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  1. Wealth
March 27, 2009

The word on Wall Street

By Spear's

There’s a new word kicking around, which I’d like to nominate for OED inclusion: TARP rage.

‘What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence’ is my favourite quote. Indeed, I feature it on the welcome page of my website. Taken from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s seminal Tractatus Logico-philosophicus, it summarizes language as a map of reality.

From Michel Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge we know that the relationship between power and language is symbiotic: those that control language control power and vice-versa.

Each new version of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) is therefore always greeted with great fanfare, for its choice of new words for inclusion is considered a chronicle of our times, concretizing for future generations the power struggles and concerns of a Zeitgeist.

Hence, the furor and massive lawsuit by McDonald’s when it chose to include McJob (‘an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects’) in its 2007 version. Well, there’s a new word kicking around, which I’d like to nominate for OED inclusion: TARP rage.

Like ‘road rage’ (brought on by traffic) or ‘roid rage’ (brought on by steroid use), ‘TARP rage’ is also about trying to take control of a frustrating situation, prompting one to lose one’s own self-control – in this case the bank bailouts. TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Programme), is the $700 billion bill passed and signed in the US last October to bail out US banks.

AIG has been the greatest beneficiary, receiving $40 billion in the first round and $30 billion in the second, while Citigroup and Bank of America (which includes Merrill Lynch) each received $45 billion in the first round. There are many other banks of course (523 in total), but these big three have borne the brunt of the American public’s rage.

TARP rage is everywhere: dividing the GOP, making some former stalwarts sound like populists; Goldman Sachs has risked it by using some of the bailout money to help their employees satisfy their margin calls (to set an example for their clients); stalwart Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe launched his own YouTube channel with a video urging Americans to show their TARP rage with the government ‘for recklessly giving away hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money’ with little result.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, Budget Committee Chairman, has publicly admitted that there is little political will for TARP 3, the third round of bailouts.

TARP rage has simmered on Main Street, boiled over in Washington and burned Wall Street. The culmination of TARP rage came in the form of a new law that will tax the bonuses of executives in companies that have received over $5 billion of TARP money by 90%, on the rather popular assertion that the money rightly belongs to the American people.

Bankers who lost other people’s money losing their bonuses: now that is a new reality.

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