Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Outraged By The Outrage

That would be CNBC, our favorite non-source for non-financial news:
On Tuesday morning, it was Rick Santelli's turn to downplay the outrage. The CNBC host of 'rewarding-the-housing-market-losers' fame, urged the masses to show some perspective. After all, this was mere "millions" of dollars engendering the bonus-driven anger, as opposed to the "billions" that AIG has received in bailout bucks.

From CNBC's Squawk Box:
SANTELLI: Now, think about it this way. Maybe I'm missing something. But the outrage seems to be about M's, millions of dollars, right? $165 million, OK?

But I would think that it should be looked at as a pretty big positive, because when you go from the M, maybe you should try to go to the B's, which is the billions of dollars, and maybe that's going to even enlighten it for the T, trillions of dollars. You know, $165 million is like worrying about 16.5 cents, while $165 maybe necessitates a little more outrage. What do you guys think?

Hey, Rick Santelli: I think you’re an idiot. Since you’re busy “going Galt” and all, I’ll take that $165 million, seeing as how it doesn't matter and all. Just sayin’ ...

It’s completely idiotic to say outrage should be proportional to the number of zeroes involved. Hey, conservatives have no problem feigning outrage over “earmarks,” which amount to a tiny percent of the entire federal budget. So excuse me while I get pissed off over $165 million in bonuses to people who need it the least. Mwah.

However, I would like to have a reality-based conversation about this AIG mess. So put down the torches and pitchforks, people. It should come as no surprise that a bunch of greedy Wall Street people acted like, well, greedy Wall Street people. This is why we need strict oversight and lots of strings. Not “free hands of the market” groping taxpayers in unpleasant ways. Remember: “Atlas Shrugged” is fiction, people. Just like “24.”

Look, I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t know what to believe about this AIG mess. There are plenty of folks who think AIG should have been allowed to fail--Atrios over at Eschaton has been preaching that message the loudest. File bankruptcy, reorganize, yada yada.

Others say if AIG had gone the way of Lehman Brothers, it would have taken the entire banking system down with it. And I guess I’m just not smart or savvy enough to know whether these arguments for why the AIG bailout was a good thing hold merit.

I do know that stoking the public’s ire is a pretty useless exercise, but that’s all I’m seeing in the media today. I’m just jaded enough to think that some might be stoking public outrage to boost ratings.

We’ve got some real problems, people, and we need to be clear-headed about fixing them. I’m just starting to doubt if that will ever happen.