Monday, September 8, 2008

Disasters of both kinds

Thank you, Cuba. While I thought for sure that Hurricane Ike would be moving into the Gulf of Mexico as a powerful category 2 or 3 storm before re-strengthening, your jagged and mountainous landscape provided just the resistance needed to tame the storm into a category 1. Of course 73 deaths were attributed to Ike in Haiti and we’ll probably hear about the death toll in Cuba within another 24 hours. But as was the case with Gustav, any lessening of strength is something for which we should all be grateful. While many in New Orleans and along the Louisiana Gulf Coast have kept a wary eye on Ike as the storm churned in the Caribbean, others in the nation are looking to Washington, D.C. to witness an unnatural disaster. I am speaking of the incredible bailout by the federal government of FannieMae and FerdieMac. Thanks to lobbying on behalf of mortgage and banking interests who needed it to save their financial necks, the United States assumed the assets and liabilities of those two giant lending institutions that will cost taxpayers anywhere from $200 billion to as much as $500 billion. As the late Senator Everett Derksen was wont to say “A billion here and a billion there…pretty soon you’re talking real money.” So, which will have the most impact on our lives? The natural disaster that could cause levees to fail or the unnatural bailout of two financial institutions who were run so shabbily that the government had to come to their aid after creating financial havoc in the lending industry? Only time will tell, but either way we’ll need a lifesaver to hold onto or else risk being sucked into the vortex of financial doom or social upheaval.

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