The Bailout, A Play

by Johnny Debacle

Scene 1

A dark stage, with a single spotlight on Henry Paulson

Henry Paulson: Good morning, ladies and gentleman. My name is Henry Paulson and I run the Treasury. And I don’t mean to make you panic, but if you do not give me a balance sheet that can hold $700 billion on it, and unlimited funding, than the economy will die. That’s right it will die. I don’t mean to cause fear and panic, but those are the only two legitimate reactions you should be feeling right now and you should let those guide you. Let them flow over you, sucking you into my myopic morass which now shrouds my former optimistic obfuscations.

Ben Bernanke: Every other economist disagrees with this proposed bailout but I believe in fear and panic and am drunk on the wine of my new powers. I too must insist that you, the fine people of this country, please give into your fear and panic. It worked in dealing with 9/11, it worked in getting us into Iraq, it worked in re-electing George Bush and now it will work in bailing out this economy. You don’t want it to DIE, do you?

Barney Frank: (Looking disheveled with a bad teen moustache) Blahrm-bram blrankrtrtyc encncmmphphphgh nbmmanana. Bragblahma ththtlthabzzzgh ndragh plghtythmrhm phjalth.

George Bush: I know nothing, if not fear and panic. Trust me, we need this.

Violin solo in the background playing the Vivaldi classic “Short Term Political Cycles Are Mismatched With Jobs Charged With Making Decisions That Have Effect Decades Later”

Congress: FEAR. PANIC.

The Economists: NO!

Congress: FEAR. PANIC.

Wall Street: FEAR. PANIC.

All players dancing on the stage surrounding The Economists who disappear into the floor

Scene 2

A Rational Man: Do we need this?

Henry Paulson: Yes, I need this.

A Rational Man: I said “we”.

Henry Paulson: And I said “I”.

A Rational Man: What will this do? Honestly, I’m a Rational man, thus I have no vote.

Henry Paulson: Maybe, maybe might unfreeze the interbank market.

A Rational Man: But will this save us from recession?

Henry Paulson: No.

A Rational Man: But will this lead to massive inflation?

Henry Paulson: Almost certainly.

A Rational Man: And what about the unknowable second order effects, or third order effects, or x order effects?

Henry Paulson: I ignore them.

A Rational Man: So this bailout is a longshot to do anything positive and it increases the downside risk if it doesn’t work?

Henry Paulson: That is what our math tells us.

A Rational Man: Is this socialism?

Henry Paulson: No, this is necessary.


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  1. Pleb
    September 25th, 2008 | 9:53 am

    It’s like running out of cash at the roulette wheel in Vegas, and you’ve maxed out your credit cards. What do you do?
    1) See if some billionaire wants to sleep with your wife for a million dollars
    2) Give the casino a security interest in your house, and hope you don’t have to show proof of income to get the loan
    3) Try to get the casino to give you back the money you lost.

    I don’t see any other options.

  2. Dsylexic
    September 25th, 2008 | 9:58 am

    Ron Paul: End the Fed.Spank the Hank

  3. JCauto
    September 25th, 2008 | 9:59 am

    rationale = rational

  4. September 25th, 2008 | 10:09 am

    Indeed it is. JD needs to start using his “homophone” checker.

  5. Strattie
    September 25th, 2008 | 10:21 am

    Uh what sickness does this country breeds, the vile phlegmatism of a simple mind, the blissful ignorance prevails every time.

  6. Harndog
    September 25th, 2008 | 11:52 am

    ‘Listen, business is easy. If you’ve got a low downside and a big upside, you go do it. If you’ve got a big downside and a small upside, you run away.”

    Sam Zell

  7. Zeke
    September 25th, 2008 | 12:38 pm

    Speaking of homophones, isn’t the new red Razr just fabulous?

  8. Strattie
    September 25th, 2008 | 1:35 pm

    I already hired a freelancer to apply to jobs for me. Figure it’s the best offense.

  9. September 25th, 2008 | 10:03 pm


  10. September 26th, 2008 | 1:13 am

    The combination of comments 4 & 7 is responsible for the coffee on my desk.

    I’m easily amused, I guess.

  11. TB
    September 26th, 2008 | 5:25 am

    This reads more like an opera than a play, can someone action this with the Royal Opera House (though the English National Opera would do, at a pinch)?

  12. September 26th, 2008 | 10:15 am

    Ballad of John McCain
    (to the Melody of the Ballad of the Green Berets)


    Wall Street bailout do or die
    Fearing not as his campaign slides
    He who means not what he say’in
    He’s their man, Big John McCain

    He’s got wings less finance brains
    He’s their man, the grand old best
    They will vote, for TARP today
    But only if he first says yes

    Trained to babble when he speaks
    Trained to dabble economics
    He will babble day and night
    From John McCain its double speak


    Back at home waits the GOP
    Did John get his foto opp-ortunity
    Has he sold the public’s best
    Leaving Wall Street its request

    Hes got wings upon his chest
    Hes their man the GOP’s best
    He’s a man we’ll detest one day
    If he wins election day

  13. Size
    September 26th, 2008 | 12:28 pm

    ‘Listen, business is easy. If you’ve got a low downside and a big upside, you go do it. If you’ve got a big downside and a small upside, you run away.”

    Why didn’t anybody tell CDO buyers this? Like carry trade “arbitrageurs” who thought parity was suspended just for them, these guys thought risk had become unmoored from return. Anything at all can be justified by saying “it’s a paradigm shift”. Doesn’t have to be real. Just has to be shifted.