Monday, November 17, 2008

Senator Inhofe and the Year America Was Suckered

Dan Friedman just sent me Jim Myers's excellent Tulsa World article which quotes Senator Jim Inhofe as complaining that:

"Congress was not told the truth about the bailout of the nation's financial system and should take back what is left of the $700 billion 'blank check' it gave the Bush administration.

"'It is just outrageous that the American people don't know that Congress doesn't know how much money he (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson) has given away to anyone,' the Oklahoma Republican told the Tulsa World.

"'It could be to his friends. It could be to anybody else. We don't know. There is no way of knowing.'"

I teach classes called "Conflict and Negotiation" and "Managerial Skills" in which I go over how to identify and avoid confidence schemes.

This has been a year of confidence. First, we had the Obama campaign arguing that we should take Obama's bona fides on trust and that he was serious about his slogan "change" even though he and his pissant propagandists at the New York Times had no clue as to what it meant.

Then, we had Hank Paulson and the Bush administration tell the American public that a "bailout" was necessary and that Congress needed to give Paulson $750 billion, but no one could quite explain for what or why.

Senator Inhofe raises some red flags that are characteristic of con men's tactics. First, one tactic is to say that the deal needs to be made right away. Paulson did that. Second, there's an avoidance of details, or blithe explanations of the details. "Change". "Crisis". Who needs to know why? Third, inevitably the con artist calls for "trust". "Trust me, I'm for change." "Trust me, I'm an American citizen." "Trust me, there's a financial crisis."

Jim Myers does a good reporting job but why does Senator Inhofe remind me of Jim Chanos, the hedge fund investor who sold Enron short in 2000, a year before the firm collapsed, when everyone, including the editors of the Times and five casewriters at the Harvard Business School were touting it as the most "creative" company?

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