John Colson: Hit and Run | AspenTimes.com

John Colson: Hit and Run

John ColsonAspen Times Weekly

As I write this, a couple of thousand young people are preparing to descend on Aspen to learn what they can about the colleges they might attend in a couple of years.By the time you read this in hard-copy, the annual Aspen College Fair will be underway or over; this newspaper is published on the day the college fair takes place.In any event, I found it amusing that our headline writers goofed when dealing with a story this week about the college fair and dubbed it a job fair, which is a different beast in most ways but not so different in one crucial aspect. For most, college is a more-polished job training program.And that is the manner in which students are herded through the pens of higher learning, starting with fairs such as this one, on their journey toward becoming good little worker bees in the combine of American commerce. Or, taking another line of thought, in their training to become obedient soldiers in the nations long-standing war on independent thinking and decisive, spontaneous action.It is instructive, or perhaps terrifying, to realize that just as this years crop of young recruits is heading like cattle through the corral gates of the educational roundup, some of their predecessors are hard at work in Washington, D.C., trying to undo the damage done by that self-same combine of American commerce.I refer, of course, to the ongoing financial meltdown of the U.S. banking and investment system, which has undone itself in an attempt to satisfy that quintessentially American prize, getting something for nothing.Weve all been hearing about the $700 billion bail-out proposed by the Bush administration cronies, through which the legions of U.S. taxpayers are expected to hoist onto their shoulders the mountain of bad-faith debt accrued from the sub-prime mortgage mess.My reading of this mess goes thusly: A cabal of shysters and corrupt mortgage hustlers, trying to make a fast buck on the backs of those hoping to buy houses they could never really afford, piled up billions of dollars worth of sub-prime mortgages that any sane observer knew could never be honored. Then, knowing they were holding onto a losing proposition, they capitalized on the deregulated frenzy on Wall Street to unload those same mortgages, packaged as securities, on an army of investors who, like the original home buyers, thought they could make a fast buck on the insanely inflated housing market and get out unscathed.When the housing market began to sag, all these charlatans started turning on each other, refusing to continue trading in the worthless securities and, ultimately, refusing to play financial ball with the investment houses that held them.Hence, for want of a foundation, the whole edifice began to crumble.And now Bush & Co. want us, the taxpayers, to take on what everyone agrees is an unprecedented amount of risky debt to help these scam artists and liars avoid total ruin.What, I have to ask, do those young worker-wannabes think of all this?Are they looking at the prospects before them and wondering if their original plan of becoming a lawyer or an investment banker might not be such a good idea?Are they thinking, instead, that a career in some environmentally-oriented start-up venture might be a better bet?Are they wondering if, as an accountant buried in the bowels of some corporate behemoth, they might escape the kind of fatalistic entrapment that the investment bankers at the top are scrambling to avoid?Maybe theyre looking wistfully at a career in politics, with its cushy end-game of feeding at the government trough as a sure thing. At least, they might be telling themselves, there will always be a need for bureaucrats, senators, presidents and the like, and theyll be assured a paycheck of some kind.I dont know, and I doubt if the worthy organizer of the college fair, Aspen High School College Counselor Kathy Klug, can answer such questions, either.But one thing is certain, as I sit here pecking away to make a deadline and my own paycheck. The march of time goes ever forward, these kids will soon be sent out on their own to make their way, and the negotiators in Washington ultimately will have to come up with some kind of plan to pull the economy out of its tailspin.How all these strands of existence will come together, well only know for sure in hindsight. And the hope is that, when we do, we can at least smile about it.jcolson@aspentimes.com

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