An open letter to Freddie and Fannie

July 11, 2008, 2:08 PM UTC

Dear Kids, 

Just a few thoughts on what you can expect when Uncle Sam takes over. It’s not going to be all that bad. But things will be different with your new proprietor, and it never hurts to be prepared for a brand new corporate culture.

First, you’re going to have a lot more paperwork. Oh, I know you think you’ve had a lot so far, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. Financial institutions sort of invented the stuff. Add a layer of government on top of that and you’re going to put the entire logging industry back on its feet. This is because, while large corporate bureaucracies always drive accountability to wafer-thin levels — spreading it out over the entire system if they can — nobody does this better than the Feds. Trying to ascertain who made a decision on an issue is like trying to figure out which bee just irrigated a specific chamber in the hive.

Second, your lunch hours will be shorter, and your workday more regularized. Did you ever read a book about the Siberian gulag, what life was like there? Well, it’s not quite as cold, but not so different. Wake up. Go to the rock pile. Go home. Wake up. Go to the rock pile. You’ll get used to it.

On the other hand, instead of being an employee per se, you will, in fact, be part of a permanent government that rules this nation year-in, year-out regardless of who is in power at the top. Your uber-bosses will change and new ones will arrive who are pretty much the same as the old ones. This is different than corporate life, where eccentricity often confers power. Your immediate managers will be Commissars three levels down from the politicians who pass in and out of government agencies like tumbleweeds over the tundra. They will never go away. But the chance of finding them on a golf course while the bank is burning down is minimal.

You will, of course, have to sell your snappy outfits, tasty footwear and juicy ties and scarves. Go to your local big-box clothing store. Acquire three gray suits. Ties may be in black or gray, and keep the patterns to yourself. A pair of enormous black shoes will complete the ensemble.

Did I mention that if you had an expense account you just lost it? I’m not sure how many of you Freddies and Fannies do lunch. I don’t usually see you out and about. But from here on in, you can break out your attache case, because it’s going to have a permanent PB&J in it or, if you are on the west coast, something with sprouts.

Contrariwise, you can also kiss those long, frenzied weekends and ruined vacations and holidays goodbye. Government workers are not encouraged to do overtime, and they go home at 5:00 p.m. unless the Martians have just landed and some form of response is necessary. Just look at the way they handled Katrina. It’s not like they didn’t get down there, eventually. They just did it on Government time.

On the whole, it won’t be a huge shock, I don’t believe, to move from corporate governance to government corporatude. It might even be an improvement. I mean, how much fun are you having right now anyhow?

Stay in touch. Don’t forget to write. In triplicate, if possible.

Luv ya,