As I've watched what has happened on Capitol Hill since the federal government bailed out banks with a promised $700 billion rescue package, I'm reminded of Laura Numeroff's "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."
The book, used by teachers of pre-K children to third-graders, remains one of my favorite reads. So is her "If You Give a Pig a Pancake," also beautifully illustrated by Felicia Bond. Both stories provide lessons on the unintended consequences of generosity.
Such as: "If you give a mouse a cookie … he's going to want a glass of milk." And: "If you give a pig a pancake … she'll want some maple syrup to go with it."
Politically speaking, the lessons in the books also simplify the complex challenges ahead for our government. Our government strives to keep vital markets active and our economy strong while also trying to determine which businesses and industries it must help and which it cannot.
To wit, this commentary, presented respectfully and apologetically with a bow to at least one of America's great writers of children's fiction:
If you give AIG a bailout and a cookie,
Goldman Sachs will want that PLUS a glass of milk —
One with a Hank Paulson action figure etched IN the glass.
And Freddie and Fannie will want that, as well,
The bailout, whole milk AND a straw,
Which won't suit lactose-intolerant Mac and Mae AT ALL.
And Main Street says it will take NO MORE than its share
Of whatever was promised Wall Street's bulls and its bears.
Citigroup will want $40 billion for starters,
Along with the milk, fancy glass, the straw AND a short stack.
They'll want to keep the stadium, too. (Would you?)
The Brothers Lehman will want attention paid them, as you know.
Sachs will want milk and crepes spread with Nutella.
The French, being quick, will take this as a sign
That the Euro Union is in rapid decline.
To which Brown and the Brits will insist
That Her Majesty's government be immune to our non-bliss.
So they'll "tut-tut" our peril with their high dudgeon
And resist bailing out all their Euro cousins.
Asian markets, meanwhile, still wonder what's next;
Their Sonys, Toyotas and Hyundais remain parked on the lot.
The Chinese are buying; Americans are not —
A fact that hasn't escaped the Big Three,
Who first came to Congress under bad publicity.
When you beg with your hand out, as EVERYONE knows,
Best to turn up looking like some secondhand Rose.
Such humility was lost on Big One, Two and Three,
But the second go-round, they struck the right key.
With contrition, they asked Congress, "Please spare a dime,"
But those Town Car-driven congressmen said, "Not for your kind."
GM, Chrysler and Ford want their share
Of whatever is left of the bailout up there.
You can't really blame them for having the hunch
That big shots and bankers just got a free lunch.
So they asked for at least what some of them got.
In their minds, this wasn't asking a lot.
But if you give the CEOs some beef,
The unions will want equal relief
AND some pie with their milk.
If Michigan automakers get in on the Treasury action,
Foreclosed-on homeowners will want their deserved satisfaction.
They'll want a roof, cookie, milk, the whole kit and caboodle.
To make up for their losses, they'll also want poodles.
Rhonda Chriss Lokeman ([email protected]) is a contributing editor to The Kansas City Star. To find out more about Rhonda Chriss Lokeman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.