Introduction: Bailout Nation


Owe the bank $100, that's your problem. Owe the bank $100 million, that's the bank's problem.

 --J. P. Getty

We like to think of the United States as a rugged country of determined, self-reliant individuals. The iconic image is the American cowboy. You can picture him on a cattle drive, watching warily over his herd. All he needed to get by were his wits, his horse—and his trusty Winchester.

This idealized vision of America is fading fast, rendered moot by present-day cattle rustlers. The new gauchos ride not on the range, but on the financial vistas. Instead of herding cattle, they rope derivatives, wrangle financial instruments, and round up paper wealth. The differences between the modern-day cowboy/bankers and the ranch hands of the old West are many, not the least of which is monetary—today's banker/rustler makes a whole lot more money than the frontiersmen did in the past.

Introduction: Bailout Nation

But there is another crucial difference between the two—the "individualist" part. The newfangled herdsman may look rugged, but he sure as hell ain't independent. The modern cowpoke has become way too reliant on a different sort of cavalry: Uncle Sam—and all the taxpayers that support him.

How did we go from being a nation that revered the idea of the self-reliant broncobuster into something else entirely? What turned us into a nanny state for well-paid bankers?

How did the good ole ...

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