Washington just can’t say ‘No’
By Michael A. Matteo
Remember the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ricky were in Italy and away from little Ricky on his birthday? In that episode Lucy finds a little Italian boy who claims it is his birthday so Lucy gives him a candy bar to ease her guilty conscience because she can’t be with her son on his birthday. The little boy tells his friends and before long you have all of these little Italian children asking for candy saying innocently, “Itsa my birthday too.” Lucy goes out and buys all of the children presents and they have a big party even. That scenario reminds me a lot of what is happening with the bailout situation as it relates to corporate America, except this party is at the expense of the average American and it just doesn’t provide the same humor as I Love Lucy.
First, we had banks and other financial institutions stating that if the federal government didn’t help them it would be a very dark day for Americans, especially retirement money that was invested. So, the government caved in and voted to give these terribly mismanaged institutions 700 billion dollars.
Soon after that we had GM, Ford, and Chrysler telling the federal government that without financial help they would eventually collapse too and they wanted some of that money. Who cares if their average worker makes over $50,000 a year plus benefits for working on an assembly line?
Now homebuilders are also lining up because they are in financial trouble due to the glut of houses that are vacant because of the terrible housing market. I guess “Itsa their birthday too.” I have a perfect solution for them and it won’t cost a dime: stop building.
So who will be next to get in line? Airlines? TV/Radio Stations? Oil companies? Maybe the pornography industry, what would the quality of life in America be without dirty books and movies? What other industries will threaten Americans’ way of life if the government fails to subsidize them from terrible business practices that contributed to their own demise?
If government is allowed to continue to write checks in spite of running record deficits where will it all end? I know, they are doing this for each of us because of the perceived threat that if these actions were not taken we could slip into a recession or perhaps, dare I say it, a depression.
What is depressing to me is that the Democratic Congress and President Bush opened a Pandora’s box to any large industry that feels it can profit when things are good, waste money on exorbitant golden parachutes for CEO’s, fail to monitor themselves, and in the case of automakers, produce products that people would rather buy from foreign manufacturers.(Toyota’s sales are down too, but you don’t see them asking for bailout money).
The key to successfully blackmailing the federal government is fear. Convince people that they will starve and be homeless if your company goes out of business and Uncle Sam will write you a fat check that will further contribute to an ever-burgeoning federal debt that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will continue to owe.
I’m not saying that having banks, Wall Street, and the big three automakers going belly up wouldn’t create a substantial amount of pain, hardship or possibly even sending us into a depression. However, what assurances are there that the money spent by the government via bailouts won’t just postpone the inevitable?
The problem is, we still have major industries that have been severely mismanaged and throwing money at them is not the solution. In fact, giving these managers – who have already shown themselves to be bad managers – more money to waste is just plain idiotic.
The lessons that these businesses have learned from Washington (and the politicians we elect) is that they can squander billions without consequences because, “Itsa their birthday too.” So step up and get your candy bar because the government is buying.
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.