Thursday, October 2, 2008

Financial Steerage

Push It Along - Paul Weller (mp3)
You, Me & the Bourgeoisie - The Submarines (mp3)

Something about the hijinks of the last couple of weeks on Wall Street and in D.C. have me hearing Celine Dion songs in my head and picturing Billy Zane throwing little children off lifeboats so he can live. No, I'm not saying the US is a ship that will sink slowly over the next two hours while I have sex with a really hot, buxom red-headed woman in the back of a Model T.

What this feels like is that scene where Leonardo DiCaprio and all of those people in steerage are standing behind that gate, trapped, without any outlet for escape. And there's that bellboy or whatever on the other side of the gate, looking at us with this mix of pity that we're all gonna sink and relief that he's not trapped down with us.

I don't have the slightest freakin' clue what's happening to the economy, at least not in any technically detailed way sufficient enough that I can divine whether a $700B bailout is a vital "fix" or an awful mistake. In fact, it seems like the reason most Americans are against the bailout is because if the debate is presented as 50/50 on whether $700B in tax dollars is a good idea, most people seem to choose against spending it.

If someone came to me and told me that an investment of a year's salary might very well come back to me, maybe even with a little extra money, but they can't be positive. They can't even be sure I'll get much of my money back. I'm not sure I'd want to give them that money.

Perhaps the most ludicrous thing is how both sides of the political coin can scream about the problem being "partisanship" when both sides had people voting on both sides of the issue. As best I could tell from the House vote, it was the most bipartisan disagreement I've seen in D.C. in a long, long time. The Senate passed it yesterday, but the House is where the crazies lurk.

Truth is, for me and millions of others like me, we have no idea whether the ship is sinking. We have no idea how to get out of steerage. We have no path to life rafts. We're just stuck down here, hoping the captain and his crew know what the f*#k they're doing.

The only problem with this metaphor is that most of us don't even know if we're on the same boat as Wall Street. How else to explain the majority of Americans being either mildly or vehemently opposed to the government bailout? (While Congress is bitterly divided, Main Street America seems almost entirely unified in saying, "Hell if I know what's going on, but I don't much like the notion of giving a shitload of my tax money to a bunch o' fancy pants fellers with their hair all slicked back and wearing Rolex watches. I doubt they ever plan on returning the favor, so I say screw 'em.")

Are we on the same boat? Is the boat sinking, or is it merely overdue for righting itself on the turbulent tides of the world economy? Who is Kate Winslet in this analogy?

Meanwhile, at least in Chattanooga, the search for gas has become something of a scavenger hunt. Bags cover a majority of pumps. Yet people seem to be carrying on as usual, plus or minus a couple extra water cooler statements about how damned hard it is to find gas.

Perhaps the wildest part of all this? We keep dancing on our steerage tables, eating our steerage meals, and watching our steerage SNL skits. Ask one of us what's going on, and we're likely to give you this look like, "Well, I think we're all fooked, and royally. But no point worrying about it, so pass the Cheez-Its and let's watch the next episode of HEROES!"

Have we finally been lulled, as a society, into such a comatose state of entertainment-dependence that facing something this frightening and confusing leaves us no option but to continue searching for distractions and ways to ignore it?

No wait. The wildest part was that Henry frakkin' Paulson, who's s'posed to know shizzle from shinola when it comes to these matters, said that the $700 BILLION was determined fairly indescriminately. "We just wanted to choose a really large number." You can't make this shit up.

In light of that quote, I'd like to change my analogy. We're not on the Titanic. We're on the Exxon Valdez, and Paulson is that drunk bastard who's driven us straight into a rock, and we're leaking oil so quickly the damn gas stations can't hold onto it.

I'd keep writing and worrying, but I need to know what happened to Sweet Baby Caylee. Gotta prioritize.

"Push It Along" is from Paul Weller's 22 Dreams. "You, Me & the Bourgeoisie" is from Honeysuckle Weeks. Both could be purchased for the low low price of $8.99 at's mp3 site.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Maybe we've become an Us and Them society. I found out that I was not one of the "Us" the other night when I couldn't find gas anywhere and then saw an open, thriving gas station in front of Sam's. Gratefully, I pulled in line, waited for about 6 cars and then pulled up to pump til the cows come home................only to discover that if you don't have a Sam's card, you can't buy the gas!