Let me tell you a story about something that was supposedly unsinkable. This man-made marvel allowed the rich to drink champagne while every one else was treated like cattle and the people in control were fools that took too many risks. This fantastic creation was luxury incarnate but there were still insufficient safeguards to ward off disaster and an ample supply of denial. Finally, a disorganized response when disaster came, ensured the rich were tended to first and led to much unnecessary suffering. Does this sound familiar? It should, I’m talking about the United States.
Oh? Did you think I meant the Titanic?
Really, though, is there a difference? The RMS Titanic was a modern wonder of ingenuity just like the United States; it was bigger, bolder and more powerful than any ship that ever existed. It was the envy of the world! Both the rich and the poor coveted a place on board; the rich because it was a symbol of status and the poor because it was the path to a better life.
And just like the Titanic, the United States was run by fools who only thought in the short-term. Desperate to set a new transatlantic speed record, the captain and the crew ignored warnings and common sense and plowed on ahead at full speed. The mighty “captains of industry” did the same here in America. Chasing nothing but a quick dollar, our economic leaders eroded the foundation of the economy and engaged in reckless behavior that led to a financial disaster not seen for generations. We didn’t hit an iceberg, instead we kept walking further and further out on a plank until it broke underneath us. In both cases, we knew better but we did it anyway, smug in our assumption that nothing bad could possibly happen.
Even afterwards, we went blithely on our way. How bad could it be? We’re awesome! The passengers on the ship were told not to panic but the poor bastards below decks could see the water creeping up. The rich were clueless and slightly annoyed that the deck was tilting a little bit. Here, the poor and the middle class felt the pinch first as they lost their jobs and savings and homes. Wall Street poo-pooed any attempt to correct the problem that didn’t involve giving them everything they wanted, no strings attached. The denial was in full swing. How could anything the Wall Street wizkids did cause such a problem? They were the masters of the universe! Indestructible! Unsinkable! Heck, it was even called “the bailout,” originally a nautical term, when the government tried to keep them afloat (see what I did there?).
But it wasn’t enough. Just as there weren’t enough lifeboats, the bailout and the follow-up stimulus act just weren’t enough. The designers of the Titanic cut corners and only installed enough lifeboats for maybe half the passengers. The crew, either panicked or deeply in denial, launched boat after boat only partially filled and mostly with the just the rich instead of the women and children regardless of their social status. The bailout money was abused in much the same way. Instead of being used to alleviate the financial burden of those most at risk, it was used by the banks to pay out huge bonuses and to hire public relations firms to help rehabilitate their image. We gave them billions and they gave us the finger.
Just as a quick aside to my very few Libertarian readers: After the Titanic, governmental regulations changed so that ships were forced to have enough lifeboats for everyone on board. In your little fantasy world, that’s just wrong. Say this out loud, “The children that drowned on the Titanic were a necessary sacrifice to keep the free market safe from government interference.” If you manage to do that and not gag, please kill yourself. you’re doing society a favor by removing yourself from the gene pool.
The stimulus was only slightly better in that it saved jobs and boosted the economy but was watered down and did far less than was needed. The stimulus was the SOS signal sent out after it was too late to save everyone because of the embarrassment of needing help. As if pride were worth the lives of hundreds of people. In this case, the delay/watering down was due to the GOP who were, and still are, more interested in regaining their power than fixing the economy. The misery and suffering caused by ego and pride is incalculable and should be seen as the shameful act of petty and vain men.
The story of America and the Titanic do not have to have the same ending, however. Once the Titanic hit that iceberg, its fate was sealed. We still have a chance and choice. We can choose to follow the path of the GOP which will lead to destruction and despair while the rich float away sipping their champagne or we can follow the progressive vision in which we all survive and prosper. The rich can still drink their champagne but they have to pitch in and help the rest of us that built the ship for them to ride on in the first place.
Remember to vote in November or James Cameron will release twenty different versions of America starring Leonardo DiCaprio as President Romney and Kate Winslet as Vice President Sarah Palin. Then he’ll do it in 3-D and nobody wants that.
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