In a cramped 8-by-10 federal prison cell in Butner, N.C., Bernie Madoff is laughing.
He is laughing that the financial sorcery that made him a household name has once again triumphed over sanity.
He is laughing that the very swindlers who taught him his craft have enjoyed yet another improbable victory.
Bernie Madoff is also laughing at the magical, resilient power of blatantly fake money — a mirage so seductive that people simply cannot help but fall every time under its glittering spell.
Republicans in Congress probably got the very best deal they could in this whole fight over raising the debt ceiling, given they were negotiating with a party of spoiled, reckless, selfish, thieving children.
Still, it is mighty sad to dive deeper into debt on promises of spending "cuts," which will turn out to be mostly just caps on current spending that will allow Congress to spend even more next year.
What probably tickles Bernie Madoff more than anything else is the supreme irony that two parties far more responsible than he was for the country's worst economic collapse since the Great Depression are still at large keeping the Great Con going a little bit longer. Straining the boundaries of absurdity, these con artists have been all over Capitol Hill in recent weeks acting like the good guys, trying to fix a massive catastrophe that they themselves caused.
The streets of Washington already are awash with ink spilled trashing lawmakers as the architects of the housing implosion that wrecked investors large and small in every town in America.
The fact that klepto-liberals such as Barney Frank and Maxine Waters still control the nation's finances and are allowed to vote on matters of debt is certainly a crime. For moral support this week, Democrats also kept around teen chaser David Wu — as if to show their disdain for the voters they supposedly represent.
Also returning to the scene of the crime have been Washington's odious co-conspirators in the financial collapse: the discredited ratings agencies whose hands will forever be stained with the red ink they peddled from coast to coast.
Standard & Poor's and Moody's have been there every step of the way, encouraging congressional spending binges, applauding all the recklessness, giving their highest approval to the sketchiest legislative hokum.
These are the same people who stamped their highest approval on mortgage-backed securities that contained the atom bombs that detonated our economy.
They have served as the drug dealers and crack whores to Congress, enabling dangerous and unsustainable spending habits that now threaten American liberty.
Yet, there they were, posturing like sober grown-ups, suddenly threatening to downgrade America's debt if Congress didn't trim down to a svelte $10 trillion to the negative.
Seriously? That's your benchmark? You waited until voters demanded the insanity stop and then you sound the alarm? You waited until we were $14 trillion into debt before you woke up?
Where were you when Congress began raiding Social Security to pay for their boondoggles? Where were you when Congress started piling on trillions in debt? Where were you when President Obama doubled down on debt with his unstimulating "stimulus" package?
These are the castoff nerds and losers who could never hack it on Wall Street or in the business world. So they enrolled in the Ivory Tower of academic economics where they have been granted the power by Washington to pick winners and losers.
And they still can't get it right.
Together, they invented "too big to fail," which was the only way the government could maintain its blue-chip status to borrow cheap money at a staggering and immoral pace that will enslave generations to come.
These are the true financial terrorists and they all deserve each other. But America certainly deserves better.
• Charles Hurt's column appears Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.