One thing about doing a two hour show that heavily covers both the financial crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that you notice on a daily basis the shocking juxtaposition between the lucky Wall Streeters and the unlucky soldiers.
We all know at this point that our banking system is being used as an unregulated bonus-seeking mechanism for bankers, now underwritten by taxpayers with $23.7 trillion worth of national wealth.
Bankers lent pretend money to home buyers to award themselves actual money in bonuses -- making home prices balloon and, in the process, bankrupting America's treasury, currency, the states, and many of its citizens.
To simply let the housing market rapidly correct itself (or more likely over-correct) would result in massive societal disruption, possible violence and unnecessary suffering.
So while we slowly attempt to close the taxpayer-funded bank casinos and try to restore the basic rules of investment and lending in our economy, we have difficult decisions to make. Unfortunately, our only choice for a less jarring social transition so far has been to artificially adjust the real prices of our homes via government guarantees to banks (for bad mortgages and losing gambling bets) -- or relatively arbitrary handouts to home buyers.
What did these people do to deserve the handout?
How do you feel about a Wall Street Banker who has been renting an apartment here in New York and this year combined the bonus money he made on bundling new taxpayer-sponsored Fannie Mae CDS with a first-time home buyers tax credit gift from the taxpayers to buy the penthouse in his building?
Meanwhile, we have already been at war for 8 years with no end in sight. World War II was 5 years. We are fighting these wars with the fewest number of soldiers in modern U.S. History. To avoid incorporating a politically unpopular draft, we deploy the same soldiers five or six times with comparatively minuscule breaks in between.
However, the dire state of the economy has been a boon to military recruitment, but I am not sure if we will ever see the Wall Street bank scammers claim their rightful credit for that.
So instead of using these bad- (Wall Street) to- arbitrary (first time home buyers) ways to pump money into rescuing our housing market, let's give it to those who are truly deserving of handouts: our servicemen and women.
I propose that we immediately enact the following:
- Give every single man and woman that is fighting for us a housing credit of $50,000, with the caveat that the credit must be used by someone within two years.
- Make it so that the credits are completely fungible, meaning that if the veteran doesn't wish to buy a house, he or she can sell the credit to someone who does -- and keep the money. If the reselling of gift cards on Ebay is any indication, I am sure there will be a thriving market where soldiers could probably get pretty close to 90 cents on the dollar for their credit.
Considering the roughly 2 million veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, this would give a much needed $100 billion boost to the housing market. Just as a template for comparison, Goldman Sachs (albeit it doing "God's work") and the other complicit banks like JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley will pay $29.4 billion in personal bonuses this year.
In reporting on this financial crisis, I have been most surprised by the blatant disregard that our politicians and even some journalists have shown for the most fundamental American notion of fairness. I don't think handing taxpayer trillions to some of the least worthy individuals is something that our country will stand for, regardless of what the current incumbents think.
If we must resort to handouts to save our country, let's at least put them in the hands of the most deserving.
Dylan Ratigan hosts MSNBC's "Morning Meeting," M-F at 9AM ET and "The Dylan Ratigan Show" on WABC Radio, Sunday at 7PM ET