"Suppose my neighbor's home catches fire, and I have a length of garden hose. ... I don't say to him ... 'Neighbor, my garden hose cost me $15 ... '"
-- Franklin Roosevelt, Dec. 17, 1940, news conference, discussing lend-lease
"When the town is burning, you don't check party labels. Everybody needs to grab a hose."
-- Barack Obama, Feb. 10, 2009
WASHINGTON -- FDR's analogies, like his policies, are being recycled. As money gushes from Washington like water from a fire hose, consider how bailout promiscuity is coloring politics at all levels.
Brian Tierney is CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, which publishes Philadelphia's Inquirer and Daily News and has missed loan payments since June. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's spokesman says Tierney has had "a number of conversations" with Rendell about receiving state money that "could come from a number of revenue streams."
The Wall Street Journal designated this "the worst bailout idea so far" and "nuts in eight different ways," noting that the investors Tierney led in purchasing the two newspapers put up only 20 percent in equity, making them typical of "Americans who borrowed too heavily during the credit mania." In response to Rendell's spokesman saying that newspapers are "the lifeblood of democracy," the Journal said "newspapers aren't the lifeblood of anything if they are merely an adjunct of the state" and are "dependent on the politicians (they are) supposed to cover."
In a remarkably maladroit letter to the Journal, Tierney said "the overwhelming majority of our employees" -- truck drivers, advertising salespeople, etc. -- whose jobs would be saved by government money "have no influence on the editorial content" of the papers. So: Even if the papers' survival, and therefore the jobs of reporters and editorial writers, would depend on the government's good will, the papers would remain independent because reporters and editorialists are a minority of the papers' employees. Good grief.
Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat, practiced law for three years, then entered elective office at 29 and has never left, so when he speaks about a world larger than a legislature, and about entities more enmeshed in life's grinding imperatives, he says strange things. Objecting to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler opposing more severe fuel-economy and emissions standards, he says: "They have not yet stopped being controlled by their own self-interest."