Nice Work, Mr. Paulson - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Nice Work, Mr. Paulson

This excerpt is taken from the latest Ben Stein’s Diary, now available in The American Spectator‘s end-of-year December 2008/January 2009 issue.

Up in the morning and off to ATL to fly to Austin, Texas. As usual, I was in the last row of first class. As usual, the mothers with crying babies were in the first row of coach behind me. I’ve gotten so I feel a bit on edge if I do not hear those crying babies behind me. But why do the airlines do it that way? What’s the point of torturing us first class flyers with that endless crying? Maybe the kids have more legroom that way so they can kick our seats.

Anyway, I got to Austin and went to my hotel room at the Four Seasons. Really nice hotel overlooking Lake Ladybird, named for LBJ’s late wife, a true saint and a believer in beautification. No one but me remembers this, but also a willing and eager participant in one of the most crooked empire-building deals of all time. That was when LBJ, as a powerful member of the Senate, got the Federal Communications Commission to shower TV and radio licenses on Ladybird and him. On a salary of about $25,000 a year, he assembled an empire worth hundreds of millions or maybe billions. Good old-fashioned graft. Now lobbyists cannot even take a Senator out to lunch. What a difference! But do we get better laws now? I wonder. I hope so.

Still, LBJ deserves credit for helping, mandating changes in civil rights legislation, change that has made possible our first partly black President, whom I expect to be elected a few weeks after I write this. I do not expect Senator Obama to be able to accomplish anything at all. But I do think that black people should feel that one of their own is Chief Magistrate. They have been feeling bad for so long, it’s time they felt good. Well, I guess the ones at the BET show feel good, but the others don’t. Or some of them don’t. Anyway, you get my point. The problems this country faces are basically not solvable by government, so at least for ceremonial reasons, why not have a President who cheers up a long dispossessed part of the electorate?

Actually, I shouldn’t say that. Government can do a lot about the current financial crisis. In fact, after my nap, I went out to a country club to speak to a large group of financial people about how government started this crisis. They started it by mandating home loans to people without credit worthiness, then made it worse by not regulating or banning credit default swaps arranged by people without any insurable interest in the bonds they “insured.” Now, government can cure the crisis by guaranteeing solvency of inter-bank loans and by sharply curtailing liability under credit-default swaps. They are also going to need a real stimulus package of major size.

Of course, instead, under that imbecile, Henry M. Paulson, we get state socialism of banks and investment banks. The bailout has morphed from being a help to borrowers in Muncie to being an immense life raft for Paulson’s buddies on Wall Street. This is a last, desperate act of rapine against the American people by Mr. Paulson and I do not like it at all. Yes, give them loans they have to repay. Yes, underwrite their loans. But don’t buy them and continue to let their executives loot the system. Why on earth should a farmer in eastern Washington state have to prop up Goldman Sachs with his hard-earned money?

I really do not understand why there is no revolution. The bailout was sold as a way to stabilize the mortgage situation, i.e., money for banks to allow them to keep lending to homeowners. Now it’s a rescue package for billionaires in Greenwich. How come no one is even saying, “boo!” about this?

So, I talked to these nice people and then we had some long talks afterwards. We actually had some long talks before, too. I spent a long, long time visiting with a man who had been three years ahead of me at Yale Law School. He’s a lawyer and investment advisor in Birmingham. He told me how badly many of the city’s most prominent families are being hit by the collapse of the regional banking sector. It was deeply upsetting.

An astounding day. I awakened at 5 a.m. YES! Five a.m. EDT, which is 2 a.m. my time in Los Angeles. I staggered to the airport and flew, dead asleep, to Minneapolis. There I went to a super trendy, ultra-hip hotel called “The Graves 601” and took a nap. Then I talked to some more financial people, and then had lunch with them. They were lovely folks who, rightly, are concerned about Americans’ retirement prospects. How is a generation of boomers who were ill prepared before going to retire now that their savings have been cut in half or so by the stock market crash? Nice work, Henry M. Paulson, for not doing the smart thing right away but instead letting world confidence in financial markets simply vanish. Has there ever been a worse Treasury Secretary than Mr. Paulson? I don’t think so.

(This excerpt is taken from the latest Ben Stein’s Diary, now available in The American Spectator‘s end-of-year December 2008/January 2009 issue.)

Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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