I try to create a new account with my username, it tells me it is already taken.

  7. Palomino says:

    We’re all fucked, but Hillary has thick ankles.

  8. Sunshinelvr says:

    Loving your post. I am getting an education in econmics this year! I wish there was a way we could take those salaries and bonuses away from the CEO’s and distribute them back into the business for about a year. That might actually keep some of these businesses up and going!

  9. bluelyon says:

    CognitiveDissonance – yeah, exactly what is happening to me. I need my bitterpolitcz fix!

  10. bluelyon says:

    It seems to me, and this is just the layperson talking because I don’t know much about economic theory, but this idea of letting any corporation get “too big to fail” bullshit is just the same as a town that has to rely on one employer to keep them going. If the employer takes the business elsewhere, we all know what happens – a ghost town is left behind. So now we are left over a bailout barrel. At some point, some grown up has got to hold up their hand and say, “NO!” Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any left in D.C.

  11. kenoshaMarge says:

    Where do I sign up for the anti-incumbent party or the Anti-Incumbent Party. Either/Or.

    I also want a one term, 6 year presidency. Time enough to get things done. No worry about re-election, which is primary presidential concern starting the day after they get elected. Also no need to kowtow to special interests in order to get re-elected. Perhaps a 1 term President every 6 years might even try getting things done that benefit the nation and it’s people. Of course that would take actual ethical, honest people and where the hell do you find them amongst the politcians? (Yeah, even my Senator Russ Feingold whom I always vote for, whom I respect amongst all others should not be given a job for like at the public trough.)

    I also want NO damn medical insurance paid for by tax-payer money for one fucking elected official until ALL people have medical insurance paid for by tax-payer money.

  12. annabellep says:

    BL, I can’t access bitterpoliticz either. Same issues you guys are having. I wonder what’s up? Does anyone have any personal contact information?

    I hear you Kenosha. I love Russ Feingold too, but I keep asking myself, where the hell is he? Where the hell is anybody? I woke to still no power, and am at Denny’s right now with my laptop plugged in and tapping into their wifi. I’ve read the headlines. AIG is all NOW all the rage, and predictions are getting worse.

    On the way here I had to listen some liberal jackass on NPR talk about how even though McCain has taken less money from the financial sector than Obama, and even though McCain has a history of taking these folks on and Obama has no such brave record on any issue, Obama would still be better because the expert was “a Democrat” and thought their party was better, and also, he just kinda liked that lanky kid, Obama. Fucker. I hope he chokes on something today (and also that someone around him knows the Heimlich when it happens, of course).

  13. TLE says:

    I can understand some of your frustration, but as a small business owner I take issue with some of your accusations. I do NOT have health insurance, my savings are dwindling, I have absorbed THREE price increases from my primary vendors this year (along with the skyrocketing cost of actually getting goods in the door), and if my electricity goes off at my shop, I can’t afford to go to the grocery store, period. I can live without TV, my computer and cell-phone recharging at my home for a week, but not without electricity at my business. I also have one employee; if she can’t work because we can’t run our equipment, she can’t afford to go to the grocery store either.

    Hospitals are some of the biggest and most profitable businesses in our country today. If the management at the hospital you refer to is so inept that they don’t have plans in place to deal with this kind of situation, I don’t think it is appropriate to abuse the business people who have. If the IHOP you ate at was closed, and the grocery stores are closed, and all your food at home is spoiled, how are you going to eat?

    I do agree with the main thrust of your post, which is that ineptitude, greed and outright thievery have been handsomely rewarded by those charged with overseeing the Wall Street Casino.

  14. Palomino says:

    @ annabelle:

    “On the way here I had to listen some liberal jackass on NPR talk about how even though McCain has taken less money from the financial sector than Obama, and even though McCain has a history of taking these folks on and Obama has no such brave record on any issue, Obama would still be better because the expert was “a Democrat” and thought their party was better”

    I have a post just up that touches on this question:

    http://palomino-paddock.blogspot.com/2008/09/bull_16.html

  15. annabellep says:

    TLE, thanks for your comment and your perspective. Perhaps I should have been clearer. The stores I am talking about in this post are big chain stores like Walmart, KMart, IHOP, Olive Garden, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen etc. Many small businesses around here are suffering too, as they are generally located on access corridors and side roads, or in residential areas. A lot of the chains are either corporately owned or franchised to people who do have things like health insurance and savings accounts.

    I certainly wouldn’t think of resenting small business owners such as yourself, who are struggling against the same issues I am. I am glad the overall thrust of the post spoke to you, and regret any misunderstanding.

  16. waiting says:

    10 Bluelyon-
    re. government bailouts: “At some point, someone in Washington has got to stand up and say ‘No!’. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any left in DC.”

    Bluelyon, We can be thankful that there are, in fact, quite a few in DC who are against the bailouts. The Fannie/Freddie/housing market bailout Bill (HR3221) House vote was thus:

    152 AGAINST the Bailout
    274 FOR the Bailout

    I can’t do links , but there’s got be somebody out there who can! If so, google the HR3221 Bill Roll Call/Vote Tally and please provide the link here. I think it’s euphemistic title was the “Home Mortgage Aid Bill”.

    It will tell you the names of every House Rep. and whether they voted yea or nay.

    Locate your rep. and give them a toll-free call. If they voted NAY, THANK THEM PROFUSELY!!!! Encourage them to keep their courage up and give them support to get Paulson and Bernanke and the rest of the DC “Bailers” under control.

    If they voted YEA on the bailouts, call them and give ’em hell, tell them they’ve lost your vote in the future, whatever, just let ’em have it!

    These bailouts are PRECISELY what has led to outrageous food and fuel inflation in the past year. The bailouts have been going on since a year ago August. The only reason the Fan/Fred bailout caught the publics’ attention was because the $$ amounts are so obscenely huge and it’s a name most Americans are familiar with.

    Here are some of the toll free numbers to Capitol Hill:

    1-877-851-6437
    1-800-828-0498
    1-866-340-9281
    1-866-338-1015

    They will connect you to a main switchboard. A nice person answers the phone (a real person!). Tell them you’d like to be connected with Congressperson X from the State of X. They’ll connect you directly to that office where you will either speak with one of their aides directly (All good listeners so far, in my experience), or, you may get a voice mail to leave your message with.

    You can also call House Reps. from states other than your own. For instance, of the 152 “nay” votes, only 3 were Democrats. I called one of the Dems, Nancy Kaptur of Ohio, and thanked her on behalf of All Americans for having the courage to stand up against her Party. SHE, and the two other anti-bailout Dems, NEEDS YOUR VERBAL SUPPORT.

    The roll call on the Senate vote on the Bill was 75 yea/12nay. Not sure what the title of the bill was by the time it got to the Senate. But it would be great if somebody could find out who voted what. These people all need to hear from us.

    That was a beautiful post Annabelle, that speaks perfectly to the presssures that average Americans are under as the majority of the gov. attempts to bail out the mistakes and crimes of Wall Street ,at our expense.

    Call your reps. today! They are discussing a Bailout of AIG, AS WE SPEAK. There is immense pressure from Foreign Governments and Wall Street to keep on bailing.

    Support those reps. that are on the side of We the People.
    And for those who are bailing on our backs for wall street, CALL THEM OUT!

    And pass those toll free #’s around so friends and family can call too!

  17. […] dollars last year to the most well-off people in the country. It was, as I said at the time, a money grab. It continues to be a money grab, as anything that benefits the poor or the struggling middle class […]

  18. […] so well. I knew they would lead to something radical happening in the electorate, and they were the first sign that I saw that a shift was happening. The bailouts unified Americans of both parties over the growing […]

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