The Associated Press ranked Barack Obama's political ride the top story of 2008. It wasn't. The top story had to be the implosion of the economy -- here and across the globe.
A year ago, who would've thunk it?
Big-name financial houses gone -- from Bear Stearns to Lehman to Merrill Lynch -- and numerous others peering over the edge, standing perilously there beside General Motors. The Dow nearly halved, wiping out something like $10 trillion in investor wealth -- now you see it and now, abracadabra, it's gone! Scandal, greed, mayhem and shamelessness rampant on Wall Street -- and corresponding confirmation that Ivy League diplomas carry no validation of their owners' ethics or intellect. Credit crushed. Real estate and the mortgage market tanked. Uncountable lives forever changed.
Comes now the Obama administration (in fact, it comes Jan. 20 -- concluding a four-day, 24/7 drinking opportunity authorized specifically for the occasion by D.C. officialdom) to make everything better. (AP ranked Obama's meteoric rise, and presumably the congressional Democratic surge, ahead of the collapsed economy; AP ranked the saga of John McCain not at all -- but never mind.)
To kick-start things, Congress and the departing administration already have begun rewarding failure with an infusion of taxpayer funds -- not to mention putting the feds in the automobile, banking, and insurance businesses.
There's no accounting of how key recipients of this largesse are using the taxpayer dollars. Twenty-one banks refuse to provide any information about the received funds, and proclaim they would find such an onerous undertaking impossible even if they wanted to perform it. Many CEOs disdain receiving less compensation for failure than for success. And the United Auto Workers union, for one, insists the Detroit windfall enables it adamantly to reject renegotiation of its Big Three contracts until their 2011 expiration.
Just when things seemed unable to get worse, l'affair Blago flowered in Illinois -- pregnant with its possibilities for hammering Obama & Co., which took political root in the same strange Chicago garden. Then, in New York, one Bernie Madoff wearied of trying to prove the yes-you-can of Lincoln's negative axiom -- i.e., you can't fool all of the people all of the time. When Bernie threw up his hands, he implicitly acknowledged that about 35 years is the max.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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