Congress gave Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson $700 billion to save the economy, and what happened to the money? Nobody knows. The economy has collapsed, anyway, and the nation is staring a Depression in the face. Our representatives in Congress are trying – in vain – to figure out where those billions went. Meanwhile, the financial community is preparing for a Merry Christmas, raising interest rates and handing out bonuses. Desperate, the Fed has lowered the central bank rate to near-zero in hopes of loosening the frozen credit market. The result? So far, nothing.
Now that the racketeers on Wall Street have filled their pockets with our money, and the Bush gang gets ready to ride off into the sunset carrying bags of loot, what’s left for the rest of us? I shudder to think. Chrysler is closing down “temporarily,” Ford and GM are teetering on the brink. Jobs are vanishing. Foreclosures continue unabated, housing prices continue to plunge, construction is at a standstill, and the stores are empty…
All eyes are focused on President-elect Obama. He is America’s only hope. And what do we get from the media? Mindless sniping. Commentators like Campbell Brown of CNN and Gretchen Carlson of Fox News are deliberately twisting the facts to make it look as if Obama is somehow tainted by the Blagojevich scandal. They must know this is mischief making of the most despicable kind. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has “requested” that Obama delay disclosing details of his team’s contacts with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich until next week. Even cub reporters must recognize that as a “gag order.” So it’s absurd for Brown and Carlson to pretend they don’t know what’s going on.
To add to the confusion, the “far right” is in full cry. They’re rewriting history to portray Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the cause – instead of the cure – of the Great Depression. And they’re predicting that Obama’s forthcoming stimulus package will be a disaster. They’re blaming unions and welfare programs for the economic collapse that their cronies on Wall Street and in the White House precipitated.
This is no time for that kind of “debate.” The Obama Administration will have its hands full dealing with the mess left behind by the Bush free-market pirates. The Treasury has been plundered, the nation is bankrupt and the world economy is reeling. It will take years – not months – to effect a recovery.
Even with a massive stimulus package, it looks like a sad New Year for America. The new Congress cannot get a package ready for Obama’s signature before early spring, and the state governors won’t be able to get their projects under way for weeks or months after that. By the time bids are requested and contracts awarded, summer will have come and gone. I doubt that the first shovel of asphalt from the stimulus package will hit the ground before fall. And think of the time it will take for those infrastructure paychecks to impact the rest of the economy.
Obama is smart but he is not a magician. And he will be handicapped by saboteurs in and out of Congress. Whatever he does – whatever anybody does – 2009 is shaping up as one of the most wretched years in America’s history. These are the times that test the mettle of a society. Will Americans be able to set their differences aside and try to help their new President? Or will they take pot shots from the sidelines? The fate of the world may depend on their answer.