Among the country’s stupefied elites, the bad news induces the wish to make time stand still, to punish the presumption of a future that presents itself as a bill collector. As self-pitying as Shakespeare’s melancholy king, they sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of money. Without it the future doesn’t bear contemplating, doesn’t include their presence in it and therefore doesn’t exist. How then can the banks be expected to lend money, the government to build hospitals and schools, the rich to pay taxes for comforts not their own? The suggestion is outrageous, an intolerable effrontery, out of line with the all-American revelation that the name of the game is selfishness. The surplus of resentment affords the excuses to do nothing and bids up the market in transcendence. Politicians in Congress stand around like trees in a petrified forest, or, if allied with the zeal of the Tea Party, console themselves with notions of biblical vengeance, the wrecking of any such thing as a common good a consummation devoutly to be wished. Secure in the knowledge that only the wicked shall perish, they press forward to the Day of Judgment when the host of the damned—variously identified over the course of the centuries as false priests, proud barons, profiteering capitalists, vile communists, and godless democrats—shall fall into the hands of an angry god and gnaw their tongues in anguish.

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