As the United States jumps head first into the government bailout era, one need not go far to get an idea of how things might work out and how they might be portrayed in the media.
Look at Mexico.
In 1972, the Mexican government nationalized that country’s lone telephone company, buying its shares for about fifty percent more than their price on the Mexican stock market. Then, in 1990, the government sold the company under questionable circumstances to a group led by a politically-connected Carlos Slim, who parlayed the acquisition into a fortune worth tens of billions of dollars.
Interestingly, the same New York Times that savaged Mr. Slim for using Mexico’s “mixed economy” system to fuel his own ascent, now needs his money and seems to like him just fine.
From an August 2007 column by Times editorial writer Eduardo Porter:
“But the momentous scale is not the most galling aspect of Mr. Slim’s riches. There’s the issue of theft.”
“Like many a robber baron — or Russian oligarch, or Enron executive — Mr. Slim calls to mind the words of Honoré de Balzac: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” Mr. Slim’s sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.”
And from Sunday’s Times, in a story about Mr. Slim possibly helping the newspaper pay its mounting debts amid falling revenues:
“Mr. Slim, one of the wealthiest people in the world, controls cellular and landline phone companies and has major investments in retailing, construction, banking, insurance, railroads and mining. In March, Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $60 billion.”
Incidentally, the nationalization and re-privatization of Mexico’s banks followed a similar timeline as that of the nation’s telecom industry with one glaring exception: the banks were driven into the ground by their well-connected private owners and had to be bailed out again.
No mention of that in the New York Times.