Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

On the eve of our annual day of excess, we are all suffering from the heartburn of years of greed and over-consumption that a ton of antacids won't cure.

In today's Times, Tom Friedman catalogues the gluttons: "People who had no business buying a home, with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties, as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business rating those loans as AAA, but made a fortunes doing so; and people who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing so."

In the traditional celebration of plenty, Americans will be forced to give some thought to how much is enough as an outgoing government keeps pouring money into who-knows-where and to what effect while the incoming crew chafes at the bit with "new thinking" from some of the same people who championed the old.

As Americans sit down to turkeys with all the trimmings in Norman Rockwell settings, they are not living in that 20th century world of bounty and won't be for the foreseeable future.

The President-Elect managed to reassure the stock markets into gains this week, but our government may have to provide more than $7.76 trillion to rescue the financial system after guaranteeing $306 billion to Citigroup--as much as half the value of everything produced in the nation last year.

That's a lot turkey, yams and pumpkin pie.

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