John Colson: Hit and Run
Aspen Times Weekly
A man on the radio said this week that our economy is based on trust and faith ” trust that our national officials will keep an eye on the machinations of the business types and prevent them from doing anything stupid, and faith that the five-spot in my wallet will have the same buying power tomorrow as it had yesterday.
Oops. Blew that one, dintcha, there, you Masters of the Universe? Oh, and you, Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Paulson and Bernanke, thanks for nothing. And I do mean NOTHING, at least as far as the future of the country is concerned, although you’ll come out of this with a lifelong economic security blanket. How nice for you.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I feel a need to point out that the much-ballyhooed $700 billion bailout is wobbling around like a drunken sailor at 3 a.m., looking for a place to collapse and catch its breath.
The Nation, a national news magazine that has been publishing since 1865 and, to be sure, has a decidedly non-Bushish outlook, noted in a recent edition that the bailout is “dead or dying” because it did not work, and never should have been trusted (there’s that word again).
From the beginning, to resort to a sports metaphor, the bailout was little more than a hail-Mary pass into the economic end zone, in the hope that someone would be there to make the touchdown and save the world. Guess what. No receiver, no touchdown.
The plain and simple fact is that our economy is in the hands of a group of charlatans and self-aggrandizing idiots whose belief in their own mythology has led us to the brink of doom. And those self-same idiots, or their younger second-cousins, make up the panicked herd of lemmings that swarm the trading floors of the world’s stock markets and can’t figure out which way to run in order to save their sorry hides and hideously inflated secret bank accounts in Zurich.
The Nation, quoting the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, stated that “it is probably that many and perhaps most financial institutions are insolvent today ” with a black hole of negative net worth that would swallow Paulson’s entire $700 billion in one gulp.”
The trouble has been that Paulson, Bernanke and their brood have been part of the problem all along ” foxes with not only the keys to the hen house, but with the legislative mandate of the chickens inside to do whatever they, the foxes, wanted to do.
Who knows if the new cadre of foxes ” starting with Tim Geithner at Treasury and Larry Summers at the head of Obama’s economic advisers ” can do any better. Which begs the question: “Are you feeling lucky?” Is your faith in President-elect Barack Obama still strong? It had better be, because he’s going to need all the support he can muster when he takes office in January.
I actually have an idea for him, one I’ve been mulling over since election night, an idea I think could have the dual benefit of helping put America back to work in its own right and restoring some of our lost pride of country.
It has to do with mass transit, specifically with trains, and I think he should immediately invest as much of our national resources as he can into putting us back on the rails and getting us weaned off this dead-end reliance on air transport for all but the most critical emergency needs.
We were once a nation that rode the rails with abandon, and those rails were a hospitable place. Trains went everywhere, or as close to everywhere as you needed to get, and a bus could take you the final 10 or 20 miles.
Trains hauled people and freight in equal measures, and could do so again if the Department of Transportation said it had to be so.
Oh, there’d be a lot of work to be done to make it happen, but that’s what we need right now ” jobs with a purpose. And there would be people to fill them, believe me. Just look at the latest unemployment statistics.
At the other end, once the effort was over and our rail systems restored to their former glory, just imagine the burst of national pride we would experience.
Every other nation on Earth takes pride in its trains, and every other nation on Earth recognizes that the rails are the foundation of a good transportation system.
We knew it once, but we let the oil companies, the tire companies and the auto industry convince us otherwise. We now know they were wrong, and we were wrong. But it’s not too late to fix it.
Whaddya think, Barack?
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In the six weeks since Independence Pass has been open this season, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office already has received 15 reports of semi-trucks trying to or actually driving over the pass.