Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feeling the Pain

I feel wiped out. And it’s not from the flu. It’s from the financial news. Several people I know lost their families’ life savings that were invested with Wall Street wizard Bernie Madoff. My bank, which has been on a buying spree of failing financial firms, was insured by AIG. Not long ago, the president of the United States—the one with a Harvard MBA degree—was urging Americans to switch from Social Security to private investment accounts. Yeah, sure. The only reliable income I have right now is a Social Security check.

The biggest problem with the current economic crisis—which may or may not be the worst since the last big one—is: Who can you trust? The state of New Jersey, which pays me a small stipend as a part-time college professor, decided recently to mandate that all part-time lecturers chip in a portion of their pay to an Alternate Benefit Program retirement account. Our choices of where that money is invested include AIG and five other firms that I bet no one in government, or anywhere else, knows for sure how they operate.

And now a new administration in Washington is promising to fix this economic mess by doling out trillions of dollars to the same banks and hedge funds who say they lost all that previous mountain of life savings and pension funds. And the new debt is to be paid for by taxpayers like me. Good luck.

I have a modest alternative suggestion. Let all the high-flyers on Wall Street work for $1 a year until they fix the problem that happened on their watch. And when they want to take a break, stop by a senior citizen center and commiserate with folks who get by on less per year than the Wall Street crowd paid for their yacht club fees.

(This article is also posted at Opinion Forum.)

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