Bacchus , Bilious, and Friedman

by reader Noni Mausa

What You Mean “We”, Rich Man?

From Thomas Friedman’s op-ed today (Elvis Has Left the Mountain, February 1, 2009) he discusses the loss of trust in the whole financial world. Davos is worried, the banks that were previously rock solid turn out to be papier mache, Madoff in his depradations curiously was not restrained by the social censure of his … well essentially his entire world of social and buainess contacts. Alas, things have all gone pear-shaped.

Then at the end of the piece, he writes:

[Restoring confidence] may be President Obama’s most important bailout task: to educate the country that there is no easy escape here, except taking our medicine, getting our fundamentals right again and working our way out of this, brick by brick, by getting back to making money — what was that old Smith Barney ad? — “the old-fashioned way” — by earning it.

Who are these “we” of whom you speak, Tom? The people I know have all been dancing as fast as they can for the last fifteen years, swallowing the shaming conventional wisdom that they just had to work harder. What have they gotten for that? Vanished pensions, jobs and families, scanty social supports, crumbling infrastructure, and an international rep that has them sewing Canadian flags to their backpacks when they travel.

Telling Americans to buckle down and work harder is not a winning storyline, Tom. They’ve been in a race to the bottom, a freefall of income and security. They didn’t win it, but only because other nations had a head start.

Obama can do without advisors like Friedman. What I would like to see in banking is a “race to the marble”, a competition to prove their holdings honest and safe by embracing regulation and going beyond the legal requirements to further prove their trust. Ditto to the ratings industry and, essentially, everyone else who plays with our money. They “made money” all right — our money.

The bank situation reminds me of a character from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld — Bilious, the God of hangovers. While Bacchus carouses all night and drinks big fruit drinks with umbrellas in them, Bilious gets the thumping headaches and the nausea.

Sound familiar?
by reader Noni Mausa