If you're astonished by all that's been happening on Wall Street, you're not the only one. Here's Contributor Ben Stein:
While we're all doing hosannas about the rescue package for the United States financial sector announced this past Friday, let's remember a few little things.
First of all, we came awfully close to Armageddon. We could have had a true catastrophe that would have had ruinous effects for years.
We have to be a heck of a lot less re-active and more pro-active next time. We don't want to be sitting around until it's one minute to Doomsday.
Second, this crisis - in which a vast number of the nation's banks and insurers were basically insolvent - did not happen by accident. It happened because of the government's policy of deregulation and lack of enforcement of laws on Wall Street happened.
Despite every bit of historical experience of Wall Street, the government trusted them to do the right thing.
Instead, of course, they did the things that made them the most money in the short run - issued oodles of subprime mortgages, and then made staggering bets on whether those mortgages would ever be paid off.
When, as might have been predicted, those mortgages defaulted en masse, the whole Wall Street edifice turned out to be a House of Cards. Many of the biggest, most famous names collapsed, and fear spread across the nation like oozing flood waters.
Let's learn from this. Wall Street has many fine men and women, but they need to be regulated for their own good - and for our own good.
Let's face Wall Street with a certain minimum amount of realism. Let's remember that when they screw up big time, it's always the rest of us who have to clean up the mess - and they walk away rich, of course.
Because this bailout is not free. We and our children and our children's children are going to be paying for it for a long, long time.
The government is already wildly in deficit, and now the deficit is going to be beyond imagining. Once again, we will find ourselves ever more in hoc to foreign countries who buy our debt.
Yes, we escaped the Grim Reaper this time. But it was close, and expensive as can be, and it did not have to happen at all.
Maybe next time we can look at the world as it is, not through the rose-colored, corrupt glasses of ideology.
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