Monday, September 29, 2008

In Times of Crisis, Count On Poets

The broken financial times call for poets. See, almost almost all poets are practical because they can't make a living by writing poetry and must therefore maintain other kinds of gainful employment to get by. Most poets are frugal, both with money and words. They have to make do, so they're used to repairing things, living on a budget, scraping by, solving problems, these sorts of things. Poets tend to be good listeners, too.

If I could assemble some poets in D.C. by, say, Thursday, I know we could pass a sensible fix-it financial bill--one good enough to let everybody gain their equilibrium and start to dig out of the larger problems caused by unregulated greed and capitalists on speed. First of all, we'd all start to get bored really fast, and we couldn't leave until we passed the thing, so we'd pass it and then to to the Library of Congress, used bookstores, cafes, or whatever.

In one column on a piece of paper, I'd list the most serious immediate problems. In another column, I'd list the best ways to solve them, realizing these are short-term repairs, like fixing a tire but not driving on it for a long time. Then I'd break the legislation, based on the repairs, into pieces, and start voting.

Obviously, credit needs to flow again. People need to pay employees and get inventory, that sort of thing. People need help making house payments and hanging on to houses as they go through bankruptcy. This screwy "mark to market" nonsense needs to stop; everybody knows that.

Aunt Sam needs to take over lending-institutions that were run by greedy morons. That can't be hard to arrange. Aunt Sam needs to hang on to these for a while, straighten them out, and then sell them back to the private sector at a modest grocery-store profit so the taxpayers don't get screwed--again.

I'd also have some of my poets call, oh, 50 billionaires in the Gates and Buffett class and ask them to put up 10 per cent of the so-called bail-out, which isn't a bail-out so much as a re-priming of the credit-flow pump and a "calm down, everybody" move. These billionaires can afford it, kicking in 10 per cent would calm nerves, and the billionaires would go down in history as heroes, not just really rich guys and gals. We could have their faces carved on a mountain somewhere, maybe in Alaska.

If it would make the timid congresspeople feel safer, I'd have a different set of them constitute the majority that passed each major section of the legislation. That way, all the praise and blame would be spread out like peanut butter on a piece of bread. You could break down the fix-it bill into, say, 5 parts and have the whole thing passed by dinner time. Then I'd have everybody read Samuel Johnson's "The Vanity of Human Wishes," and they'd get some perspective and learn something about heroic couplets and what it's like to read something written by a person who's brain seemed to work at warp-speed.

There. See how easy that is? Sonnets are hard. Legislation is easy. While no one was paying attention, lots financial folks got greedy and sloppy. That's just the kind of shit people do. They created some problems. Some short-term solutions are required to get people confident again and get some credit flowing. Then we need to create some longer-term solutions, which are more in the novelists' turf.

I'm telling you, poets have a good idea of when it's time (to dredge up a 1960s term) to get one's shit together. George needs to tell that treasury guy of his to settle down, and Congress needs to get its shit together. This isn't rocket science. It isn't even poetry. It's legislation. Sam Johnson's term for the congress-person entities would be "blockheads."

If it's broken, and it is, fix it--no later than Friday. No excuses. Do your damned job. If you can't or won't, call in the poets.
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