Happy Paddy's Week -- Blarney, Blarney, Blarney!

[ Posted Thursday, March 19th, 2015 – 12:00 UTC ]

[Program Note: Finally, our last Irish-themed column, to wrap up an almost-week-long celebration. This one is (I think) the earliest St. Patrick's Day column I ever wrote, but it's only tangentially related to the holiday. Mostly, it's a rundown of what was going on politically roughly two months after Barack Obama took office. Those were dismal days, of course, as Obama and Congress struggled to figure out a way to dig out from the financial avalanche that was the Great Recession. So while not centered around St. Patrick, it's still an interesting reminder of how far the country's come since Obama took office. The things we're fighting about now seem smaller, in comparison, to what we were fighting about politically back then. In any case, enjoy, and please check back tomorrow for an original column by a special guest columnist. And here's hoping everyone had a good Paddy's Week!]


Originally published March 17, 2009

First off, Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

For our non-Gaelic-speaking readers, Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

For the record -- and no surprise to anyone who has made it to the end of one of my 10,000-word columns -- yes, I have kissed the Blarney Stone. It's at the top of Blarney Castle, which is lots of fun to wander around, and to kiss it you have to lean backwards over a death-defying drop of something like ten stories. An old Irishman will hold your legs for you, so you don't fall to certain death, and you better believe I tipped him well for the service! Then, while leaning backwards, you kiss the magic stone (and try not to think about the rumors you've heard of mischievous Irish lads sneaking up there and urinating on it at night).

But kiss the stone I have, and have hence been rewarded with "the gift of gab." So if you're looking for someone (or something) to blame, while endlessly scrolling through my usual blarney, blame the stone. As the Irish say: That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Speaking of blarney, let's talk a bit about Washington politicians. I won't even go into the media's blarney (or, in Gaelic, "shite"), which stinks so badly that it should be spread on the fields to help grow crops. Ahem. No, today, the media is just too easy a shot. Instead I will focus on the politicians.

You know what I have to say to any member of the House or Senate who is channeling fake populist rage over the AIG bonuses? Blarney!

You people seem to think these bonuses just appeared out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever, and nobody could possibly be to blame (except AIG executives, of course), certainly nobody in Congress? Blarney!

You say it's Barack Obama's problem, or George Bush's problem, or Henry Paulson's problem, or Tim Geithner's problem? Blarney!

Blarney, blarney, blarney!

This is your fault. Congress' alone. You did this. And while you squawk and run around like chickens in a barnyard trying to distract everyone into thinking somehow somebody else is to blame, I call blarney on the whole lot of you.

Democrats and Republicans. Blarney and blarney.

I hate to get sanctimonious here... oh, heck, that's blarney too... I really enjoy rubbing your faces in the fact that I told you guys this at the time. Because this all came out of the first vote for TARP, which happened last September. Back then, I wrote the following:

But I will say one thing about the plan that is being floated by Bush and Congress right now -- laws that pass quickly almost always turn out to be bad ones. Think USA PATRIOT ACT (sorry for "shouting" in all caps, but that's the official name of the law, since it's an acronym). Almost every time there is a "crisis" or an "emergency" the politicians in Washington are whipped into a fever of "We have to act -- now!" and what we usually wind up with is bad laws that have unintended consequences down the road that nobody foresees. Because there simply wasn't time to think about the consequences in the rush to passage.

. . .

Think about it -- we're debating a plan which will give mountains of taxpayer money to the same people who three weeks ago were not warning us of imminent disaster. They didn't see it coming. They were, in a word, incompetent at doing their jobs. All of a sudden it becomes a full-blown "emergency" which must be acted upon within days (if not hours) or else the Great Depression is going to return in the middle of next week.

All I'm saying is that with a plan this gigantic, perhaps legislators in Washington need a little time to debate the relative merits of the plan, and perhaps attempt to vet it a little bit instead of just blindly rushing to pass it in the next twenty minutes.

Because -- from my experience at least -- bad laws usually are the ones that pass the fastest.

And so now, here we are. But the fault lies entirely with Congress, with equal blame going to both Republicans and the Democrats who were in charge. President Bush asked for $700 billion with absolutely no strings attached whatsoever. This was his right, as president, to suggest any legislation he felt was needed. Congress' job is to actually write the legislation. And Congress mildly balked at Bush's proposal, and inserted some very weak language which suggested that maybe, perhaps, the Treasury and the companies being bailed out might -- you know, if they don't have anything better to do -- tell us a little bit about how the money was spent. No pressure, mind you, just if you feel like it.

And now Congress is outraged over the misuse of the power which they so irresponsibly abdicated to the Treasury? Blarney.

Congress is supposed to write the laws, and control the purse-strings, and exercise oversight of how federal money is spent. Instead of doing this, they punted. They gave the Treasury (under Republican or Democrat, makes no difference) power that they should have retained themselves. By doing so, they are the ones who bear the entire blame when money is wasted. Congress and Congress alone bears this blame (to their shame).

The only extent that Barack Obama (or John McCain, for that matter) can be blamed for this is by their actions in the Senate at the time. McCain's actions during the week TARP was debated likely torpedoed his bid for the presidency. Obama could have stood up and said "wait a minute, maybe we should write some regulations into this which limit how these companies can use this money," but he didn't. So there is plenty of blame to go around, but President Obama is just using the same framework that President Bush did, and while both their Treasury heads have allowed Wall Street to walk all over them, that is indeed how the law was written, so even they can't be completely held to account for it.

The only ones blameless in this are the few who stood up and demanded better accounting and some strings (tougher regulations) to be attached to the money. And, of course, the freshman members of Congress who weren't around back in September. Everyone else in both the House and the Senate is fully culpable. Their phony outrage is all bluster, meant to distract us all from drawing this conclusion.

And it's all complete blarney.

Blarney, blarney, blarney!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


5 Comments on “Happy Paddy's Week -- Blarney, Blarney, Blarney!”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, here's a vacation picture for everyone to enjoy. Chris preparing to go down and see the parade:



  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:


    After a dismal day at work, this brought a smile to me face! :D


  3. [3] 
    akadjian wrote:

    What an awesome picture, CW. What a great idea to enjoy St. Paddy's Day in the olde country!

    Here in O'Cincinnati we raised several pints at one of the local Irish pubs (it's Irish in the way Irish bars are in America, meaning "not very" ... heheh).


  4. [4] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Good lord!!!

    If the shirt, the hat, or the fake beard don't put you well over the top, that devilish grin does!

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    TheStig -

    I actually changed my shirt before leaving, into an Ireland rugby shirt. The hat and fake beard were given to me by one of my wife's relatives, and I was surprised how much cheesy Paddy's Day stuff was being worn (apparently the Irish decided such stuff is not totally beneath their dignity a few years ago, so it's kind of a new thing, but everyone seemed to be well in the spirit).

    The devilish grin's credit should go to Sir Arthur Guinness, and his fine product. Heh.


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