Sinking ship has plenty of rats

A woman I know lives on a lake with a small island maybe 50 yards offshore. A while back she deposited a family of domestic rats on the island, and recently she and her two small children rowed over to visit them.

One of the young rats had open, suppurating sores, and she and her two small children brought it back home to care for it. I don’t know that I would take a diseased rat home, even if it used to live with me, but I haven’t had to make that decision. The last I heard, the rat’s head was no longer three times its normal size. That’s good.

I have only the vaguest idea how the overall monetary system really works. I know how my monetary system works. When I first learned about the Federal Reserve System in the ‘60s, nobody ever said it was a private corporation created to make a profit, like Macy’s, but it is.

I’ve read a list of the people and institutions involved in the bailout talks. They’re all experts, so I figure they’re gonna do what they’ve been doing all along, this time with US$750 billion, under the authority of the secretary of the treasury.

This statement was in the original, but not in the final, version:

“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.”

Until Jan. 21, 2009, Henry Paulson, who happens to have been appointed secretary of the treasury by President George W. Bush, could do whatever he wanted, and he’d tell you what he wanted you to know. Whatever he decided to do would be automatically legal, like the divine right of kings. Paulson wrote that version.

The gist of it is clear. I don’t suppose it’ll shake down to be quite that secret, but you can bet you won’t have anything to say about who gets the money or what they can do with it, so don’t bother raising your hand.

The secretary is supposed to buy bad loans, especially mortgage-based securities, so that the large financial institutions won’t lose so much money and so that people won’t lose confidence in the credit system that the $750 billion is meant to shore up. If there’s a hole in your pocket, walk faster.

When I worked with community groups and agencies in Chicago, the core of our definition of an institution was that its primary objective was self-perpetuation. It may have been started to promote or resist something or other, but nowadays it just wants to continue to exist, like AIG and Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers and the rest of them. They just want to keep making money.

Seventy senators and 263 representatives voted for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Obama promoted it. Bush signed it.

I’ll take the diseased rat.