Who caused the American financial panic and the wild swings in our financial system -- and what are we going to do about it in the long term after the markets settle down?
Republicans point to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Politically wired executives at Fannie and Freddie cooked the books. They received mega-bonuses and took cover through campaign gifts to their Democratic supporters in Congress. Then almost everyone involved justified their scams by claiming that, as good liberals, they only wanted to help the poor buy homes.
Democrats counter that Republicans always pushed for more deregulation and, as good conservatives, kept quiet about multimillion-dollar CEO bonuses paid out from shaky Wall Street firms and passed off as good for business - rather than symptoms of suicidal greed.
Those in the present Bush administration blame the Clintonites for seeding the disaster; those in the last administration blame the present one for harvesting it.
Long ago, John McCain warned about the antics of Freddie and Fannie, and later charged that Barack Obama and some of his advisers received too much money from these agencies for looking the other way. Obama has countered that McCain was a reckless deregulator and that some on his staff were lobbyists for Wall Street firms.
The blame game goes on and on. But so far no one seems willing to tell the American people the truth: It is not just "they," but we, the people, who have recklessly borrowed to spend what we haven't yet earned.
Take energy. In recent years, we've borrowed trillions of dollars overseas to buy oil from foreign producers. Wind and solar may sound like neat and easy solutions. But for decades to come, Americans must drill more oil and natural gas of our own for transportation and heating; we must build more coal and nuclear power plants to power the electric grid; and we must conserve. Otherwise, we'll go broke before clean alternate fuels become accessible and affordable.
Our energy challenges do not just concern independence, natural security and global warming. They involve basic financial solvency as well. Yet so far, none of our public officials have warned us that the energy crisis is largely a money matter: We're borrowing too much to buy what we won't or can't produce at home.
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