They Love Me, They Really Love Me!

By David Glenn Cox

In her groundbreaking book, “On Death and Dying,” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

examined the five stages in which people deal with grief and tragedy.

On today, Caroline Baum in her article, “Congress

Misreads Public Anger at Wall Street:” takes the Ross theory and puts

it into practice.

“Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) — There’s only one thing

more revolting than watching Wall Street abuse taxpayer dollars:

watching Congress bloviate about it.

“Our elected

representatives are gleeful at the opportunity to fan public outrage at

bankers for their excesses — in part because it deflects attention

from their own. Whether it’s Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of

Missouri, calling bankers a ‘bunch of idiots,’ or Rhode Island

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse proposing an ‘oversight court’ to

restrain Wall Street’s ‘massive self-indulgences,’ Congress is perched

on its high horse.”

Baum is upset because Congress is on its

high horse about the failures of an industry that has single-handedly

trashed the American economy. The amounts of money and struggle

necessary to get us out of it are unfathomable, but as of this moment

are estimated at several trillion dollars. Americans are losing their

jobs in increments of a half a million a month and 8 million more

Americans will find themselves homeless before Santa comes a’calling

again. Her opinion is that Congress is misreading the public mood, but

my opinion, Ms. Baum, is that you are in stage one: denial.


it would be a mistake for Congress to interpret that anger as a

condemnation of capitalism and an endorsement of bigger government. If

my e-mail is a reflection of popular sentiment, Americans are angry at

Wall Street for gambling with other people’s money (and losing). They

are angry at having to pay for the extravagances of others while they

lived within their means. And they are angry at a system that

privatizes profits and socializes risks.”

Wrong, Caroline, the

American public is very angry at capitalism. The young see their

chances to go to college dimmed; the middle aged see their jobs

disappearing with no opportunity to recover from the loss. The seniors

are suffering with crippled retirement earnings. From a life of

peaceful, golden years to stress and fear for tomorrow, all courtesy of


“They like President Barack Obama and want him to

succeed. They want increased regulation of the financial sector,

especially since they’re on the hook for past mistakes.”


damn right there, but it’s not Obama they like near as much as the Bush

administration, which they hated. They would accept anyone, including

Homer Simpson, if he promised to rescue us from this quagmire of

capitalist crime and corruption.

“That said, the public doesn’t

want government calling the shots. They understand — at least they

should — that prices are a better way of allocating the economy’s

scarce resources than government diktat. (If government was good at it,

the Soviet Union would be flourishing.)”

The public doesn’t want

the government calling the shots? You mean after the bang-up job Wall

Street has done? What are you smoking, Caroline? And prices? You mean

the $5.00 dollar a gallon fuel and 26% interest rates on credit cards,

the adjustable rate mortgages that helped us into this mess? Or the

rising food prices in the face of a collapsing economy? Have you been

to the grocery store lately? Food price are up on grain items as much

as 30%. Then, Caroline, you fall back on the worst reason to continue

doing anything, “We’re no worse than those guys!” The Soviet Union’s

economy failed once while this capitalist utopia fails again and again

and again.

“Government is nothing more than a collection of

individuals acting in their own — yes, their own — self-interest, in

much the same way that Wall Street does. The only difference, according

to advocates of public choice theory, is that governments make public,

not private, choices: They choose for us, in other words.”


we aren’t free to reject those choices. Whereas transactions in the

private sector are voluntary, the government coerces us (threat of

imprisonment) to pay for goods and services via taxes.”


you’re going to get saddle burns from riding that Trojan horse. You

compare Washington to Wall Street while forgetting that if we don’t

like Washington we can throw them out, but if we don’t like Wall

Street, that’s too bad. We forfeit our jobs, our futures, and then pay

their bills to boot, while you preach about free choice. Don’t be


Been to the doctor lately? “Sorry, your doctor is not

in today. Would you like to come back in two weeks?” or, “If this is a

Workman’s Comp injury you’ll have to go to the clinic across town. I’m

sorry, we don’t accept that brand of insurance.”

But there is a simpler answer, Caroline, for what you are trying to convince us of. You are in stage two: anger.


is not my intention to exonerate Wall Street for its role in sinking

the financial system. Nor do I wish to excuse the behavior of banks on

the dole.”

“Wall Street has always had a deaf ear when it

comes to what passes for acceptable behavior. In bad times, the

deafness is even more glaring. Client retreats at high-end resorts,

million-dollar office renovations, corporate jets shuttling board

members across the country: Even before these activities were a matter

of public interest (and taxpayer dollars), they were a manifestation of

bad taste.”

“Still there’s something disconcerting, even

comical, about politicians trying to cap compensation while ‘making a

bunch of people feel better by beating up on rich people,’ says Jim

Bianco, president of Bianco Research in Chicago. ‘There’s a mechanism

for correcting the excesses. It’s called the stock price and the board

of directors.'”

Now you’re just getting sad, Caroline. Millions

of people losing jobs and homes, children dying because their parents

can’t keep the heat on, families abandoning their pets because they

can’t afford to feed them anymore, and you want sympathy because a

bunch of people are beating up on the rich. Gee, I’m so sorry, it sucks

to be you! Welcome to stage three: bargaining.

“If you want to

punish Wall Street, Bianco says, that’s how to do it. Under normal

circumstances, when stock prices get too low relative to companies’

expected earnings, investors step in to buy.”

“Not now, Bianco

says. ‘Private money will come back when it knows it can have a say in

running a company,’ not when there’s a good chance the government will

swoop in and take it over.”

Caroline, don’t Bogart that joint,

my friend, pass it over to me! Stock prices get too low? Goodyear Tire

and Rubber cut their pension benefits to their retirees and their stock

prices soared while their earnings declined. All hail capitalism, this

is great! Maybe a free market euthanasia program might help to rebuild

the economy!

“Here’s where government’s best intentions to make things better have made them worse.”


necessary condition to attract private capital back is a consistent and

predictable strategy by the government,’ writes Luigi Zingales,

professor of entrepreneurship and finance at the University of Chicago

Booth School of Business, in a commentary for the Center for Economic

Policy Research. ‘Without it any other effort is in vain.’”


money will come back when they are sure that this train wreck is over.

You and your free market mouseketeers put your toolbox on the throttle

of the locomotive; then you want to blame the track or the weather or

anything but what this is. This is a rock star overdose of excess, you

have and continue to defend the Bastille with shot and shell as you

choke on the vomit of your own excess. You don’t want the doctor called

because it will end the party and good times for the roadies and the

groupies and the hangers on. You haven’t reached step four yet because

you’re not through with a certain part of step three: blaming others.


weakness of the capitalist system is not that it doesn’t work

economically but that it’s hard to sustain politically,’ Zingales says.

“With ordinary Americans losing their jobs and elite bankers

begging for help, political intervention is a given, he says. In spite

of good intentions, it may end up impeding the functioning of the


“OK, so capitalists screwed up, to borrow a phrase

from the new president. So did home buyers who thought there was a free

lunch. And mortgage lenders who were slinging the hash.”

“That’s not a reason to implicate the entire system, unless you think the government can do it better.”


capitalist system stumbled and fell,’ Bianco says. ‘It’s just like

teenagers, who do stupid things. Sometimes the solution isn’t putting

restrictions on them but letting them pull themselves up.’”


this for a twist? For the market to begin to function normally,

investors need a guarantee that the government won’t do anything, not a

promise that it will.”

OK, so capitalists screwed up? That’s

all you got? Screwed up again, you mean, and it is a reason to

implicate the entire system. The system was in control, the system

offered the free lunch, the system made the bad loans, the system

advertised and enticed consumers to come in and make them. It was the

system’s intention to profit from them and then to bundle those loans

with good loans to defraud investors and mis-lead insurance companies

with the sole intention of profiting from it. But to your way of

thinking everyone is to blame except the system.

Just like

teenagers. But you, Caroline, resent it when the grown ups, you know,

the elected representatives of the people, try to discipline those

teenagers. The reason the capitalist system is hard to sustain

politically is because it has no soul. It doesn’t care for the people

in its charge.

It lives in an academic aura of personal

detachment; we the people are expected to accept lost livelihoods and

destroyed futures with an, “Oops, we screwed up.” But with this

detachment from reality, capitalism becomes the engine of personal

aggrandizement with no concern for the wellbeing of the people

whatsoever. It is merely medieval feudalism disguised as a global

economy. The peasants feed from the crumbs off the king’s table while

the king offers us protection and assurances that he is far better to

us than the Vikings would be.

But, Ms. Baum, you are locked in

stage three, bargaining, while we the public have moved on to stage

four, depression, and even stage five, acceptance. You are like Norma

Desmond in Sunset Boulevard; you’re living in the past, and dreaming it

to be the future. The body of the economy is floating face down in your

swimming pool of excess. Yet you slowly walk down the stairs to the

reporter’s flashbulbs oblivious that you are guilty of killing it

saying, “They love me, they really love me!”

No, they hate you,

they really hate you, and if President Obama had said yesterday at his

Elkhart Indiana town meeting, anyone who kills Caroline Baum will get a

good job with full benefits, you’d have been a grease spot before

sundown. Congress may misread the anger but you, ma’am, are clueless.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.