Bailing out 2008: Dave Barry reviews the year’s news
By Dave Barry
Published: December 30, 2008 at MiamiHerald.com
How weird a year was it?
Here’s how weird:
O.J. actually got convicted of something.
Gasoline hit $4 a gallon — and those were the good times.
On several occasions, “Saturday Night Live” was funny.
There were a few days there in October when you could not completely rule out the possibility that the next Treasury secretary would be Joe the Plumber.
Finally, and most weirdly, for the first time in history, the voters elected a president who — despite the skeptics who said such a thing would never happen in the United States — was neither a Bush NOR a Clinton.
Of course not all the events of 2008 were weird. Some were depressing. The only U.S. industries that had a good year were campaign consultants and foreclosure lawyers. Everybody else got financially whacked. Millions of people started out the year with enough money in their 401(k)s to think about retiring on, and ended up with maybe enough for a medium Slurpee.
So, we can be grateful that 2008 is almost over. But before we leave it behind, let’s take a few minutes to look back and see if we can find some small nuggets of amusement. Why not? We paid for it, starting with …
… which begins, as it does every four years, with presidential contenders swarming into Iowa and expressing sincerely feigned interest in corn. The Iowa caucuses produce two surprises:
On the Republican side, the winner is Mike Huckabee, folksy former governor of Arkansas or possibly Oklahoma, who vows to remain in the race until he gets a commentator gig with Fox. His win deals a severe blow to Mitt Romney and his bid to become the first president of the android persuasion. Not competing in Iowa are Rudy Giuliani, whose strategy is to stay out of the race until he is mathematically eliminated, and John McCain, who entered the caucus date incorrectly into his 1996 Palm Pilot.
On the Democratic side, the surprise winner is Barack Obama, who is running for president on a long and impressive record of running for president. A mesmerizing speaker, Obama electrifies voters with his exciting new ideas for change, although people have trouble remembering exactly what these ideas were because they were so darned mesmerized. Some people become so excited that they actually pass out. These are members of the press corps.
Obama’s victory comes at the expense of former front-runner Hillary Clinton, who fails to ignite voter passion despite a rip-snorter of a stump speech in which she recites, without notes, all 17 points of her plan to streamline tuition-loan applications.
The instant the caucuses are over, the contenders drop Iowa like a rancid frankfurter and jet to other states to express concern about whatever people there care about.
The worsening economy takes center stage in …
… when, amid much fanfare, Congress passes, and President George W. Bush signs, an “economic stimulus package” under which the federal government will give taxpayers back several hundred dollars apiece of their own money, the idea being that they will use this money to revive the U.S. economy by buying TV sets that were made in China. This will seem much more comical in the fall.
The battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton heats up as the two engage in a series of increasingly hostile debates, including one in which Secret Service agents have to tackle a large, angry, red-faced man who bursts from the audience shouting incoherently. This turns out to be Bill Clinton, who is swiftly dispatched by his wife’s campaign to work his magic on voters in the crucial Guam caucuses.
On the Republican side, McCain emerges as the front-runner when Romney drops out of the race, citing “motherboard issues.”
Speaking of losers, in …
… New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer becomes embroiled in an embarrassing scandal when a criminal investigation reveals that he looks like a large suit-wearing rodent. Also he has been seeing a high-class prostitute known as “Kristen” in a Washington, D.C., hotel. Spitzer resigns in disgrace; “Kristen,” hounded by the press and no longer able to pursue her profession, receives a $23 billion bailout from the federal government.
In politics, Obama addresses the issue of why, in his 20 years of membership in Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he failed to notice that the pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is a racist lunatic. In a major televised address widely hailed for its brilliance, Obama explains that … OK, nobody really remembers what the actual explanation was. But everybody agrees it was mesmerizing.
Obama’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, gets into a controversy of her own when she claims that, as first lady, she landed in Bosnia “under sniper fire.” News outlets quickly locate archive video showing that she was in fact greeted with a welcoming ceremony featuring an 8-year-old girl reading a poem. Clinton’s campaign releases a statement pointing out that it was “a pretty long poem.”
On the Republican side, McCain wraps up the nomination and embarks on a series of strategic naps.
In football, beloved Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre retires and embarks on a series of emotional farewell events, several of which are still going on when he signs to play for the Jets.
Speaking of emotional, in …
… tensions run high in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, which all the experts agree is extremely crucial. Obama gets into trouble with rural voters for saying that rural Americans are “bitter” and “cling to guns or religion.” Responding to charges that this statement is elitist, Obama responds: “You are getting sleepy. Very sleepy.”
On the Republican side, McCain gets wind of something called the “Internet” and orders his staff to give him a summary of it on index cards.
In economic news, the price of gasoline tops $4 a gallon, meaning the cost of filling up an average car is now $50, or, for Hummer owners, $17,500. Congress, responding to the financial pain of the American people, goes into partisan gridlock faster than ever before, with Republicans demanding that the oil companies immediately start drilling everywhere, including cemeteries, and Democrats calling for a massive effort to develop alternative energy sources such as wind, the sun, tides, comets, Al Gore and dragon breath, using technology expected to be perfected sometime this millennium. It soon becomes clear that Congress will not actually do anything, so Americans start buying less gasoline.
In sports, the troubled Olympic torch punches a photographer while entering a San Francisco hotel at 3 a.m. with Lindsay Lohan.
Speaking of trouble, in …
… the International Atomic Energy Agency releases a report stating that Iran is actively developing nuclear warheads. In response, Iran issues a statement asserting that (1) it absolutely is not developing nuclear warheads, and (2) these are peaceful warheads. The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China convene an emergency meeting, during which they manage, in heated negotiations, to talk France out of surrendering.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac invest $17 billion in an Herbalife franchise.
In presidential politics, the increasingly bitter fight for the Democratic nomination intensifies when Obama and Hillary Clinton hold a televised debate, moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, that consists entirely of spitting.
On the Republican side, McCain, preparing for the fall campaign, purchases a new necktie.
The big spring Hollywood hit is the film version of “Sex and the City,” which draws millions of moviegoers, including an estimated three men, two of whom thought they were in the theater for the fourth Indiana Jones movie, “Indiana Jones Experiences Frequent Nighttime Urination.”
In sports, both the Kentucky Derby and the Indianapolis 500 are won by Usain Bolt.
Speaking of victory, in …
… Obama finally claims the bitterly contested Democratic nomination when Hillary Clinton, behind on delegates and in debt to the tune of $25 million, including $9 million for hairspray alone, suspends her campaign and declares that she has “no hard feelings” and will do “whatever it takes” to help Obama get elected “even though he is scum.” Bill Clinton, at his wife’s side, nods vigorously, but is unable to speak because of the restraining device. A gracious McCain tells the press that he “looks forward to a spirited debate with Sen. Mondale.” Before he can take questions he is informed by his aides that he has an important meeting.
In economic news, Chrysler announces a plan to lay off workers who have not been born yet. The lone economic bright spot is the iPhone, which is selling like crazy thanks to the release of a new model enhanced with the capability of sucking pieces of your brain out through your ear until all you want to do is play with your iPhone.
The scientific community is elated by NASA’s announcement that the Phoenix lander has detected ice on Mars. The elation turns to concern when, several hours later, the lander detects a Zamboni machine.
Tiger Woods, in an epic performance, wins the U.S. Open playing on an injured and very painful knee, thereby proving, beyond all doubt, that golf is not a real sport.
Speaking of epic performances, in …
… Obama, having secured North and South America, flies to Germany without using an airplane and gives a major speech — speaking English and German simultaneously— to 200,000 mesmerized Germans, who immediately elect him chancellor, prompting France to surrender.
Meanwhile McCain, at a strategy session at a golf resort, tells his top aides to prepare a list of potential running mates, stressing that he wants somebody “who is completely, brutally honest.” Unfortunately, because of noise from a lawn mower, the aides think McCain said he wants somebody “who has competed in a beauty contest.” This will lead to trouble down the road.
In sports, the government of China, in an effort to improve air quality for the Beijing Olympics, bans flatulence.
Speaking of Olympians, in …
… Obama, continuing to shake up the establishment, selects as his running mate Joe Biden, a tireless fighter for change since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1849. The Democratic Party gathers in Denver to formally nominate Obama, who descends from his Fortress of Solitude to mesmerize the adoring crowd with an acceptance speech objectively described by The New York Times as “comparable to the Gettysburg Address, only way better.”
Meanwhile McCain, still searching for the perfect running mate, tells his top aides in a conference call that he wants “someone who is capable of filling my shoes.” Unfortunately, he is speaking into the wrong end of his cellular phone, and his aides think he said “someone who is capable of killing a moose.” Shortly thereafter McCain stuns the world, and possibly himself, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a no-nonsense hockey mom with roughly 114 children named after random nouns such as “Hamper.”
The Olympic games are dominated by swimmer Michael Phelps, who wins eight gold medals, thus putting himself on a sounder financial footing than the U.S. Treasury. China wins the gold-medal count, although critics charge that some of China’s 11-year-old female gymnasts are under the minimum age of 16. Chinese officials refute this charge by noting, correctly, that they have tanks.
Elsewhere abroad, war breaks out between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, serving as a stark reminder that, in an increasingly uncertain world, we, as Americans, have no idea where these places are.
Speaking of uncertainty, in …
… the Republican convention gets off to a tentative start in St. Paul, Minn., when Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are unable to attend, partly because of Hurricane Gustav, and partly because the organizers told them that the convention was in Atlanta. The mood improves when Palin dazzles the delegates with her winning smile, detailed knowledge of what is on the teleprompter, and spot-on imitation of Tina Fey. The next night, McCain, formally accepting the nomination, pledges to run “a totally incoherent campaign.” None of this is reported in the media because the entire press corps is in Wasilla, Alaska, investigating rumors that Palin once dated a yeti.
But the presidential campaign is soon overshadowed by the troubled economy. The federal government is finally forced to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after they are caught selling crack at a middle school. But that is not enough, as major financial institutions, having lost hundreds of billions of dollars thanks to years of engaging in practices ranging from questionable to moronic, begin failing, which gives the federal government an idea: Why not give these institutions MORE hundreds of billions of dollars, generously provided by taxpayers?
And so it comes to pass that in …
… Congress passes, and Technically-Still-President Bush signs, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and everyone heaves a sigh of relief as the economy stabilizes for approximately 2.7 seconds, after which it resumes going down the toilet. As world financial markets collapse like fraternity pledges at a keg party and banks fail around the world, the International Monetary Fund implements an emergency program under which anybody who opens a checking account anywhere on Earth gets a free developing nation.
The economy dominates the presidential campaign, with the focal point being “Joe the Plumber,” an Ohio resident who asks Obama a mildly confrontational question about tax policy and within hours is more famous than the Dalai Lama. He draws intense scrutiny from the news media, which, using investigative reporters borrowed from the Palin-yeti beat, determine that “Joe the Plumber” is in fact (1) not named Joe, (2) not a plumber, (3) a citizen of Belgium, and (4) biologically, a woman.
In the presidential debates, McCain, looking and sounding increasingly like the late Walter Brennan, cites Joe the Plumber a record 847 times while charging that Obama’s tax policies amount to socialism. Obama, ahead of McCain by double digits in the polls and several hundred million dollars in money, skips the debates so he can work on his inaugural address. The New York Times declares his performance “masterful.”
In noneconomic news, a Las Vegas jury convicts O.J. Simpson on 12 counts of being an unbelievable idiot. He faces more than 60 years in jail, which could end his relentless quest to find the killer of the people he stabbed to death in 1994.
In sports, the entire nation rejoices as the World Series is won, yet again, by a team other than the New York Yankees.
Speaking of winning, in …
… Obama, in a historic triumph, becomes the nation’s first black president since the second season of “24,” setting off an ecstatically joyful and boisterous all-night celebration that at times threatens to spill out of The New York Times newsroom. Obama, following through on his promise to bring change to Washington, quickly begins assembling an administration consisting of a diverse group of renegade outsiders, ranging all the way from lawyers who attended Ivy League schools and then worked in the Clinton administration to lawyers who attended entirely different Ivy league schools and then worked in the Clinton administration.
But the hopeful mood is dampened by grim economic news. The stock market plummets farther as investors realize that the only thing that had been keeping the economy afloat was the millions of dollars spent daily on TV commercials for presidential candidates explaining how they would fix the economy. As it becomes increasingly clear that the federal government’s plan of giving hundreds of billions of dollars to dysfunctional companies has not fixed the problem, the government comes up with a bold new plan: give more hundreds of billions of dollars to dysfunctional companies. Soon the government is in a bailout frenzy, handing out money left and right, at one point accidentally giving $14 billion to a man delivering a Domino’s pizza to the Treasury building.
More and more companies seek federal help, among them the troubled “big three” auto makers, whose chief executives fly to Washington in three separate corporate jets to ask Congress for $25 billion, explaining that if they don’t get the money, they will be unable to continue making cars that Americans are not buying.
In sports, New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the thigh in a New York City nightclub, using a gun he carried to protect himself from bad things that might happen to him, such as getting shot.
Speaking of bad things, in …
… the National Bureau of Declaring Things That Make You Go “Duh” declares that the nation has been in a recession since December of 2007. The bureau also points out that, according to its statistical analysis, “for some time now, bears apparently have been going to the bathroom in the woods.”
The CEOs of the Increasingly Small Three auto makers return to Washington to resume pleading for a bailout, this time telling Congress that if they can reach an agreement that day, they will throw in the undercoating, the satellite-radio package AND a set of floor mats. “We’re actually LOSING MONEY on this deal!” they assure Congress.
President-elect Obama, continuing to bring change in the form of fresh-faced Washington outsiders, announces that his secretary of state will be Hillary Clinton. The position of secretary of defense, currently held by Bush appointee Robert Gates, will be filled by Bush appointee Robert Gates. Responding to rumors that he also plans to retain Cheney, Obama insists that he has tried to ask the vice president to leave, “but nobody knows where he is.”
In other political news, federal authorities arrest Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod “Rod” Blagojevich after wiretaps reveal that he was … OK, that he was being the governor of Illinois. Everybody is very, very shocked.
But the economy remains the dominant issue, with retailers reporting weak holiday sales as many shoppers pass up pricier gifts such as jewelry and big-screen TVs in favor of toilet paper and jerky. As the year draws to a close, the president’s Council of Economic Advisors warns that the current recession “could spiral downward into a full-blown depression,” leaving the United States with “no viable economic option but to declare war on Japan.”
In another troubling note, U.S. intelligence sources report that Iran is developing “a gigantic rocket-powered shoe.”
The point is, if you have any money left, you should spend it soon.
And happy New Year.
How the “bailout” will work!!
Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each.
The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them.
The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers
and they started catching monkeys again.
Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let
alone catch it!
The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would buy on his behalf. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the
“Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.”
The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys for 700 billion dollars.
They never saw the man or his assistant again, only lots and lots of monkeys!
Now you have a better understanding of how the WALL STREET BAILOUT PLAN WILL WORK !!!!
Here is the third letter I promised you. In my earlier letters I’ve explained “what happened” and “what’s coming.” Today, I want to answer the questions you’ve asked regarding “what can I do to prepare myself and my family.”
The focus has to be on ‘value’ and ‘values.’ These are the concepts that too many of us have forgotten, celebrities dismissed as old-fashioned or politicians tried to convince us were no longer necessary.
The good news is that our current economic mess is manmade. We did this to ourselves by continuing to elect politicians who sold our country to militant community activists, greedy mortgage brokers and Wall Street types who placed profits above anything else. We were all involved, Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We made this problem by choosing to believe the lie that we could have it all and have it right now. But being manmade means we also have the capacity to solve it.
Zimbabwe’s inflation rate, already one of the highest in world history, rose from an annual rate of 11 million percent in June to 231 million percent in July, according to official statistics reported by the state media. Rising prices for staple foods are driving the price increases, making it increasingly difficult for people to afford food. Talks on details of a power-sharing deal involving the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that might halt the economic decline are deadlocked, Mr. Tsvangirai said.
EAST ST. LOUIS-A Belleville doctor is asking a federal judge to bar President George W. Bush from enforcing the congressionally-approved financial industry bailout bill.
Dr. Randy J. Jung filed the request for a restraining order Friday, arguing Congress and Bush exceeded their constitutional authority when passing H.R. 1424, otherwise known as the bailout bill.
“In the spirit of the Magna Carta where the King and government are required to follow their own laws; and in the honorable tradition of the Judicial Branch of government providing checks and balances for excesses of Congress and/or the President, I would like to plead that a restraining order be issued preventing the ‘bailout bill’ from being enforced until after a federal judge has ruled on the above maters which strongly indicate that the Congress and President have exceeded their Constitutional authority passing H.R. 1424 as amended,” the complaint states.
“After reading Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, I do not see where Congress has the legal authority to deprive its citizens of property in the form of taxation to effect the above act and bailout the troubled financial district,” the complaint also states.
Jung argues since the bailout bill is an attachment to mental health legislation, it makes it “extra topical to the spirit and scope of the mental health act” and is an effort to “get around the fact that the U.S. Senate is the originator of a bill raising revenue of $700 billion, which exceeds the rights of the US Senate as indicated in Article I, section 7.
“The U.S. Senate has taken away the constitutional right of the House of Representatives to originate bills for raising revenue; and is assuming that function for the Senate,” the complaint states.
“Sometimes, children are abused by their parent, relative, acquaintance, or stranger,” the complaint also states. “This abuse generally occurs in a milieu of neglect where other adults fail to allege that the perpetrator has exceeded his rights; and exercised his will over the child simply because he is powerful enough to do so.”
U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan and Magistrate Clifford Proud have been assigned to the case. No hearings have yet been scheduled.
The Dave Ramsey Plan
Years of bad decisions and stupid mistakes have created an economic nightmare in this country, but $700 billion in new debt is not the answer. As a tax-paying American citizen, I will not support any congressperson who votes to implement such a policy. Instead, I submit the following three steps:
Common Sense Plan.
A. Insure the subprime bonds/mortgages with an underlying FHA-type insurance. Government-insured and backed loans would have an instant market all over the world, creating immediate and needed liquidity.
B. In order for a company to accept the government-backed insurance, they must do two things:
1. Rewrite any mortgage that is more than three months delinquent to a 6% fixed-rate mortgage.
a. Roll all back payments with no late fees or legal costs into the balance. This brings homeowners current and allows them a chance to keep their homes.
b. Cancel all prepayment penalties to encourage refinancing or the sale of the property to pay off the bad loan. In the event of foreclosure or short sale, the borrower will not be held liable for any deficit balance. FHA does this now, and that encourages mortgage companies to go the extra mile while working with the borrower—again limiting foreclosures and ruined lives.
2. Cancel ALL golden parachutes of EXISTING and FUTURE CEOs and executive team members as long as the company holds these government-insured bonds/mortgages. This keeps underperforming executives from being paid when they don’t do their jobs.
C. This backstop will cost less than $50 billion—a small fraction of the current proposal.
II. MARK TO MARKET
A. Remove mark to market accounting rules for two years on only subprime Tier III bonds/mortgages. This keeps companies from being forced to artificially mark down bonds/mortgages below the value of the underlying mortgages and real estate.
B. This move creates patience in the market and has an immediate stabilizing effect on failing and ailing banks—and it costs the taxpayer nothing.
III. CAPITAL GAINS TAX
A. Remove the capital gains tax completely. Investors will flood the real estate and stock market in search of tax-free profits, creating tremendous—and immediate—liquidity in the markets. Again, this costs the taxpayer nothing.
B. This move will be seen as a lightning rod politically because many will say it is helping the rich. The truth is the rich will benefit, but it will be their money that stimulates the economy. This will enable all Americans to have more stable jobs and retirement investments that go up instead of down. This is not a time for envy, and it’s not a time for politics. It’s time for all of us, as Americans, to stand up, speak out, and fix this mess.