The Business section of today’s Washington Post is an unsettling sign of the times, but in a different way from the usual.
The top story, “Automakers Assemble Make-or-Break Case“, reports on the Detroit 3 CEOs’ return to Washington today, with their hands out again for $25 Billion of taxpayers’ money, this time with a plan, and without the corporate jets. GM’s plan, for example, includes bilking the taxpayers to help cover “its $43.3 Billion debt burden and an upcoming multi-billion-dollar payment to a union-run trust that will cover employee health-care costs”.
Below the fold, “States Want $176 Billion Slice of Stimulus” reports on how the nation’s governors are trying to get in on all the bail-out action. The whiners assembled at the National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia want “$136 billion for infrastructure projects and $40 billion to bolster Medicaid health programs”.
Together, these twin gimme-groups are requesting more than $200 Billion of taxpayers’ money, and it’s not front-page news. It’s not even front-section news. Demands for multi-billion-dollar bail-outs are now Section-D news. This is a little disturbing. These bail-outs are a cancer, corroding the moral health of the nation. The outrage was healthy two months ago when President George Bush XLIII forced through a $700-Billion bail-out for, well, who knows? I’m not sure the papers are even going to report every time Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson changes his story on that one. The outrage was healthy two weeks ago when the Detroit 3 CEOs flew into town without any story at all about how they were going to blow through $25 Billion.
We have to maintain that outrage, that correct sense of violation. These bail-outs are wrong. They are a moral hazard and a perversion of justice, and we cannot let their increasing frequency desensitize us to that.