Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Will the Real Alan Greenspan Please Stand Up?

Maybe he’s getting senile or possibly scared shitless of his legacy or maybe even confused, as many of we old-timers are, about how we came so quickly from the land of millions to the land of billions.  Billions have become the small-change of American society. 

Greenspan1842But I no longer recognize Alan Greenspan except by his over-sized glasses and grumpy look. 


The man who helped Bill Clinton engineer the first federal surpluses in memory, almost overnight became the man who cheered as Bush gave it all away to the rich and bankrupted us as a nation.  The man who agreed as Clinton paid down the national debt only recently agreed with President Bush's plan to quadruple it.  The only thing recognizable in Alan is that the man who failed to see the dotcom bubble still fails to see the real estate bubble.   That at least is somewhat reassuring. 


A week ago in testimony before Congress, where he comes from time to time to mystify and mesmerize with his rhetoric, he was impatient with their failure to act.  He should understand by now  that Congress is at its least damaging when it fails to act, but he was uncharacteristically short-tempered, nailing Congress in general for putting the budget on an “unsustainable path.”  Well gee, Alan, you’re the guy who told them it was okay.


Jennifer Bayot of the Times quotes him as saying “Congress has promised more than it can continue to deliver and it must quickly make major changes in how it manages its finances, especially as it prepares to shoulder the cost of new programs like the prescription drug benefit and growing demands on Social Security and Medicare.” Change how, Alan?  Retract the tax giveaway that will cost $1.5 trillion (we just slipped again, this time from billions to trillions)?  Stop having unfunded wars?


Oh, surely not!


Alan never suggests how Congress should handle the dough more effectively, just carps at them after they followed what they thought he meant when he said what they thought they heard in between all the dry musings.  But, in his words, he leans toward cutting spending rather than raising taxes. While he’s leaning, we all look around frantically to see what could possibly be cut aside from the war we can’t get out of (now there would be a precedent, just pull out of Iraq because we can’t afford it), the Medicare costs we deliriously committed ourselves to or the money we keep sending to military suppliers for unarmored Humvees.  Talk about a conundrum; we can’t afford Social Security for folks who are living longer because of the Medicare we can’t afford.


I guess it’ll have to come out of housing for the poor or school kids lunches. Those are a couple of constituencies with no political clout.


“I fear that we may have already committed more physical resources to the baby-boom generation in its retirement years than our economy has the capacity to deliver,” said the Man from the Federal Reserve.  I think he meant financial resources rather than physical, unless he was talking about walkers, crutches, wheelchairs and hospital rooms. If he did, I can tell him where to look for the financial resources that have gone missing; just knock on Bill Gates’ door or stop by Warren Buffet’s cottage.


I don’t know what all this congressional complaint is about on Alan’s part.  The fiscally responsible Alan has been held hostage these past five years to the spendthrift Alan, who wanted too desperately to please just one more president.  It’s what happens when you stay in the job a president too far.