The malodorous AIG bailout just keeps getting funkier. It seems that while bailing out the insolvent insurance giant, the New York Federal Reserve -- purely as an aside, of course -- told AIG, "Hey, AIG, we know that you're going to use all this taxpayer money to pay 100 cents on the dollar for your credit default obligations to our banking buddies. But maybe don't tell the SEC, okay?" And AIG said, "Hmmm, no, it looks like the law requires us to fully disclose these facts." To which the New York Fed replied, "C'mon AIG, we thought you were cool. Don't be a dick, be a dude!" Head of the New York Fed at the time? Current Treasury Secretary Lil' Timmy Geithner. Before that, he famously worked for silent movie villain Goldman Sachs -- a primary beneficiary of the AIG bailout. Thus did the AIG story miraculously manage to become even more enraging. Yay!
This is the kind of news that should surprise only my five-week-old niece and her diapered peers. Those of us in big kid pants now get to spend the next few weeks having our intelligence insulted by kabuki Congressional hearings. A deeply concerned Geithner will plead ignorance, grandstanding scarlet-faced Congresspeople will bellow, "Good gravy, man, how could this HAPPEN?!?!", whilst a weary populace will seek to lose itself further in funny foto websites and iPhone sex apps.
Republicans will happily crow about typical Democrat corruption, conveniently forgetting that this all went down under Bush. They'll trip over themselves to call it "Chicago-style," as if cronyism is wholly unknown in, say, Texas (cough, Enron, cough cough). Democrats will go pretend to do something, really do nothing, and look lame as shit while doing it. Meanwhile the sun will rise in the east and set in the west, puppies will be adorable, teenagers will squander the vigor of their youth, and Geithner will (hopefully) get booted and (definitely) be replaced by someone just as smarmy. Same as it ever was, as Ds and Rs and reds and blues fail to stem the flow of useless warplanes and diabetes-inducing farm bills and health care boondoggles. Elect whoever you like -- there is no unseating the Tuxedo Party. The fat, velvety thumb of crony capitalism has us pinned and wriggling in our place, as we struggle to claw each other's eyes out.
Which leaves us in a quandary, wherein virtually every course of action seems equally ineffective. The Tea Party and their hilarious platitudes (for freedom and against tyranny, eh? gee folks, way to take a stand) would have us believe that without government there is no corruption, no injustice, no power to abuse -- a point which more than a few starving Somalians would no doubt energetically refute. But if government serves only to amplify the already considerable power of the mighty, then it's about as useful to the average person as a credenza is to a horse. We could knock our neighbors on their asses and scramble to the top in order to avoid the endless hosing and get some of those sweet sweet patrician entitlements. But that does nothing to stop jagoffs like Geithner from gaming the system to keep them and their increasingly incompetent friends in the driver's seat, pockets full of cash.
Thus (to fully echo the discouraging conclusion to the very excellent article by James Fallows in this month's Atlantic), it's clear we're in a rotten situation but it's not at all clear what can be done. We agree that what needs to be done is Something. And we agree that we're pretty pissed off. That's as good a place to start as any, I suppose. As long we make sure we're pissed off at the right things and the right people, rather than just selling each other out.