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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008 10:18 am

Wall Street’s bailout wizard

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There was a little news item recently about a man in Sheboygan, Wis., who was sentenced to six years in prison for robbing $20 from a child's piggy bank.

Think how much better things would have gone for him if only his name had been Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns or any of the other flamboyant figures of high finance on Wall Street. They are the ones that rigged the regulatory system so they could rob the piggy banks of millions of American homeowners.

And when they got caught in the crash of their own house of cards, here came Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen (himself a former wizard of Wall Street), sprinting toward them fast as he could — not to arrest the scofflaws, but to reward them with a taxpayer bailout.

Here are a few reasons not to trust him: One, so far, he's been consistently wrong in his judgments and actions. Two, the $700 billion (even more than the Bushites have dumped into the dark hole of Iraq) is just for openers — Paulsen's plan has no top to it. Three, his rescue focuses entirely on salvaging the wealthy perpetrators of this robbery, with nothing for those homeowners who got robbed. Four, he would bail out the bankers without erecting any regulatory barriers to a repeat of their thefts, in effect telling the kleptocrats that there is no punishment for their misdeeds — so why not do it again?

When the wizard in "The Wizard of Oz" was finally exposed, Dorothy angrily accused him of being "a very bad man."

"Oh, no, my dear," he responded. "I ... I'm a very good man — I'm just a very bad Wizard." So is Paulsen.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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