Friday, September 23, 2011

Despots and fiddles

Results of Irene

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” — Let them eat cake. While scholars no longer attribute this saying to Marie Antoinette, it has nevertheless remained as the prime example of disdain by the aristocracy for people in need. It exists in classic anthologies epitomizing indifference exhibited by those with means for those who suffer. In the same vane is the myth of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, which has come to mean to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis.

Both of these are finding relevance in our world today. While people try to regain their footing following natural disasters, or struggle to survive following extended unemployment, loss of homes and virtually any means of support, politicians wax on endlessly concerning themselves more with how many points they can gain by confronting “the opposition” than how many mouths they can feed.

In exactly two months time the appointed Washington “super committee” must propose ways to reduce an out of control Federal deficit. Whatever means they propose must be voted on by Dec. 23. As the situation currently stands these people are no closer to reaching accord than when they were convened a month ago. During that month one of the most devastating hurricanes on record destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands and goes on record as one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation’s history.

FEMA is our first-responder agency for bringing aid to such people as those who were wiped out by Irene or by the devastating EF5 multiple-vortex tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri. Every caring American expects our government to provide whatever support is necessary to assist those in need. Instead FEMA is being held hostage by the radical fringe, lead by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who demands that offsetting budget cuts in other programs must be found before approving new funding for FEMA. Such additional funding in the wake of costly disasters has been the usual procedure in Congress in the past, since natural disasters by their very nature cannot be predicted.

On one level Mr. Cantor’s reasoning appears responsible. To go further in debt at the same time that the super committee is trying to come to terms with the future of our nation, seems unreasonable. The costs must be born somehow and the source of such funding is perfectly obvious. When infamous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, his answer was immediate and clear: It’s where the money is. So where’s our money? It isn’t in the hands of the disappearing middle class. It isn’t in the hands of the expanding poor and desperate. The money is where it always has been: In the banks. Yet it is precisely the financial institutions of our nation that are now doing everything possible to manipulate the law to insure that we once again pay for their own mismanagement

They were not shy in asking us to bail them out when they teetered on the edge of disaster. We did so and they repaid our generosity by handing out astronomical bonuses to their “leaders” and then refused to fuel our economic recovery. In the meantime, so we’re told, corporations are flush with fat profits. Why won’t they reinvest? Because there isn’t sufficient demand. And why isn’t there sufficient demand? Because people have no jobs. And why do people have no jobs? Because the people who have money won’t invest it. Does anyone but me see the Catch 22 here?

If Mr. Cantor wants to find the offsets to continue FEMA funding, then he should take a lesson from Willie, go get the money from where it exists and stop his fiddling. Rome is about to burn and we need a lot more than “cake”.
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