Enough already. The mythology of GM and Chrysler’s resurrection has transformed the automakers’ bailouts into the penultimate symbol of success for the Obama administration’s recovery efforts. If we throw enough money at a problem, we generally manage to come up with some sort of a solution. The repeated portrayal of this salvage operation as a recessionary heroic quest is deceptive and irresponsible, considering the potential for the new automakers to continue to burden the real heroes, the taxpayers who saved them.
I have been trying to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt. He inherited some difficult, perhaps unsolvable problems, and took office amidst impossible expectations at the behest of a notoriously fickle electorate willing to deify or crucify their candidates on a whim. Our president is in a tough spot, and up to now I felt it appropriate to cut him a bit of slack.
I was appalled, but not surprised, at last week’s reports that Citigroup has been requesting permission from Treasury Secretary Geithner to pay out millions in bonuses. Enlivened, but not yet saved by a $45 billion taxpayer-provided lifeline, Citigroup is reportedly still undercapitalized by as much as $10 billion. Undaunted by the dim assessment of its financial health, Citigroup has taken issue with the government’s figures, as it suggests that the time has come not to reward its employees for their hard work, but to pay them extra so they don’t leave their jobs for something that pays even better.
Easter comes late on the calendar this year, and with Easter comes the annual tradition of rerunning the religious epics of the 1950s. Lavish and overproduced, these spectacles often show harrowing depictions of the bread and circus festivals of ancient Rome.
Washington has eschewed the gorier trappings of bread and circuses, but make no mistake. The tradition is alive and thriving.