Archives for: March 2009, 31
It's an old sexist joke about a farmer and his new wife. I remember hearing variations as far back as childhood. There have been several cleaned up versions. The best, I thought, was in a sermon one Sunday at a Presbyterian Church outside of Philadelphia. Abington is near what was once a frequent route for me between Washington and New York. It was years ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if Reverend Brent Eelman still preaches there. He has a way with effective stories.
That Sunday, he told of two brothers riding a buggy. The horse stubbornly stops, and the older brother calmly says, "That's one." The horse eventually continues but shortly stops again. The younger brother is a bit agitated at the misbehaving animal, but the older brother is placid. "That's two," he says in the same calm voice. In a moment they continue. When the horse stops yet again, the older brother says "That's three" and, emotionless, shoots the horse dead. His shocked younger brother yells at him in surprised outrage. The older brother quietly points his finger at him and says, "That's one!"
In the last few months, President Obama fought for and got temporary funding for the auto industry. It was not easy. Led by Republicans, there was plenty of opposition to the bailout of an industry that had made horrible decisions in the past, and which showed only slight promise of a sustainable future. Conservatives played fast and loose with the truth, claiming workers were being paid nearly three times their actual wage. The President put a lot on the line to get the funding. Essential to the deal was the agreement by the big three to present detailed plans, with concessions from creditors, workers, and stockholders. Everyone would suffer, but everyone would survive.
The deadline was the end of March. The end is today, and General Motors announced that the plan could not be hammered out in time. It seemed to some of us a cynical lack of effort. After all, the government had blustered but had done little to the bonus abuses by the financial industry. When you are too big to fail, government can be expected to hector, then flutter a bit, then give in to save the rest of the nation. The beneficiaries can learn to live with angry glares as long as the dollars flow.
A Republican friend jeers. He has his own story: a parent writes to a stern teacher. "If little Mary misbehaves, please don't put her through the trauma of a scolding. Just slap the child next to her and she will straighten out." He suggests Obama has just slapped someone outside the financial industry.
I think the President finally counted to three. He now calmly points at AIG, the financial wizards clamoring for bonuses, and other stunned abusers. They watch in sudden stillness as the deposed Wagoner dissolves in the gentle breeze. They hear, all too clearly, that familiar rock steady voice: