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Tue

02

Dec

2008

Dancing With the Devil
Tuesday, 02 December 2008 06:32
by Stephen P. Pizzo

Did you feel a rush last week as members of Congress dumped all over Detroit automakers, confronting them with their self-destructive, self-indulgent management of America's last remaining super-industrial base?

And how about the shellacking those guys who run CitiBank are getting from the press. Huh? Watching the news this month has been kind of like watching a virtual version of the French Revolution; “Off with their heads! Off with their heads!”

But what about our heads? After all, those high-rollers on Wall Street weren't dancing that dance alone. No siree. They had eager and willing partners. We were like unpopular kids at school who never got asked to dance at the ball.

But the Wall Streeters and Bankers reached out to us, asked us to dance, and we swooned into their arms.

And oh, did we dance! How we danced! We swirled to one commercial hit after another. And we loved it -- and we loved them. They swept us away to a place we had always been told we could reach, but never seemed within reach. But, as long as we danced, they lavished those things on us.

“But,” we sniffled, “we can't afford your SUV's?"


Forgetaboutit. GMAC to the rescue with generous financing. "Four years too short, payments too high? You worry too much my dears,” they crooned, “We''ll extend it to six years, eight years if that works better for you.”

You said you'd also love one of those new flat screen TVs, but didn't have the dough?

“There you go again, dears” they reassured, “Here, take this CitiBank credit card and go get one today. Hey, while you're at it, pick up a second one for the kid's room. You guys deserve it. Enjoy!”

And we did. Did we ever. It was intoxicating be out there on the ballroom dance floor with everyone else -- for once. One by one, we were asked to dance as the bankers worked their way down the list to the lessers of us, the ones they wouldn't even allow to open a checking account just a few short years before.

In sort order there were almost no wall flowers left. Everyone was dancing, and dancing, and dancing -- to an ever manic beat.

And what's the American dream without an American home, a place to put all that stuff, with a two-car garage, fenced backyard, room for a pet --and a boat?

Ah, you replied, flapping a teary eye, “We'd love to own our own house, but we don't the money for a down payment?”

“Poor dears,” they replied. “You have a right to your own home. It's right there in the US Constitution -- something about the pursuit of happiness. And we're here for you help you claim your rights. We'll lend you the down payment as well. Go buy a house.”

“That's very nice of you, we replied, “but we tried and your bank said we don't make enough money to afford the monthly payments.”

“What?” the bankers were shocked. Simply shocked. “Well! That's outrageous. That's discrimination, that's what it is. We'll take care of that. Just tell our loan officers what they want to hear. They just need a number to put in the box marked 'Income” to show the regulators. Never mind if it's not true. Your new house is going to go up in value every day you own it, so don't worry about it. We'll keep the payments so low your kid's lemonade stand could cover them. Then you can sell it and make a bundle. I mean look around us, everyone's doing it.”

And we did look around us, and indeed, everyone was doing it, spinning, turning and flipping. The dance floor was really heating up now, baby. It was dance with the crowd or go back and stand alone against the wall and watch as everyone else "does it."

What time it was. Skinny girls and fat girls, fat boys, skinny boys, the popular and unpopular all out there on the dance floor furiously exercising their constitutional right to pursue happiness. No child or adult, left behind.

Then, suddenly the lights came on and the music stopped. Someone hadn't paid the band. Our adoring partners, it seems, were really just con-artists. They never loved us at all. They had used us. And we let them. (Hell, we more than “let them.” We flopped on backs, threw our legs in the air and yelled, “come and get it. sailor!”)

Quite literally, they couldn't have done it without us.

So here we are, once again, alone, left to sort through flotsam of a relationship gone terribly wrong. One by one the homes are disappearing, the credit cards cancelled, the cars, boats and flat screen TVs, repossessed. In groups of thousands each week we rejoin the ranks of wall flowers at the American Dream Ball. Only this time with the bitterness that comes with having tasted the dream, only to have snatched away.

Meanwhile our abuser(s) beat us to court, extracting all kinds of sympathy from the system. Claiming they were earnest in their love for us, and that it was that very love and concern for us that led them to over-extend themselves in generosity. And, they tell the court – with straight faces – that they want nothing but the best for us and, with the court's help and indulgence now, they could be in a position again soon to once again extend us a loving, helping hand. To once again invite us to the dance.

It's a sad tale, indeed. But a tale that may feature as many accomplices as victims. Which were you?

Until you're sure, you might want to go easy on the “off with their heads” business.
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