Posts Tagged ‘plot’

Follow the Money … the Tragedy.

May 22, 2009

Continuing our examination of the plot and cast of our proposed novel on the current financial crisis, we move from last week’s structure of comedy (in the ancient Greek classification) to tragedy. I had a couple of reasons for excluding Barack Obama from consideration as the hero of our Great Crash novel, “Follow the Money”, but now we turn to a consideration of the novel as a classic tragedy, he seems the most appropriate candidate for protagonist. The Greek term tragedy comes from ‘goat-song’ (when goats were used for sacrifice) and one has to admit the man who stumbled into the biggest disaster of the century and inherited it, lock stock and barrel, is the ultimate fall guy. If he’s the goat, he’s at least taking some of the big steps slowly and carefully, so he could yet wind up the hero – even if a tragic one.

As before we look at a simple plot diagram, for tragedy the inverted W. Since I cannot turn this one upside down, I have to ask you to squint at it a bit and imagine it the other way up. The opening of the novel is a deep low point of disaster that waits for our protagonist to begin clawing his way out of the mess. President Obama reaches the White House after the swearing in ceremonies, and before he can kick off his shoes and loosen his tie one of his new staff escorts him to the Oval Office and hands him the Domesday Book – the straight scoop on everything that the Bush administration has done and has kept under wraps. Hoo boy! Talk about ruining your day. Opening page one is the inciting incident.

The name Domesday comes from the book where William the Bastard, King of England in1066, had  complete inventory of his newly acquired kingdom written down. A thousand years later we don’t know how accurate or complete its information was but I doubt its evasions, omissions, and outright lies (bought as bribes to the inspectors) were any worse than a similar record of 2009 State of the USA would be if the incoming president had one to read. Just look at one segment of the US body politic – the movers and shakers inside the Beltway.

The US Congress, where at least 75% of the members have been bought by lobbyists for various public and private interests (as evidenced by the number of Congress men and women who attended the AIPAC convention at the beginning of May) has to vote on every measure the President puts forward. AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a body founded and operating to advance the interests of a foreign country by manipulating the lawmaking and legislation of another – the US. There’s a Trojan Horse if ever there was one. However, since we are concerned about financial and economic matters instead of foreign policy here let’s just take a quick scan of the pork barreling in what is euphemistically called defence spending, where every multi-million dollar contract is split between a multitude of cities and states to increase the political pressure on any honest lawmaker who might want to curtain wasteful spending. What about the earmarks, where extraneous expenditures are tacked on to congress bills to provide enough pork barrel funds to buy sufficient house votes for the measure to pass? Need I go on?

I don’t have any equivalent Senate estimates but note that the cost of campaigning for election to the Senate rose from about $437,000 in 1974 to $5,300,000 in 2000 – and increase of 1200%. (“Parties and Elections in America” by Louis Sandy Maisel.) This kind of money does not grow on trees, and many political commentators have expressed concern that the financial contributors to these Senators have, at least, bought preferential access to the official. The same pork barreling and earmarking as mentioned for Congress apply similarly to the Senate.

When it comes to picking officials for cabinet and other administration positions, the majority of candidates come through a revolving door of top bureaucrats and experts who divide their time between running companies dependent on government largess and overseeing those same companies as members of a government. An example: Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson had to decide upon bailing out the top financial institutions in trouble and gave money to Goldman Sachs, who he had previously headed, and denied it to Lehman Brothers who he hadn’t. Without even suggesting wrongdoing it’s clear the expectation that unbiased decisions are impossible jumps out at any observer.

With these considerations, we haven’t even reached as far as the first action of the President after his jaw has bounced back off the floor. Everything he considers a necessary action needs first to be discussed with an army of advisers – most of them insiders of previous administrations or dependent corporations. Not much leeway for change when the only opinions garnered are those grounded firmly in the way things have always been done. Let’s just note that the first hundred days saw a continuation of the Bush administration’s financial remedies – with a few bits of fine tuning. That the failing and unnecessary war in Afghanistan – a vested interest of both the Pentagon and CIA – has expanded to Pakistan and is now a vital Overseas Contingency Operation. The necessary cleansing of the American soul by holding an investigation into the previous administration’s record on torture has to be set aside as ‘divisive’. Guantanamo still doesn’t have its marching orders. And pulling the troops out of Iraq within 18 months has become the renaming of combat units as support troops so they can remain forever.

I’ll need to continue the plot of the novel further next time – we need to give the President a chance to impose more of his promises onto an unwilling Washington – but it’s sure looking a lot like a tragedy to me.