Emperor Nero killed a lot of people, but most people just remember the fiddling incident, notes Joe Queenan in the Washington Post. Something similar is happening with Rod Blagojevich, whose most flamboyant offense, trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat, is obscuring his real crime: Forcing Bank of America to give a loan to Republic Windows & Doors. Politicians often demand kickbacks; “society can deal with it,” says Queenan. But Blago’s financial meddling could burn the whole system down.
When BoA cut off Republic’s loan, the company’s workers were laid off without notice or promised benefits. Blagojevich told the bank that Illinois wouldn’t do business with it anymore unless it extended the loan. It was “precisely the sort of thing that happens in China,” Queenan writes, and “the ramifications are horrifying.” Every business could ask for such largesse, and every town could practice such extortion. The result: more bad loans politicians claim to loathe.