Most of us would be outraged, and justifiably so, if a street thug held us at gunpoint, took our wallet and credit cards and then drove off in our car. The outrage would intensify if the authorities, when notified, did nothing.

This is basically what has happened, only on a far greater scale, when the financiers of Wall Street and our “hometown” bankers ruined and defiled millions of American lives and millions more in foreign countries who were tied in various ways to our flawed financial system.

I’ll forego reciting the litany of those made jobless and homeless and hopeless by what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd calls “these ruthless, careless ghouls who murdered the economy.”

The layoffs continue, the closure of American icon stores persists, and real estate values deteriorate a bit more each day. Yet no one has proposed what to do, if anything, with the criminal executives who continue to rub our faces in their excrescences and commit further affronts of excess. We all know of the bailout dollars that bungling executives have been awarded, the millions spent of office decorations after the depression was well under way, and the multimillion dollar bonuses awarded to the totally incompetent.

Wait a minute, make that billions of dollars. Ms. Dowd, in her January 28 column, makes note of John Thain, the former Merrill Lynch chief executive, who awarded more than $4 billion in bonuses as his failed firm went down the tubes and was “rescued” by Bank of America. Thains rationale: you have to give out these billions, otherwise these talented executives will jump ship. Let’s hope a shark gets them the moment they hit the water.

To resurrect an old phrase, “Where is the outrage?” Perhaps Americans are too battered and demoralized to react. As Garrison Keillor notes in Salon, people accept the federal bailout of the financial market “as if it were just one more hurricane.” Americans seem not to be able to focus on the fact that as the banking and real estate markets collapsed, it was our money that was being mishandled, not theirs. All they had to lose were their jobs, and when those were correctly eliminated, their punishment in many cases was lifelong financial security in the form of an abundant bonus. When T. Rowe Price announced today (January 29) that its fourth quarter earnings fell 87 percent, it was the shareholders, not the fund managers, who suffered the most.

A recent television feature told how, because of the current financial collapse, the number of women trying to sell their eggs is on the increase. And if that news doesn’t shake you up a bit, Starbucks is not only slashing 6,000 jobs and closing 300 outlets, it is also not offering decaf unless a customer requests it. Target, the discount retailer where everybody shops, is about to lay off 1,100 employees and withdraw 400 open positions.

And speaking of open positions, the government is sticking by its intention to add or save three million jobs at a cost of $825 million. Do the arithmetic, as Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute did, and it comes out to $275,000 for each job saved or created.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported today that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits has reached an all-time record – 4.78 million recipients. This figure does not include 1.7 million people receiving benefits under an extended program. This would bring the actual number of recipients to 6.5 million. Each week 588,000 Americans are filing new jobless benefit claims each week – a 26-year high.

As Maureen Dowd concludes in her fittingly fiery column, “Bring on the shackles. Let the show trials begin.

CHASE HAMIL

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