Wait. Time out. Take notice. We are experiencing a new form of national crisis. It can no longer be denied. The United States is now suffering from a crisis of Total Wrongness.
Most people are going to think the trigger was a mea culpa speech a couple days ago on the CNBC money show, Squawkbox, by former Citigroup Chairman and Chief Executive Sanford I. Weill, the guy who invented the financial "supermarket," the banking equivalent of a naked, oiled-up, stoked and stoned money orgy.
Admitting that, on second thought and in view of the global financial disaster spawned by them, totally deregulated money orgies are maybe not the best way to run the world, Weill told CNBC: "What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that's not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that's not too big to fail."
But my own preferred candidate for triggering event came a couple weeks ago when JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon told Fox Business News, "We screwed up." He was referring to Morgan's "London Whale" problem, a loss of nobody-knows-yet-how-many-billion-dollars because JP Morgan's supposedly hugely sophisticated investment "system" turned out to be little more than an unbelievably bad gambling problem.
No matter what started the avalanche of wrongness, now everybody's rushing to get in. Today The New York Times, a newspaper known unofficially around my house as the "The Even Newer Testament," heaps ashes on itself in an editorial, taking blame for having supported bank deregulation: "Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it."
Yeah. Yeah. I see that. I'm sorry. It sounds a little lame, sort of like if the Japanese in 1945 had said, "We now question the wisdom of invading China." But there you have it. Culpa is culpa. Plenty to go around.
I'm too insignificant to merit an entire crow on my plate, but I did nibble a few feathers last year after reading Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon, by Gretchen Morgenstern and Joshua Rosner. They explained in their book how Democrats and other supposedly liberal champions of the people had feasted at a sleazy banquet table laid deep for them with cash and nepotistic job opportunities by Fannie Mae CEO James A. Johnson in exchange for some more of that really good dope, and you know which kind I mean. Yup. Oh, man.
What's important here? My crow, your crow? No, no. We're talking global crow. In that same newspaper, the Even Newer Testament, Paul Krugman has an important column today pointing out that the whole debt-scare got-to-be-austere doctrine that somehow swept Europe and this country over the last two years has turned out to be bullshit.
Instead of sending interest rates through the roof, instead of sending people to empty-shelved grocery stores with wheelbarrows full of worthless currency, the so-called debt crisis, Krugman observes, has produced record low borrowing costs and a splendid opportunity for investment in teacher salaries and road repairs -- the opposite of what we're doing under the current regime of Total Tea Party Looney-Tune-acy.
"The failure of deficits to produce the predicted rise in interest rates is telling us something important about the nature of our economic troubles (and the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the self-appointed guardians of our fiscal virtue)," Krugman says.
So there is my point. Go back over those words, "self-appointed guardians of our fiscal virtue." Who would those be? C'mon. This is not a tough question.
The self-appointed guardians of our fiscal virtue, the ones who wanted us to be austere while they were greased up and stoked, would be the long-toothed cash-o-crats like the Koch brothers who conned us into all this crap in the first place.
I'm not trying to give us an excuse. It's still up to us common folk to take care of the common weal. That's our job. We have to remember that it's our job in this particular country because Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and a bunch of those guys back in the day thought that we the people were smarter than the cash-o-crats, who were called quaintly back then "aristocrats."
Cash-o-crats, aristocrats, same-same. Guys with a whole lot of money. Not supposed to run America. Whole idea behind democracy.
There is where we went wrong. It's our fault for going wrong. But we need to see where we fell off the trail. We fell off the trail when we lost faith in ourselves and in our collective wisdom as a democratic people and started instead leaving everything up to so-called "business leaders."
Those guys aren't business leaders. They're uber-rich pirates. A business leader is the dude you might sit next to at an Optimists Club luncheon who owns a couple Exxon stations and a fast food franchise. He's somebody who understands the nexus between hard work, entrepreneurial know-how and a willingness to take risks.
The people in Washington and on Wall Street who have conned us into letting them run the country for the last decade are not that guy. They're not entrepreneurial enough to spread their own napkins in their own laps. They are missing a big chunk of what that guy at the Optimists Club has. It's called giving a rat's ass about the community. The country.
We all need to do some mea culpa. We've all been wrong. But we need to get right about what we were wrong about. We have trusted the wrong people. We need to trust ourselves again.