Monday, September 29, 2008

The Lame Duck May Just Implode

The screen is full of people picketing and marching with signs screaming “No bailout!” We have Congressmen stubbornly insisting that the government should not bail out Wall Street. Hysterical e-mails from people like Michael Moore are hinting at conspiracies. And television commentators like Lou Dobbs tell us that we should allow these financial institutions to just “go down,” as they deserve. (Maybe he keeps his money under the mattress.) Or whatever. There’s obviously a movement, gaining momentum, toward voting down any kind of “bailout for Wall Street.” And some of our congressmen tell us in television interviews (oh, boy, don’t they all love doing interviews!) that it took a long time to get into this mess, so we can take our good ole time getting out, and meanwhile “get it right.” The general idea seems to be that someone goofed and let’s just stand back and let them go down.

And therein I believe lies the problem. It’s called a failure to communicate. Are Henry Paulsen and the Congressional committee that developed his plan really intent on “bailing out” Wall Street? I believe that a basic misunderstanding is the only barrier between us and major disaster.

The catastrophe facing us is not the historic drop in the Dow Jones, but rather the lending crisis. And this failure is not so much about Wall Street; it affects everyone. Or at least anyone who wants to buy a house, a car, pay for college, start a business, or for that matter, do anything that takes some infusion of capital. All those people marching with signs and screaming “No bailout” are as usual fighting against their own best interests. We need to do something—now.

As I understand it, the revised bill (which went from 3 pages to over 100, and which I was able to skim but not download) has a provision for an oversight committee, a $500,000 ceiling on CEO remuneration, and calls for the taxpayer to participate in any profits realized from the “investment.” I searched for and could not find (perhaps it was buried in there somewhere) a provision about mortgage renegotiation and trying to keep people in their homes. This last is important. Crucial in fact. But the point is that the agreement could be worked out without the acrimony sounding so much like Mommy and Daddy fighting in front of the kids.

However, the main obstacle to getting this crisis resolved before the fallout destroys too many on Main Street is ideology. The House Republicans—and a few Democrats—do not want any kind of “taxpayer bailout” and they don’t want to “rescue Wall Street.” They very self-righteously proclaim that government should not solve this problem. The problem is that they are the government and the American economy will go to hell if they refuse to do anything.

The lunatics are running the asylum. Write to these Congressmen and insist they get a bill passed before the country goes down the tubes. Many of these people are the same ones who have been irresponsible for enough years to get us into this mess. Not alone, certainly. But nonetheless mindlessly refusing to see any problem. They’ve been talking machines about “less” government for years. Well, look what has been wrought.

Insist they stop having press conferences and start having closed-door bipartisan meetings instead. Tell them not to come out until they have worked out an agreement to deal with this crisis—no matter how long it takes!!

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