My newspaper column is a one-act play about assigning blame for the financial meltdown. It's billed as A Tragedy Played as Farce. You can read the whole thing after the jump.
News & Record
Feeling the Elephant, or The Blame Game: A Tragedy Played as Farce
The curtain rises on an opulent building, which is afire. Many rooms in the building have been destroyed, and the structure is in evident danger of collapse, an eventuality that seems likely to ignite the entire neighborhood. On the street, people are arguing over the best way to put it out, while others debate the cause of the conflagration.
Fire Chief Paulson: Let's spray it with money. Townspeople, empty your pockets!
The Congress of Firefighters: OK!
Paulson's cronies: Huzzah!
Voices from the crowd: Let it burn! Fighting fires isn't even your real job.
An older gentleman appears, wearing a home-made superhero costume held up by campaign suspenders. It is John McCain.
McCain: Here I come to save the day! The building is not as fundamentally strong as I said it was just days ago.
The firefighters look at him briefly, then fall to arguing amongst themselves with fresh vigor. The fire continues to burn.
A man stands across the street, watching from a safe distance. It is Barack Obama. The mayor of the town, Mr. W. Bush, tries to get someone to return his phone calls.
An Economist: Pouring money onto a pile of burning money seems unlikely to fix the problem.
Another Economist: No, but we should do it anyway, to show that we are serious about fighting fires.
Voices from the crowd: Now the credit taps back at our houses won't turn! Do something!
The Firefighters: We have decided to spray the burning building with money. Prepare for a huge hosing!
A One-Eyed Man: This is all the fault of Fannie and Freddie, the fat and lazy couple who lived on the ground floor. Their candlelit dinners with Democrats started the blaze.
A Theorist: I have learned by studying the YouTubes that the fire was started by the poor people down the block. Thirty years ago.
The Ghosts of Glass and Steagall: 'Twas Gramm and Rubin did the deed.
Gramm: Stop whining.
Rubin: Don't blame me, I was busy counting the money my friends and I made after we ki--, er, after you died.
A Witness: I saw lenders laughing as they torched traditional standards.
Another One-Eyed Man: I saw fellows in top hats and monocles in the penthouse, lighting their cigars with hundred-dollar bills as they murmured occult phrases about collateralized debt obligations.
C. Cox, the wiring inspector: Those guys in the penthouse promised to change the battery in the smoke detector if I just left them alone. So I did!
Voices from the Penthouse: We are deeply confused by our own activities and have put ourselves and you in great peril. Please send up more money so that we may continue.
A Forensic Investigator: This trail of gasoline leads directly back to Mr. Greenspan's delivery truck! That certainly rates interest.
Jane and Joe Public: We lit a fire in the alley out back, along with a few million of our friends, but that was just to keep warm after we lost the McMansions and maxed out our credit cards.
Uncle Sam: Just charge all the repairs to my account. That's what I've been doing for the past eight years.
Everyone stands in a circle, pointing at each other and shouting.
An Urchin squeezes through the ring and clambers atop an empty crate of common sense.
An Urchin: Surely a fire this big has many causes and contributing factors. Your explanations are only contradictory to the extent that you claim they are exclusive (except for the part about blaming the poor people, which is just factually incorrect). If you don't look at the big picture, you'll have trouble putting the fire out, and you'll probably end up with another fire in the future.
The Crowd: Who asked you, kid?
The shouting resumes as the shadows dance by firelight.
© News & Record 2008