Goin' Fishing

I used to go fishing, until I could no longer watch the final death throes of the fish.

Are these the final death throes of democracy? Or only of Wall Street?

There will have to be scapegoats. After all, it has to be somebody's fault. But it won't be those who should be held accountable, any more than the higher-ups responsible for Abu Ghraib were ever brought to justice. It's the wink-and-nod society. Nothing in writing. Everything clearly communicated nonetheless. Plausible deniability. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzalez and Rove will duck and dodge. Who is this year's fall guy?

But the fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in Washington. It lies with me. It lies with you.

If a democratic society is to survive at all, it must have the participation of the electorate, just as, if it is to die out, our lack of participation will be responsible. If we let politicians, corporations, the institutions entrusted with our money, run wild, then we have only ourselves to blame.

When we elected Pelosi and other democrats to Congress because of our dismay over the goings-on in Washington, we failed to let her know our displeasure when she refused to go after the culprits. When we let one of the Keating Five get away almost scot-free from the Savings and Loan debacle, we should not be surprised that he scatters falsehoods on the campaign trail. When we do nothing about those who shred the constitution, those who trample on civil liberties in the name of "war", those who devise legal or not-so-legal shenanigans to avoid subpoenas and use signing statements to circumvent the law - we are the architects of the ensuing meltdown.

Gretchen Cryer wrote in 1978, "You couldn't give what I didn't ask for. It was a perfect game." Cryer was talking about her responsibility in a divorce. Who is responsible now for the divorce of integrity, appropriate oversight, and accountability from the democratic process? As the New York Times editorial stated on September 19: "Finally, Americans need to be told a more fundamental truth: This crisis is the result of a willful and systematic failure by the government to regulate and monitor the activities of bankers, lenders, hedge funds, insurers and other market players. All were playing high-stakes poker with the financial system, but without adequate transparency, oversight or supervision.

The regulatory failure, in turn, was grounded in the Bush administrationís magical belief that the market, with its invisible hand, works best when it is left alone to self regulate and self correct. The country is now paying the price for that delusion." (Note: for a further discussion of Washington and Wall Street, see "Complified and Simplicated" published here in 2007.)

Our bad, America.

But wait: hope is on the horizon. The folks who brought you "shock and awe" have another Weapon of Mass Destruction to detonate. King George has annointed Henry Paulson the Czar of Finance. As described by the bail-out proposal, Granddaddy Warbucks will have strict safeguards: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." Don't you feel safer now? Just think: Paulson will be able to hire all those Wall Street whiz kids that got us into this mess, to get us out (Remember Paulson's Alma Mater, Goldman Sachs? According to Michael Lewis, author of "Liar's Poker", "Last year Goldman paid its employees $20 billion, 44 percent of the firm's revenue. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankenfein took home $68.5 million, and many otherwise ordinary human beings took home $10 million or more.")

I crossed the street this morning and watched as half a dozen people ignored the traffic light, darted in and out from between parked cars, even drove the wrong way, grinning, on a one-way street. These are petty problems, or are they? Respect for the law has to start somewhere. If those at the top, be it Pennsylvania Avenue or the Buttonwood Tree, adopt the Leona Helmsley philosophy ("taxes are for the little people"), then the man on the street is exonerated. The Republicans, the Law and Order party, have bequeathed us a Lawless and Disorderly Republic, where personal responsibiity disappears behind an institutional shield.

Next time some corporate wing-ding hides behind the company, why not call him/her on it? When advertisements lie, don't buy their product. When politicians lie, don't buy their stuff either.

We have a chance, maybe our last chance, on November 4. Let them know that you can cancel Letterman, but you can't cancel Democracy. Don't let them off the hook, because now is the time to reel them in. I might even have to go fishing again.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2008