The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, September 25, 2008
So this is how the Reagan Era ends, not with a bang but with the whimpering and whining of Wall Street executives begging for a bailout from an American public they long treated like unsophisticated rubes.
In less sobering times, there might be some entertainment value in that scene. But not now. To make matters worse, we have no real choice but to give them the help they seek, although with a lot more strings than they claim are possible. It’s either that, or risk letting the whole country go down the tubes.
With this bailout, we mark not just the end of an era but the demise of the ideology that created it. Events have made it crushingly obvious that greed is a poor foundation on which to build a nation and a culture. It turns out that enforcing the rules is actually a good idea, and that debts both personal and public really do come due eventually, just like daddy said they would.
In that kind of environment, it’s no wonder that John McCain has beat a retreat from the campaign trail, declining to debate. The Republican talking points make no sense anymore; the Republican worldview lies exposed and empty.
But if we’re going to be honest, we need to acknowledge that the excesses of corporate America that are now so roundly ridiculed —- the grotesque bonuses, the heedless risktaking, the disdain for rules —- existed because the cultural values of this country allowed them to exist and in fact helped to create them.
Most of what’s been going on with Wall Street comes as no surprise. In recent years, it was almost as if we Americans took a perverse pride in the fact that we could pay our CEOs half a billion dollars to fail, as if that bloated excess was itself proof of our great prosperity and strength. We acted as if we were one of those tribes out of mythology that celebrated its prosperity by boasting how fat its kings and princes were.