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What, Me Worry?


Over the past week, President Bush held a state dinner for Ghana's president, surveyed Texas hurricane damage, posed with Youth of the Year award finalists and met with Army General David Petraeus.

But, according to the White House web site, he’s publicly uttered roughly 300 words about the worst Wall Street crisis since the Great Depression, saying nothing much beyond the government is working to “reduce disruptions” in US financial markets. Maybe Dick Cheney hasn’t told Pres. Doofus the nitty-gritty so he doesn’t know what’s going on; maybe he knows but doesn’t care; maybe he figures that, at a Nixon-like 25% approval rating, why bother since no one will listen anyway.

So, instead of being out in front of the crisis to help the nation cope, Bush is shooting his best Mad Magazine “What, me worry?” grin as he avoids answering reporter’s shouted questions whenever he emerges from hiding to dash from the Marine 1 helicopter to a photo op. Yesterday, he did pop out of his hidey hole long enough to see his shadow and make a brief announcement that did nothing to calm either citizens or Wall St. before dashing back inside.

Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem as if the Wall St. titans at the center of the raging storm are much worried about what’s going on, either. As we proles down here in the lower depths hang on by our fingertips while our home values disintegrate, our 401(k) and IRA plans go down in flames and our futures turn from dim to bleak, not everyone is brooding. As often happens, it’s the perpetrators of the crisis who are coming away with their pockets stuffed with cash.

For example, Bloomberg reports that Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain and two former Goldman Sachs buddies he recruited a year ago stand to collect almost $200-million between them for the one year they ran the brokerage firm – into the ground, mind you – if they leave or are demoted after Bank of America completes its fire sale takeover of the flailing company. In other words, they’ll get paid a thick enough wad of money not to have to work ever again after destroying shareholder value and tossing thousands of people onto the street without jobs.

This is like a scene from the great Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers, where Chico explains that he’s paid more for not playing a musical instrument in the band.

But Thain and friends aren’t even at the top of the potential list of winning failures. Tom Montag, a Merrill executive hired 30 days before the BofA takeover, will receive a $76-million check in severance pay. Nice going for a bad month’s work of helping turn a silk purse into a sow’s ear.

Meanwhile, ex-Bear Stearns President Warren Spector, who sold $382-million in stock before resigning in 2007 just as the fires of hell were starting to lick at the company’s foundation, was spotted dancing in the rain during a revival of the musical Hair staged in Central Park last month.

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by Charley James

Charley James is an American journalist, author and essayist who lives in Toronto.

Reprinted with permission from The Progressive Curmudgeon

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