Sixteen is a number that rings a bell for me, because when I was a boy I used to listen to a song called “Sixteen Tons.” It was a coal miner song expressing the pain and futility of endless work without the possibility of getting out of debt. The song was made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford:
Now I see that the number sixteen has come back into the news in the context of banks. This time, sixteen refers to a secret deal arranged by our government to prop up huge corrupt banks to the tune of $16 trillion dollars. We, the taxpayers would never have approved this deal if it had been made out in the open. Nonetheless, we are now subsidizing these too-big-to-fail institutions for as long as any of us will live, and further, we’ve piled huge amounts of this debt onto the backs of our children. It’s all part of a new spin on “family values”: dumping unimaginable amounts of debt on our children, “justifying” this by the fact that the people who run corrupt banks bought Congress and asked for for this money. Now our children will have to try to work off endless corporate debt. My image is that we’ve just signed them up to work an old-fashioned coal-miner’s job of the type described by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Alan Grayson recently included me in a mass emailing, where he puts the number sixteen into context:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that our Government has handed out $16 trillion to the banks.
Let me repeat that, in case you didn’t hear me the first time. The GAO says that our Government HAS HANDED OUT $16 TRILLION TO THE BANKS.
That little gem appears on Page 131 of GAO Report No. GAO-11-696. A report issued two months ago. A report that somehow seems to have eluded the attention of virtually every network, every major newspaper, and every news show.
How much is $16 trillion? That is an amount equal to more than $50,000 for every man, woman and child in America. That’s more than every penny that every American earns in a year. That’s an amount equal to almost a third of our national net worth — the value of every home, car, personal belonging, business, bank account, stock, bond, piece of land, book, tree, chandelier, and everything else anyone owns in America. That’s an amount greater than our entire national debt, accumulated over the course of two centuries.
A $16 trillion stack of dollar bills would reach all the way to the Moon. And back. Twice.
That’s enough to pay for Saturday mail delivery. For the next 5,000 years.
All of that money went from you and me to the banks. And we got nothing. Not even a toaster.
I have been patiently waiting to see whether this disclosure would provoke some kind of reaction. Answer: nope. Everyone seems much more interested in discussing whether or not they like the cut of Perry’s jib.
Whatever a jib may be.
In the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing more about this. But right now, I wanted to keep this really simple. Just give folks something to talk about when they’re standing next to the coffee maker.
The Government gave $16 trillion to the banks. And nobody else is talking about it.
Think about it. Think about what that means.