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”Don’t cry for me, Ben Bernanke.”
”You were supposed to be a genius. That’s all we asked for–”
”You mind your business.”
”We kept our promise.”
”You keep your distance.”
The beleaguered Federal Reserve chairman is scheduled to appear before a Congressional committee this afternoon to offer a belated explanation for the government’s handling of Bank of America’s troubled merger with Merrill Lynch. Mr. Bernanke is rapidly running out of fig leafs and deodorizer to conceal the dubious nature of the forced marriage in January between the banking giant and the bankrupt speculative house on Wall Street.
Sooner or later, we all are going to know whether the Feds ordered BOA’s former chairman to swallow Merrill while concealing its staggering losses from his shareholders, or if BOA squeezed $100 billion in TARP booty from the government by threatening to take the entire financial system down.
The suspense is palpable, but there’s no need to wait until this afternoon to find out what Gentle Ben is going to say. We’ve obtained an advanced copy of his testimony. Put on your favorite Zamfir flute CD and pour yourself a lukewarm glass of Chardonnay, and enjoy.
Bernanke: ”First and foremost, I apologize to the nation. I have made decisions that have hurt and will continue to hurt you, and for that I’m sincerely sorry. Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner have stood by me through bailout after bailout, through hard time after hard time, and neither of them deserve this. Please offer them your prayers.”
Committee Chairman: ”What exactly are you apologizing for, Mr. Bernanke?”
Bernanke: ”I apologize to my staff. I misled them about this whole thing, and as a result the people of the United States believed something that wasn’t true. I want to make absolutely clear that over the past six months at no time did anyone on my staff intentionally relay false information to other federal officials or the public at large. What they’ve said over the past six months they believed to be true, and I’m sorry to them for putting them in this position. There are many people out there right now who are hurt, angry and disappointed with me, and rightfully so. Over the time that I have left in office, I’m going to devote my energy to building back the trust the American people have placed in me. I ask for your forgiveness, and your prayers for everyone who I’ve hurt.”
Committee Chairman: ”Mr. Bernanke, please get to the point. Tell us how this merger came about.”
Bernanke: ”It started with a really earnest conversation between two dear, dear friends eight months ago. Then something sparked between them. During this sparking thing, a grace and calm and a level of sophistication overcame them, and two magnificent parts of our financial system were drawn together in mutual feelings of attraction. I sat between them and observed that we were in a hopelessly—some might say impossible—or perhaps a hopelessly, impossible situation in the fading glow of our shrinking GDP. How in the world this lightening (sic) strike snuck up on us I am still not quite sure.”
Committee Chairman: ”Can you be a little more specific?”
Bernanke: ”As I have said to you before, the parties had a special feeling about each other from the first time they met, but these feelings were contained even though they enjoyed this special friendship. I suspect I felt a little vulnerable sitting between them because this is ground I had never certainly never covered before, so I asked Bob Rubin for some pearls of wisdom.”
Committee Chairman:”And what did Mr. Rubin tell you?”
Bernanke: ”He told me to sleep soundly knowing that despite the best efforts of my head my heart would cry out for the union of these two lovers. And from the merging of their voices, the swapping of their credit default derivatives, the combination of their delicate cash flows, as billions of crisp new Franklins sprang forth in a new birth of financial freedom, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that no executive compensation package is too big to be negated by abject failure –”
Committee Chairman: ”Mr. Bernanke, we’ll have to end here. Three committee members have booked seats on the 2 p.m. flight to Buenos Aires out of Reagan National. I assume you will make yourself available for further questioning?”
Bernanke: ”That’s correct, Mr. Chairman. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”