Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Meaning of the Economic Crisis

Sitting in a craft talk at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival last week I was reminded of the importance of using an actual hardcover big book dictionary (rather than my widget or an internet site) to look up words. Sharon Olds was discussing how she came to write odes, specifically odes to common things, ala Neruda. While her odes have hilarious and unnerving topics -- tampons, composting toilets and my favorite, the merkin (look it up) -- they are things of our lives, women's lives in particular.

That got me thinking about our current economic crisis, especially the vocabulary of that crisis, so expressive of the obfuscating characteristic of our capitalist system. So for all of us who have been too freaked out by Bush administration histrionics to consult our American Heritage (the source of the following) or Merriam-Webster, here are six definitions for bail out and a few more for rescue:

(1) bail n. Security, usually a sum of money, exchanged for the release of an arrested person as a guarantee of that person's appearance for trial;

(2) to transfer (property) to another for a special purpose but without permanent transference of ownership;
(3) informal - to extricate from a difficult situation: always bailing you out of trouble.
(4) v. tr. To remove (water) from a boat by repeatedly filling a container and emptying it over the side.
(5) phrasal verb: bail out -- To parachute from an aircraft; eject. (6) To abandon a project or enterprise.

So it seems we have let the bondsmen take out a $700 billion lien to guarantee some people with bad gambling problems (investment specialists who brought us the collateralized debt obligation) won't abandon the leaking boat that is the U.S. economy. I bet they miss their day in court, and I expect we will be left holding the (empty money) bag.

And now on to rescue...

Rescue tr. v. To set free as from danger or imprisonment; save. See synonyms at save1. In that section th AHD says "rescue usually implies saving from immediate harm or danger by direct action..."

I like synonyms. Here's one other definition listed at save: to set free from the consequences of sin; redeem.

The other way to think about the $700 billion bag of money the Congress has entrusted to the Secretary of the Treasury Paulson is as a ransom to release our flagging economic futures frfrom the piratical behavior of sub-prime mortgage lenders. Or one could see the Paulson Plan as a kind of modern day indulgence for the expiation of grave sin. In this case we have purchased almost a trillion dollar's worth of forgiveness for the banking industry, which is too poor these days to buy its own self out of trouble, with the sincere hope that they will straighten up and behave.