N.Y. Times: An economical way with words

Sorry. Had to abandon my post last week to care for an aged ancestor. (She’s doing much better. Thanks for asking.) This very modest offering is just to get my hand back in.

One normally doesn’t look to a New York Times story for bright writing. But I thought Timesman Peter S. Goodman had two great metaphors in his Page 1 explainer of the big federal bailout of the financial system Sunday. In case you missed them:

Of course we would desperately like to have some idea how much this is eventually going to cost the taxpayers, but, as Goodman wrote:

“Under a proposal circulating Saturday, the Treasury could spend as much as $700 billion to buy mortgage-linked investments, then sell what it can as it works out the messy details of the loans. But no one really knows what this cosmically complex web of finance will be worth, making the final price tag for the taxpayer unknowable. One may just as well try to predict the weather three years from Tuesday.

(I also appreciate it when a journalist acknowledges that something is unknowable, as are so many things we’d really like to know.)

Goodman’s second bon mot went like this:

The headlines proclaim that the taxpayer now owns the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with the liabilities of a mysterious colossus called the American Insurance Group, which, as it happens, insures against corporate defaults. Much like the human appendix, these were organs whose existence was only dimly evident to many until the pain began.

Wish I’d written either of those clever things.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Norman Norman on 09/23/2008 - 05:06 pm.

    Who are the true beneficiaries of the “financial rescue?” A short list of non-beneficiaries:

    a. the taxpayers
    b. piggy banks (within reach of parents)
    c. ghosts
    d. pensioners
    e. the poor
    f. Social Security
    g. County budgets
    h. State budgets
    i. Cities and towns
    j. School districts
    k. Anything and everything dependent upon tax
    revenues
    l. People in need of inexpensive loans and
    insurance
    m. Exporters and Importers
    n. Anyone dependent upon services from the
    Federal government,including the military
    o. There are others who are unable to save money
    due to a forthcoming and prolonged recession–
    worldwide.

    The beneficiaries: Very wealthy financiers, analysts and the like on Wall Street. They are being bailed out from the embarrassments of losses, with pass Go cards and who freely collect millions of dollars for their troubles. Plus they receive “get out of jail pardons” for their discreet failures of fiduciary responsibilities. This is a collective price payed by the many for the selfish interests of a few feasting on the trust of all.

  2. Submitted by Rich Crose on 09/23/2008 - 07:20 am.

    Paul Krugman had great line I wish I’d written: “Faced with the financial crisis spinning out of control, much of Washington appears to have decided that government isn’t the problem, it’s the solution.”
    The cause of all the west coast earthquakes are from Ronald Reagan spinning out of control six feet under the California soil.

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