Pelosi's Divine Comedy
Nancy Pelosi has finally stumbled across the truth. Our economy has devolved into little more than comedy -- specifically, the "Inferno" section of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Asked to describe a scenario that could restore her to the House speakership, Pelosi started tap-dancing frantically before instinctively pressing the Democratic Party default button that assigns blame to George W. for everything from our exploding national debt to the heartbreak of psoriasis.
Ominously, she recounted a foreboding September 2008 meeting with then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to discuss the nation's economic outlook. "He took us to the depth of Hell, a place so low that even Dante couldn't find it," Pelosi explained. "Four years ago, the Chairman of the Fed (Ben Bernanke also) said if we don't act immediately, we will not have an economy -- after hearing the description and knowing the crisis we were in as a result of the policies of the Bush administration."
Although Pelosi repeatedly emphasized the exact date of that meeting, neither she nor the attending members of the fourth estate observed that this dire economic collapse came almost two years after the Democrats had regained control of both houses of Congress.
Exactly what had House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inherited from their Republican predecessors when they took over the congressional gavels in January 2007? How about a nominal Gross Domestic Product that would grow by more than 5% that quarter, a Dow Jones index of 12,621 on its way to a high of 14,198, an unemployment rate of 4.6%, and a record 52 straight months of jobs growth? The national debt then was less than $8.7 trillion.
With Pelosi and Reid controlling the purse strings, the national economy learned firsthand what Dante had experienced. The GDP quickly begin its freefall before bottoming out at a minus-8.4% two years later. By March of 2009, the Dow had cratered to 6,626. Unemployment spiked to more than 9%. And with one wasteful stimulus package after another greasing the palms of the all right people, the national debt has almost double to more than $16 trillion.
As Interior Secretary Ken Salazar boasted of keeping his boot on the neck of U.S. oil companies while simultaneously the U.S. Export/Import Bank was distributing $2 billion to Brazil to facilitate offshore drilling there, motorists have watched gasoline prices more than double during this administration's watch.
Under their leadership, and that of House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, foreclosure starts and home repossessions also more than doubled.
All the while, politically connected Democrats pocketed hundreds of millions in taxpayer money by the truckload. Franklin Raines, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for the Clinton administration, is far from atypical. Moving directly to Fannie Mae in 1999, he soon began covering up massive losses in order to justify unwarranted bonuses for himself and other top execs.
After deliberately overstating Fannie Mae earnings by billions, Raines and two other top executives were sued by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight seeking $110 million in penalties and the return of $115 million in bonuses the three had pocketed. In 2008, the government settled for restitutions of $3 million -- paid by a Fannie Mae insurance policy.
At the core of the Obama campaign is the insistent message that his failures should be discounted because of the overwhelming economic mess he inherited from George W. Bush. It is befuddling that so many Republicans (including Mitt Romney, it seems) are so quick to concede a point that is demonstrably untrue. Track the ebb and flow of our economy through the years, and it is stunning how frequently the bad times coincide with Democrat control of Congress, the White House, or both.
It is understandable that former Speaker Pelosi has a special affinity for Dante Alighieri. On his terrifying journey into the underworld, he was assaulted by a she-wolf he could not escape (there is something allegorical here). In his Divine Comedy trilogy, Dante experienced Hell's nine circles of suffering (including lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery) -- all of which seem to thrive quite well within the welcoming confines of the Washington, D.C. Beltway.