Handsy Miniature: Joseph Heller on Bailouts

By Doctor Comrade

In Catch-22, Joseph Heller wrote about government bailouts for farmers. I have made minor corrections to update this passage for more modern audiences: 

Major Major’s father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a longlimbed banker, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but bankers was creeping socialism. He advocated thrift and hard work and disapproved of loose women who turned him down. His specialty was market speculation, and he made a good thing out of ruining the financial sector. The government paid him well for every sub-prime mortgage he gambled on. The more securities he purchased, the more money the government gave him, and he spent every penny he didn’t earn on new hedge funds to increase the amount of money he did not produce. Major Major’s father worked without rest at ruining the economy. On long winter evenings he remained indoors and did not mend harness, and he sprang out of bed at the crack of noon every day just to make certain that the chores would not be done. He invested in money wisely and soon was ruining the economy more than any other man in the county. Neighbors sought him out for advice on all subjects, for he had made much money and was therefore wise. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap,” he counseled one and all, and everyone said, “Amen.” 

Major Major’s father was an outspoken champion of economy in government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government to pay bankers as much as they could get for all the mortgage backed securities they purchased that no one else wanted or for not producing any mortgages at all. He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could. He was a devout man whose pulpit was everywhere. 

"The Lord gave us good bankers two strong hands so that we could take as much as we could grab with both of them," he preached with ardor on the courthouse steps or in the front of the A&P as he waited for the bad-tempered gum-chewing young cashier he was after to step outside and give him a nasty look. "If the Lord didn't want us to take as much as we could get," he preached, "He wouldn't have given us two good hands to take it with." And the others murmured, "Amen." 

Major Major's father had a Calvinist's faith in predestination and could perceive distinctly how everyone's misfortunes but his own were expressions of God's will. 


The original quotation can be found here.