Gary Harmon Column November 20, 2008

Mr. Paulson, what do you plan to do with $700 billion?

Dear Secretary Henry Paulson:

Can I call you Hank?

It’s not like we’ve ever met, but hey, how can I not feel a certain intimacy with a guy whose hand’s in my back pocket to the tune of $700 billion?

If we get any closer, one of us is buying breakfast, if you get my drift.

By the way, that one of us is you, moneybags.

Anyway, I can’t help noticing that you seem to be having some difficulty with this whole nouveau riche thing.

Now, all of a sudden everyone is your best friend, everybody wants something from you, and, no, they’re not in it for your mind.

Many people have gone down the dark path you’re traveling.

Take, for instance, Paris Hilton, who similarly was fallen upon by unwanted and undeserved riches purely as a matter of a collision that resulted in the creation of a zygote that grew up to be an heirhead.

Like you, Paris was given a stupendous allowance with no strings attached.

Congress evidently took a page from the Hilton Guide to Parenting when it decided to hand you not a mere bundle but a veritable oil tanker overflowing with thousand-dollar bills.

Those Somali pirates have nothing on you, buddy. They could take your correspondence course, and I say that with admiration.

See, here’s the thing: You have money, people have needs.

Your job, as it was described before the tape burned up, was to deal with things called “toxic assets.”

Now, I know it seems as though we’re venturing back into Paris Hilton territory again, but toxic assets?

Does no one in your business have any sense of irony, much less know the simple meaning of words?

The only people for whom an asset can be toxic are the guys in the rat-poison business, which, come to
think of it, seems appropriate for Congressional types, given the current circumstance.

Most recently, we have learned that you no longer are interested in toxic assets, per se, and are less than enthusiastic about the idea of pouring money into Detroit, perhaps the most toxic asset of them all.

Pleased as I am to know that you recognize this ain’t your father’s used soldmobile, I nevertheless wonder just exactly what you plan to do with all that money.

Of course, if you want some ideas of where to plant that cash, well, you’ve come to the right place.

Now some people have said that you could give every man, woman and child in the United States $2,333 each and have money to spare from your $700 billion.

There are, however, skids to grease, deals to cut, power lunches to buy with hefty tips to match, and people to influence, lots of them.

That takes us down to about $12.63 a head for one and all, which really isn’t much, at least by Wall Street standards, but don’t let that lead you to believe that the people who are footing the bill don’t want
to see something tangible from their, ahem, investment.

At this point, we’ll settle for super-soft seat cushions and barf bags.

Lots of barf bags.


A taxpayer,

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