(NOTE: I keep updating this post because despite my best intentions to drop this whole matter I can’t get it out of my mind.)
It’s hard not to like President Obama, he’s down-to-earth, humorous, intelligent, and silver-tongued. Even as I cringe under the events of the last few months and the view of the next few years, I cannot help but like him as a person.
Last night with Jay Leno his performance showed me some points that scare me. Maneuvering around distasteful questions is one thing; I don’t blame him, all politicians do this, and he manages it much better than most. He also gave some clear and eloquent answers that gave me hope that he “gets” it, and his heart is possibly in the right place even if I don’t feel his responding actions are always there. The “I take responsibility” thing is overdone however, but it worked for Bill Clinton and I suppose it’s become the new mantra since all people want to know is who to blame and when someone steps up, the anger dissipates. Oh yeah, okay, well he says he’s responsible so whatever. What bothered me however is the one remark he made about the proposed 90% tax on bonus pay. While he seemed to acknowledge that it isn’t the right thing to do, his blase attitude of “so sue me” (reneging on the contracts) is such a typical lawyer tactic. It is so in conflict with his intention to spend trillions of dollars on education when education on ethical issues can be learned free by example. Oh wait, maybe that’s not in conflict at all. What I see ahead is a near Big Brother scenario where the individual lack of responsibility evidenced today grows worse, is taken up by the government, and the learning of moral values is accepted as being out of the hands of parents and plopped into the realm of government via the education system.
I think that with all the rush to placate the public no one’s thought of what happens down the road. For one thing, the idea of taxation as a remedy really has nothing to do with the matter so the lessons are useless. If enacted, this new tax law, even if it recoups 90% of taxpayer money, does that mean that AIG only owes 10% of the remaining since surely there is no intent to not only get the money back through taxes but still insist upon that portion of the ‘loan’ being repaid. That’s double-payment.
See, the damage here was done not to taxpayers, but to taxpayers as stockholders, and that’s who the companies need to answer to unless there were specific strings attached to the original loans and bailout money. There’s legal remedy when the problem is approached from that angle. To put it another way, if you loan someone $100 because they claim their rent is due, and then prior to paying you back they throw a party, you can be rightly upset, but you have no recourse other than the terms of the loan–how and when it will be paid back. If, on the other hand, you buy into the apartment, you better know what you’re buying, the good and the bad. If parties are an established Friday night deal, then, well, you’ve got to bite the bullet or attempt to renegotiate.
At any rate, I find myself getting too wired up about the goings on, and as a friend recently posted a quote from Neil Postman: “The news elicits a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing” I find it too painful to keep banging my head against the walls. So it is time to retreat, retract, find a comfort zone and stray beyond its boundaries no more.