Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Broken Pact With The People

Trust capitalism and shun government interference we were told. But irresponsible bankers saw a chance to get rich quick and went for it. Their failure has become ours -- and the promise of a common good has evaporated along with faith in democratic capitalism.
Germany has taken to the skies. It is 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2 and the Luftwaffe Airbus A310 -- Germany’s equivalent of Air Force One -- took off half an hour ago from Berlin’s Tegel Airport. The plane is heading east, destination Saint Petersburg, Russia. Crew members are serving the usual copious breakfast, including omelets, meat, cold cuts, cheese and honey.

The gamblers have eroded confidence in both capitalism and democracy.
On board are many of the people who determine Germany’s position in the world: the German chancellor and six ministers, the heads of major German corporations like Siemens, Deutsche Bahn and E.on, and a number of journalists. There are no bankers on the plane, but they play the leading role in everyone’s mind and in the discussions taking place.

After breakfast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel invites the journalists up to the front of the aircraft for an off-the-record chat with the press. Everyone squeezes into a small room, 25 people in all, standing, sitting cramped together, some of them even on the floor. “The microphone isn’t working again,” says the chancellor to start things off.

She talks about Russia and then addresses the financial crisis. The sound of a toilet flushing can be regularly heard. The aircraft’s lavatory juts into the conference room. It is an earnest discussion. The journalists ask questions in a serious manner and the chancellor responds in kind. Every word resonates concern.

Poker for the Politicians; Blackjack for the Journalists
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