Is anyone else who regularly reads this blog troubled by the flippant use of the term “bailout” by our government and media? Perhaps your hackles are raised because of the proposal itself, and the language is of no concern. But politicians and auto-executives carefully chose “bailout” to describe what is being asked of the taxpayer. I don’t mean to pick nits here, but let’s examine this word and see whether it’s applicable.
According to the good people at dictionary.com, bailout has the following meanings:
1. the act of parachuting from an aircraft, esp. to escape a crash, fire, etc.
2. an instance of coming to the rescue, esp. financially
3. an alternative, additional choice, or the like, such as, “If the highway is jammed, you have two side roads as bailouts.”
4. of, pertaining to, or consisting of means for relieving an emergency situation.
What strikes me is that the above-listed definitions imply an act of finality. The guy who escapes a plane crash ends up safely on the ground, for instance. “Bailout” is synonymous here with “rescue” or “save.” To a Calvinist, and even week-kneed Arminobaptists, to be saved is to be saved permanently, without need for continual saving. Is that what Congress is asking of the people? Hardly.
Instead of a bailout, what is truly being asked of the American people, strike that, taxpayer is to issue a binding guarantee to the wee three automakers. The 15 billion dollars figure currently being tossed about by Congress is a mere down payment, less than half of what the automakers are even asking for. And let’s be candid, people requesting “bailouts” never ask for what they actually need up front, rather they ask for a less taxing number.
As I understand it, what our esteemed representatives are wanting to do is essentially a three-part plan:
1. Give the automakers 15 billion dollars;
2. Appoint a Car Czar to oversee how that money is spent; and
3. Recommend to Congress what to do after that money is flushed down the toilet.
In essence, then, we have an institution, Congress, that has put its constituents in debt to the tune of trillions of dollars, wanting to appoint a “czar” over three companies that are only billions of dollars in debt, with the charge of getting them out of debt. And they’re serious about this.
I don’t mean to seem curmudgeonly, but “car czar”? Really? Currently, we have a drug czar to oversee the war on drugs, a war czar to oversee the Middle East wars, a cybersecurity czar (nobody’s sure what he does), and even a terrorism czar. Technically, the last czar that ever lived was gunned down by the Bolsheviks, who in turn installed Communism for decades in Eastern Europe. Besides, “czar” seems like too regal a name for a fella in charge of bureaucratic pettifoggery.
Our politicians smother us in encomiums biannually only to heap opprobrious resolutions on us while in D.C. One need not be a sycophantic follower of Rand to repine that if only one piece of advice could be dispensed to Atlas right now, it would be to shrug.