What has happened to those conservative Republican leaders whose mantra was "government is the problem -- not the solution"?
Tell that to the once-bloated financial giants now standing in line for whopping government handouts to the tune of $700 billion. And who can forget those who wanted to "get the government off our backs"? Their silence now is deafening.
In the rush for bailouts for the hard-hit government mortgage finance giants, the U.S. Treasury seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and is trying to rescue American International Group, the largest insurer of the world. It allowed 158-year-old Lehman Brothers to collapse, but came to the rescue of the Bear, Stearns, another Wall Street firm.
What about the thousands of suffering homeowners who face mortgage foreclosures? They are at the end of the public trough and almost forgotten in the scramble to protect Wall Street. And what about the failed CEOs who hope to walk out the door with obscene multi-million-dollar golden parachutes and big bonuses?
Isn't there something wrong with this picture?
Both Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have worked out a plan to pass on the price of the bailouts to the American taxpayer. Congress is still scrutinizing the proposal.
The U.S. financial mess has rippled through other economies of the world. The fault rests with Wall Street greed, which brought on good times for the high rollers, who thought it would never end. And it rests with the federal government for its failure to police mortgage lenders.
Republican lawmakers and presidents who abhor government restrictions and oversight because of their anti-government philosophy have put America in a critical financial state.
We should be looking at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt blueprint. People were in despair after the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression slowly settled in. They lost hope until FDR took office in 1933 and told Americans in his first inaugural address that we had nothing "to fear but fear itself."
Roosevelt, thinking of the poor and desperate, created several New Deal programs to put people back to work. He was viewed as a savior at the time by millions of Americans, but he also had bitter detractors who resented his radical steps.
I remember the suffering during the Depression in my hometown of Detroit and the long lines of forlorn men, standing in the dead of winter outside the auto factories, hoping for jobs. The popular song on the radio was "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime." The best-selling book was John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."
Roosevelt was innovative. Some programs worked, some didn't. But many remain today to provide some sense of security, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Labor Relations Act to protect unions and the Social Security system to help the elderly. In the 1930s, 9,000 banks closed down. Today we have to ask: Why didn't the so-called experts see the storm coming in the 21st century?
Ironically, the remaining affluent and the poor are now on the same page with Abraham Lincoln, who said: "Government should do for people what they cannot do for themselves."