In the hilarious film spoof of the free-love movement of the 1960s, “A Guide to the Married Man,” a married man, played by Walter Matthau, seeks guidance from a true womanizer, played by Robert Morse. The story revolves around Matthau’s burning desire to get some action outside of his marriage, with Morse more than happy to “educate” him.
The education takes place in the form of lessons offered by Morse on how to cheat and not let your wife catch on. In a succession of scenes, Morse recounts how his buddies have dealt with wives who suspected their husbands were being unfaithful.
In one of the most intentionally preposterous of these scenes, Morse’s friend, played in the scene by Joey Bishop, is caught by his wife while he is in bed with his paramour, in flagrante delicto, as it were. While the wife stands at the bedroom door, dumbfounded, Bishop and his lover proceed, quite calmly, to get out of bed, get dressed, and make up the bed. Then, as the lover takes her purse and exits the room, Bishop lights a pipe and sits in an easy chair reading a book.
The wife, still in semi-shock, finally says something coherent, like, “Jerry, how could you?” to which Bishop replies, “What?” as in “what are you talking about?”
It’s the big lie, of course, the biggest possible, with the evidence having only moments before been there, right before her eyes. But now, as the wife gasps in disbelief, everything seems normal, her husband is acting normal, and … what did she really just see?
Of course, we’re talking about a movie, a comedy that is intended to elicit laughs, and in this case, it most assuredly does. The lesson for Matthau is to deny, deny, deny. Never admit to the alleged wrong-doing/cheating, even when literally caught in the act.
But movies that are intended to make the audience laugh are decidedly different from real life, especially when the real life is not at all comical, but instead is a tragedy that could have been avoided.
And with that introduction, let’s review the current equivalent of the Bishop scene being played by the Republican Party and its paramours. We, the American people, might be considered the wife in the story. We’ve just discovered that our politicians and their big business “lovers” have been playing fast and loose with our economy. They have relaxed financial regulations and reduced government oversight responsibility and have allowed the economy to crash suddenly and precipitously.
And it all became inescapably apparent, just like it had for Joey Bishop’s wife, right before our eyes, just two and a half years ago. Everyone saw it, lived through it, is living through it, and everyone with any sense at all knows what caused it. It was a case of pure, unadulterated human greed, spawned from the heights of the biggest financial institutions and passed on down, as in a pyramid scheme, to the most unsophisticated and unsuspecting over-their-heads homebuyers and pension fund managers.
The financial/economic collapse was caused by inadequate government regulation of the financial industry. There were other causes, too, to be sure, but that one reality cannot be denied. The federal government dropped the ball by encouraging the creation of paper that passed for, but wasn’t, money. These “derivatives” in all their ugly forms, created a house of cards that was all too easy to topple.
Of course, that reality flies in the face of the free market economic philosophy that has been espoused by the Republican Party since at least the administration of Ronald Reagan. Actually that philosophy was very much in vogue with Republicans back in the “roaring” 1920s, when an unregulated stock market suddenly burst, leading to the greatest economic depression the country has ever known.
Franklin Roosevelt’s administration (and World War II) saved the country then. Barack Obama and a hope and a prayer are trying to save it now.
But the Republicans and the wealthy barons they serve are playing the Joey Bishop role just as he did in that silly movie scene. In spite of undeniable evidence that sub-prime mortgages were pushed by the major financial houses, and that paper (worthless paper) was passed along just as in a worthless ponzi scheme from one company to the next, all in the absence of any meaningful government oversight or a regulatory process that would have restricted it, the Republican Party is pushing yet again for greater DE-regulation (caps intended) of the financial industry that controls the nation’s economy.
In the bogus argument it has thus created, Barack Obama is a crazed, power-hungry liberal, seeking to destroy all major industries, if not the American way of life. Sadly, Obama has essentially buckled to the pressure, the half-loaf of a finance reform bill passed last year just as likely to allow greater abuse as to prevent it. And once again, the mantra of “over-regulation” and “excessive government interference” is heard from the elected Republicans in Congress.
And then there is the Tea Party, which is quickly and none-too-quietly, becoming the de facto Republican Party. Its adherents are convinced that Obama and the Democrats are outright socialists, which is more Joey Bishop nonsense, of course, but just like the wife in the movie, many Americans are having trouble believing what their eyes have all too recently seen.
Obama saved the financial markets and returned them to their largely unregulated state; he saved the auto industry, allowing it to return to its privately-owned and -run pre-collapse condition, and he is trying to save the real estate industry, by making it easier for folks who can’t afford their homes to renegotiate their mortgages, thereby returning those homes to marketable units.
Ah, but none of those steps allow the free market to do its thing, unfettered and unregulated, so he must be a socialist.
It must be fun to be a Tea Party member. You just say the least true thing and because you say it with a touch of anger that resonates with the American people, you get to control the dialogue. It’s almost like being Joey Bishop in that movie.
“What? What are you talking about?”