The big bailout of '08, or hindsight is blind

September 24, 2009: 12:55 PM ET

dogSometimes you just don't know what to think.

On the one hand, there's Michael Moore's new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, which takes an outraged look at the havoc that the financial crisis has caused on your basic, working (or now non-working) American citizen. Yeah, I know, a lot of you folks would drop Mr. Moore off a mountain made of his own money if you had the chance. But the guy can make a case.

His point is that our economic system is controlled by idiots, con-men and selfish, greedy SOBs who don't give a damn about us and run the system for their own benefit. I don't think you have to be a flag-waving leftie like Mr. Moore to agree with that one. I think a lot of Glenn Beck people would sign on to that premise.

The fat man in the hat is also righteously peeved that the Government bailed out all those big banks and insurance companies that nearly brought us all down. And again, there's a fair chunk of right-thinking America that's hopping mad about that, too. So maybe Moore's anti-capitalist screed is actually an interesting nexus at the point where right and left converge in hatred of the system that rewards failure and lets the bad guys run the next iteration of the machine. Nobody ever lost money at this point underestimating the anger of the American people.

And of course we all have plenty to be angry about. We could spend the next decade yelling at, prosecuting and punishing the moral morons and stupid geniuses who gave us our recession.

But then there's James B. Stewart's exhaustive, exhausting look at the "Eight Days" that shook the world back in September of 2008, in the September 21st, 2009, issue of The New Yorker. It's a tick-tock about the week that the guys who run global capitalism bumbled their way toward the decision to go socialist for a while and bail out the system that pays for their limos.  

What you see is how close we all came to losing pretty much everything -- our collective life savings, our homes, the insurance that protects us from disaster (subject to acts of God and any other consideration they can think of to avoid paying you).  We get a worm's-eye view of familiar figures like Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, Bank of America's Ken Lewis, Lehman's clueless Dick Fuld, pre-bonus John Thain of Merrill, the gang from AIG, thrashing around trying to figure out how to prevent the entire mess from going down the drain it was circling.

If you haven't looked it up, you should. If it shows nothing else, it demonstrates how in a crisis the false divisions that separate one global behemoth from another, and private enterprise from Government, dissolve, leaving a management team all working for the same big corporation. You know it. You work for it too.

So that's where I'm stuck, another year older and deeper in debt, as the old song goes. On the one hand, you've got to hate the fact that the miscreants wriggled off the hook, and that in many ways -- just like after the fall of Communism in eastern Europe -- the same creeps who screwed things up are back running the store, the new boss same as the old boss. All those big bailouts make a lot of people want to scream, and truly, there are so many things to despise about Wall Street. On the other hand, where would we be if the so-called free-marketplace had been allowed to go down, to be righteously allowed to fail? Every single person now reading this, and even those losers who aren't, would be up the creek.

I don't know where I come out. I'm confused. So I guess I'll just handle that like everybody else these days. I'll get mad! Ah, that feels better!

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