Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Great Executive Ponzi Scheme

When I was 19, I applied for a job I read about in the newspaper. It turned out, the position for which I'd "interviewed," - a sales position for the company Equinox, was not necessarily dissimilar to a Ponzi scheme, despite the disclaimer in the meeting that this was not a "pyramid," but rather a "triangle." Fortunately, I got out of the place before they could get any of my money, but there were plenty more in there who didn't.

For those who aren't familiar, a Ponzi scheme is your traditional pyramid scheme, where the folks at the top of the pyramid get paid while the ones at the bottom get the promise of getting paid by paying those at the top. Of course, those people rarely, if ever, see any return on their investment, hence the problem with pyramid schemes.

When I look at this administration, I see a new Charles Ponzi. I see a salesman, who had charisma and a wealth of political capital, and used used those to sell our nation on a mission to liberate an oppressed people. President Bush and his staff, used the threat of national security, since debunked, that we were in imminent danger of a madman in possession of nuclear weapons. Oh yeah, and he had ties to 9-11 (which has also been debunked, and conceded by the Executive). They argued that the invasion would be easy, that we would be done in no time, and the people would rise up and cast off the chains of oppression and embrace Western-style democracy despite no indication that they were ready for such freedom, and, did we mention, there are vast reserves of oil that would be open for trade, helping to lower gas prices that were creeping up near $2/gallon?

They convinced the first level of investors through charm and threat, either veiled or outright, and those first investors went running out screaming propaganda-like epithets, questioning the patriotism of those who might disagree with their view, a de facto threat to toe the line when an ounce of consideration may have been a better medicine.

The rear-view mirror regularly presents a clearer image than what we see in the windshield, and looking back on four years of fighting an insurgency that is/isn't a civil war, sectarian violence that is supported by Al Qaeda and/or Iran, a "government" that cannot pass its own benchmark legislation, and a nation where violence diminishes only with increased presence by an overburdened American Military that its own leaders concede cannot sustain the demands asked of it, all for an invasion based on premises that have since been shown to be false.

We now have an administration playing the holding pattern, saying "just give it time, and the investment will pay off," just waiting for the end of the administration, when they can board the proverbial plane to Equador, taking his profits and watching those investors they convinced to sign on to his program try to pull together some positive from the nearly half-trillion dollar investment.

Charles Ponzi, after conviction, repeatedly said that those who were sucked in by his plan would have seen their slice of the pie, had they only been more patient, despite the very real fact that there was no way for them to see any return on their investment. This seems to be exactly what the administration is poising itself to do. Wait for the house of cards to crumble, then point the finger at the investors for not being more patient. The Executive has his version of the Keating Five in his appointments to key positions to hold off the regulators providing the checks and balances until such time as he can escape. And, like Ponzi, he still has ardent apologists, insisting that his promise will still pan out.

We did not learn from the mistakes of those who preceded us. Will the next generation sustain the tradition of gullibility?


Just Wondering said...

Excellent post and an interesting comparison! I'm just curious: it sounds as if you think there are grounds on which to impeach this president; if so, that's a bit of a shift for you. Where do you stand on that question?

Steve said...

This is the problem with using Iraq as a launchpad for impeachment: the President was authorized to attack under the 1990 AUMF. Thus any reasons the President used to justify the second AUMF were not for purposes of going to war, but rather to ensure Congressional support (and, consequently, funds) for the invasion.

Because the invasion was lawful, I cannot advocate impeachment under the premise of the President having committed "high crimes or misdemeanors."

Just Wondering said...

I respectfully disagree. The manipulation of intelligence was the equivalent of perpetrating a fraud on Congress and the U.S. public, AUMF aside. The pre-conditions on which to act, legally, under the AUMF were not met. Additionally, Iraq is by no means the only platform from which to launch impeachment. Regardless of the president's belief, his potentially illegal acts under FISA cannot be "grandfathered" into the realm of legality now, no matter how the law has since been changed. I would also like impeachment to go forward in order to determine whether this president has obstructed justice in both the Libby trial and the U.S. Attorney firings investigation. Impeachment, as you know, is not a pronouncement of guilt - it's evidentiary. These questions need answers, in my opinion.

Always a great read over here Steve. Have a good weekend.