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the Bangor Daily News

Borrowing From Your Grandkids

Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. American, you now own a few investment firms, banking and lending institutions, and a really big insurance company.

What a bargain! You practically stole them. You always get a great deal when you go to those "going out of business" sales.

Of course you didn't have to produce any collateral yourselves. You went through your government. And the best thing about the U.S. government purchasing these unstable financial institutions is that they did it the same way these poorly run corporations got into trouble, they used imaginary money to secure the transaction. They borrowed what they didn't have, how ingenious.

Oh don't look so shocked. You know that the government is in hock up to its stars and stripes. And you know that we can't afford this bailout. And you know that all that money the feds threw at the financial problems over the last few weeks wasn't your money or even real money.

In fact, you and your government haven't used a dime of your own money in seven years. Not since your president gobbled up the surplus left to you by your previous president and started running the country in the red.

No, you, Mr. and Mrs. America don't have a cent - you're in debt and your government's in debt and now you own billions of dollars worth of other people's debt.

So, if you didn't bail out AIG, or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or any of the other beleaguered corporations, who did?

Why, your great-grandchildren did.

In fact, you bailed out corporations in trouble - with money you don't have - borrowed from people who aren't even alive yet. And you didn't even consent to this nightmare. You weren't asked to bankroll these free-falling fortune fiascoes. The feds just did it.

But they probably didn't feel the need to ask for money because they can just print more.

In a Sept. 18 Financial Post article, Jacqueline Thorpe wrote: "The U.S. Treasury cranked up its printing press yesterday to help the Federal Reserve extend an $85 billion loan to American International Group Inc., the latest in hundreds and billions of dollars of government assistance that will undoubtedly end up in the lap of U.S. taxpayers."

But remember it's OK because they don't mean you. You've got the war to pay for and the corporate tax breaks to front. Heating your homes is through the roof, and more of you are unemployed, and the interest on the national debt was last year's largest single line item of the U.S. budget, so you won't be getting to any new bills anytime soon.

In fact the National Coalition for the Homeless explains the journey many Americans are on - they call it "Foreclosure to Homelessness: the Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis."

Whose idea was it to increase the number of homeless in the country as a way to pay corporate bills? As you might expect, not so many homeless Americans pay taxes. James D. Wright in his book "Address Unknown" details the lives of the homeless. He found that the median income for homeless people in Chicago was about 40 percent less than the federal poverty level.

Wait a minute. We know the government strategy to pay for AIG: They'll just print money. But when it comes to cranking up the presses for the mortgage companies and the insurance companies, why don't they use the same strategy to help the rapidly shrinking middle class? They could start with your medical bills. The Commonwealth Fund discovered that "one out of five Americans have medical debt - a population that includes many individuals with health insurance." One in five, that's a much higher percentage than the number of bad banks in the country.

For some reason our congressional leaders just don't think is worthwhile to assume the debt of the average worker. So Mr. and Mrs. America, Congress has committed your grandkids to pay for the insurance companies, but not for you.

Maybe your grandchildren would have chosen you over these big corporations; but they don't have any more choice in how their money is spent than you do.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is an author, activist and advocate. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."  Her new novel, The Magic Diary, is due out in late spring.

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