shock me like an electric eel
all along the eastern shore
put your circuits in the sea
this is what the world is for
you can feel it in your mind
oh you can do it all the time
plug it in, change the world
you are my electric girl.
Well yes, I can't think of any better way to introduce a Janet Albrechtsen column than to revisit the fresh, vital stylings of MGMT (and isn't good to know that the kids are still celebrating acid visions of pretty boys in pop bands in an idyllic magic mushroom grove, and moons, and sweet young things prancing in the forest, and dayglo paint that positively reeks of Haight Ashbury crossed with a rave, and early Prince crossed with a tad of T Rex, Midsummer Night's Dream and Tolkien. Yes, all you right wingers, you've lost your children, at least until they mature and turn into decent capitalists).
So what's our electric girl Albrechtsen up to this week? How's she going to fry the minds of her mortal enemies, slackers, socialists, dung beetle unionists, hairy arm pit environmentalists, and hippies prancing about in muslin?
Well she's cunning - first the header hints at a soft leftie endorsement of that wimp Obama. Cunning eh? Cap on executive pay? Bring it on!
Then she quotes some figures from a chappie called Barry Ritholtz who provides some inflation adjusted figures for assorted things like the Marshall Plan, the Louisiana Purchase, the Race to the Moon, the New Deal, the Vietnam War and the Korean war. She also quotes the invasion of Iraq as inflation adjusted to US$597 billion. Oh so that US$3 trillion figure for Iraq was just a figment of leftists' imaginations. Funny that, Don Rumsfeld must have been right all along (what's that you say, he's trying to catch buses these days?)
But okay let's go with her borrowed calculations. Mathematics needn't be her strength. The point she seems to be making is that the current bailout will cost more than all those fiscally adjusted figures of all those wars and plans put together. Yay, that's some sort of fuck up for capitalism, and all of us contingent on it, right? That's some sort of indictment, isn't it? So we're going to ask all those greedy bastards to give back all the filthy lucre they purloined courtesy of the system, right?
No, no, no. "Ignore ... the cheers from the 'greed is bad' crowd", says our Janet. The marketplace, according to her economics advisor Nicole Gelinas, has already worked out abundant ways to bypass things like government caps (well d'oh, they just kept paying themselves bonuses until a few petulant bureaucrats got upset). Yes, yes, yes, it's all in place, by using shares, or by passing cash payments, in a compensation package. Greed is back already, greed is good, and all you mug punters are paying for it.
Oh give me greed, lots of greed, under starry skies, don't fence me in.
It's led to a really good result, and greed will make it even better, once we kick that pesky ol' government back out of the way.
Firstly, companies eager to tap into taxpayer dollar handouts may think again, if they believe that these sorts of caps will make them uncompetitive in the market place for talent. And that is precisely what would happen. Why would the smartest guy on Wall Street want to work hard to get a sick company back into good health for peanuts?
Well indeed and there's so many smart guys on Wall Street, I'm mildly surprised there's any sick companies at all. I'm even a tad surprised there's a recession verging on a depression requiring any government activity at all. I mean, let's re-hire or just keep on at mega salary and bonus level all the dumb fuck clever dicks who screwed up in the first place, because gee they were collecting billions in bonuses. They must be really sharp.
Moreover, Obama's new caps will see these companies operating in a weird place, propped up by government, subjected to government-mandated limits and yet trying to compete in the free market. It won't work. Companies are either private (accountable to shareholders, creditors and customers) or public (accountable to their government owners).
Except of course for all those quangos and mangoes so beloved of the market place who've managed to joint venture with government or take over government assets or otherwise fuck over public activities all in the holy name of privatisation. But Janet's right as always, the free market has worked so bloody well, it's strange to see every bank in America (and a fair few in Britain and Europe) acting like some pale imitation of the Chinese financial system (and what would the Chinese know about regulation, their system is communist and completely fucked compared to the glories of the United States).
Obama's bailout and cap beasts will be the corporate equivalent of confused transexuals, not quite sure what they are or to whom they are accountable. That confusion will only make recovery more difficult.
Dearie me, why did she have to bring Ann Coulter into the discussion? That's if you're looking for confusion. The transsexuals I know (and I know a few) have a very clear idea of who they are, why they feel how they feel, and how first of all they're accountable to themselves (and how they have to deal with the condescending sniggers of the likes of Albrechtsen). But then Albrechtsen is never short of bad taste metaphor if it makes her sound like the toughest bitch on the block. Go girl. Bet you give those nasty pansies a right royal bollocking when they need it.
Secondly, governments may, hopefully, realise the true price of their intervention. Bailouts are expensive enough in direct dollar terms. But consider the indirect costs: making those companies uncompetitive by imposing different rules on them is a powerful reminder of the unintended consequences that so often flow from governments eager to intervene.
So bring on the pay caps. Even Obama's feeble cap limits come with a sting. The sooner we remember that the government should get out of the business and then trying to run them, the better.
Like it's all the fault of government, this desire to intervene. Like government just so wants to run broken down, busted, fucked up banks.
Okay, here's how I remember it happening. Assorted institutions, especially financial, took a number of really stupid risks, and gambled in ways that brought them down (look no further than Detroit for inept management in another field). The US federal government didn't invite them to fail, didn't invite them to come begging for money in their private fucking jets, no less.
In fact, it all started under Bush's watch. So what were Bush and Obama to do? Sit on their thumbs, twiddle them (hard to do while sitting) or make some attempt to stop the most vicious recession since the thirties turn into the most vicious depression since god knows when?
Here's an idea. Tell me just how good business is at running business, and then explain how the current warlords of financial institutions in America shouldn't be taken out and shot, or at least hung from the nearest lamp post. Or at least have the sort of caps people impose on people on the dole, in a bid to force them out to do a decent job for a decent day's pay. Then as soon as we can kick these dole bludgers back into the world, we can all say hello to a brand new world in which the free market operates like a Swiss watch (unless of course it's like the Patek Phillippe I picked up in Canal street in NYC for US$30).
Yeah, let it all go bust, let it all fuck up. The ones suffering now are poor people who believed in the free market dream and the likes of Albrechtsen. Fuck them, they're like confused male heterosexuals trying to work out why they're suddenly drawn to men (or women as the case may be).
Now sing along:
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
Well I left home just a week before
And I'd never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said dear boy I'm gonna make you a man
Well I'm not the world's most masculine man
But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man
And so is Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo lola lo-lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
And why not stare into this image of a dayglo tongue sticking out of the moon while you're thinking of electric eels, humming Lola, and brooding about Janet Albrechtsen and the current financial meltdown?