Thursday, April 20, 2006


Mything the Point of "Too Big To Fail"


That concept is as old as Goliath, but a hell of a lot more durable.  The term was popularized about 20 years ago when the Federal Reserve bailed out a Midwestern bank to (the then) unheard of tune of $1 Billion.  Congress was dismayed by this largesse and promptly held hearings.  

Appalled by the apparent socialist stench of this state intervention in private enterprise, the late Congressman McKinney (R-CT) uttered the now famous phrase:

"Mr. Chairman, We have a new kind of bank.  It is called,
"too big to fail," TBTF, and it is a wonderful bank."

You have to admit, the idea of Congress holding hearings to learn why a federal agency bailed out a private business like that is -- to borrow a phrase from Attorney General Gonzales -- quaint.  If a billion dollars of questionable spending was all it took to trigger hearings today, they would be having at least two hearings a week just on Iraq.

Of course, that was pre S&L thinking, before Charles Keating, Neal Bush, Silverado and BCCI became household names.  The federal assistance to Continental Illinois turned out to be pocket change compared to the global damage done by BCCI.   BCCI was huge. It had bought influence in 79 countries. It was financially backed by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. It was the bank of choice for arms traffickers, drug dealers and the CIA.

The smart money said BCCI was Too Big To Fail.  It failed anyway.  The S&L scandal came and went, the market crashed, came back, crashed again and new Goliaths rose up that were Too Big To Fail.  Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and Delphi are just a few companies that come to mind.

Here's why I bring all this to your attention: There is a common thread that runs through all the examples cited.  When the end came, it was fast, it was irreversible, and almost everyone was caught by surprise.  There's something else they all have in common.  The signs of impending doom had been plainly visible for anyone to see, but the people who pointed it out were treated like modern-day Cassandras; prophets of doom that no one believed.

A wise philosopher once said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."  A witty contemporary of his wryly noted, "We learn from history that we learn nothing from history."  All I can say is it's truly ironic we can cite George Bush as proof that both George Santayana and George Bernard Shaw knew what they were talking about.  Even if he never read anything they wrote, and skipped history class altogether, you would think someone with a ringside seat to the spectacular flameouts of Kenny Lay, Neil Bush, Poppy Bush, and Harken Industries might have second thoughts about launching a Crusade based on the premise that America was Too Big To Fail.

It's no surprise someone surrounded by sycophants who sing siren songs of certain success could be seduced into a false sense of security.  In that regard, Bush and Saddam are probably more alike than either would care to admit.  I wouldn't be surprised if Saddam actually thought he had weapons of mass destruction before we invaded, too.  After all, this was a regime that tortured Olympians who didn't bring home gold medals.  Would you want to be the guy to tell Saddam his dream was a joke?    I didn't think so.

Speaking of killing the messenger, Lawrence Lindsay was lucky he worked for Dubya.  He's the guy who made the mistake of telling people before we invaded Iraq that the war might cost as much as $200 Billion.  People said he was wrong and he got fired.  They were right.  The war is going to cost a lot more than that.  By the end of this fiscal year, we are looking at $315 Billion in direct costs, no clue of the indirect costs, and no idea how much longer the war is going to last.

That brings us to the latest in a long string of "emergency" supplemental appropriation bills.  Right now there is a bill working its way to the floor of the Senate like a hungry velociraptor on the loose in Jurassic Park.  Actually, it's more like Mapasaurus, the recently discovered giant meat eater that was even larger than T. Rex. Weighing in at $106 Billion, this is the largest "emergency" appropriation in American history.

It also happens to be the fifth "emergency" appropriation bill submitted to fund the war.  No one knows exactly how this money is going to be used.  We still don't have an honest accounting for the money already spent.  In spite of all that, it's probably going to be approved.  Why?  Because the President says, "failure in Iraq is not an option."  It is obvious the President has never done a Google search on the word "failure."

" Now we turn our attention to war.
In many ways it is the only obstacle to peace."

-- Jon Stewart, keeping it real.


Mything the Point ©:
"Examining unexamined beliefs America accepts on faith value."

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