The bailout’s for the banking industry are a failure. I say this because we don’t have a set of goals to accomplish. The government just hands over billions of dollars to the same people to messed up the financial industry and says, have fun, don’t fuck up. As investors in these banks, the public has no oversight, transparency, or accountability all of which the government promises. This is, of course, nothing new with our government, and is why I partially blame the news media.
I was optimistic when David Cay Johnston wrote about how journalists need to change their approach to the financial crisis, saying “let’s not make the same mistakes as were made with the run-up to the Iraq War, and the PATRIOT ACT that so eroded our credibility, in terms of how we cover this financial crisis.” But nothing changed. The news media was incapable of covering such a complex and nuanced story. Same for our politicians. For eight years, politicians and news media have been teaching the public to accept one liner answers and he said/she said narratives. No filter, no analysis, no answers. Should we go to war, not go to war. Should we protect ourselves from terrorists or not protect ourselves from terrorists. The financial crisis couldn’t be broken down to simple platitudes making it impossible for 24-hour news channels (and many newspapers) to fully inform the public.
Without a news media, there is no accountability in democracy. Sure people can vote every couple of years in the polls, but that doesn’t change the system. Public shaming is a powerful tool. That’s why accountability in the bailout matters. AIG has already spent billions on vacations and retreats for the same executives who wasted billions before.
I’m late to the bailout bashing, but felt there are still lessons to learn and things to do, especially since there’s more bailing out to be done (credit card companies, the second round of mortgage failures). First, let’s understand the goals of any bailout. If it’s simply to save jobs, then save jobs (most of the banks and car companies are already having massive layoffs even after bailout payments). But let’s have some publicly stated goals so we, the public and news media, can judge progress. And have the news media follow up on politicians passing these bills. Create websites to follow who’s getting money (banks and politicians) so the public can see the full story.
I’m not expecting change as the same people who screwed up before are still in power, at the banks, in government, and at news organizations. But I still have hope for change.