After watching more news coverage and talking head yakking and pols weighing in, I'm convinced that virtually no one in a position to actually vote on the bailout of "markets" has much knowledge of what they're talking about. It reminds me of an exchange from an episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer urges Jerry to lie about his stereo being broken, with the insight that the company can "just write off" the loss:
Jerry: "You don't even know what a write-off is."
Kramer: "Do you?"
Jerry: "No, I don't."
Kramer: "Well they do. And they're the ones who are writing it off."
Thankfully, the American public is looking askance at various arguments emanating like so much swamp gas from politicians that we've gotta do something in the next 24-48-72 hours or that goddamn Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland will swallow up everything faster than Warren Buffet chowing on Goldman Sachs.
"Americans reluctant to fund bailout, poll finds," reports The Los Angeles Times. "Reluctance to use public money to rescue private firms runs across the population, the poll found: Democrats and Republicans, high-income and low-income families alike."
"Voters are split on the $1 trillion question, but most have little confidence Congress can fix financial crisis," says news from pollster John Zogby, who further notes that
nearly two out of three likely voters in this survey said they blame government entities, led by the White House, for causing this problem. Asked who is most to blame, 27% said the Bush administration, while 20% blamed Congress. By contrast, just 12% blamed investment banks—which will benefit most from this proposed bailout—and 17% blamed mortgage brokers.
Further, just 38% of likely voters have confidence that leaders in Washington will be able to solve this crisis, while 58% said they have little or no confidence in these leaders.
And as reason's Matt Welch blogs below, in that little slice of cheesey heaven called Wisconsin, at least a dozen Badger State denizens are agin' it, too.
Hopefully, elite opinion about the bailout, which Brian Doherty has observed is every bit as driven by irrational animal spirits as two tribesfolks fucking for rain in the desert, will catch up to the skepticism being demonstrated by what H.L. Mencken derided as boobus americanus.
We'll be covering the bailout out the yin-yang (to use another Seinfeld reference), especially the idea that, whatever does end up happening, it doesn't have to happen before tomorrow night's presidential debate (if, sadly, there is still one). Or before the Mets' total collapse before the end of the baseball season. Or AMC airs the next all-new episode of Mad Men. Or before Sarah Palin meets with the leader of Freedonia. Or whatever. If we're talking about restructuring the next couple of decades worth of financial rules, the discussion probably ought to take as long as, I don't know, all the good conversation that went into passage of The PATRIOT Act or something.
As Radley Balko notes below, this particular administration, so rich in political capital just a few thousand years ago, should have no credibility with anyone, least of all when its top dogs are barking for faith and trust when it comes to wielding massive powers.
And we should recognize that when it comes to consolidating regulatory power over financial markets, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been singing the same tune for more than a little while, even as the administration did squat about well-known problems at Fannie Mae. And pushed useless new regulation such as Sarbanes-Oxley.
So when you hear folks such as New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer (who once proposed regulating the breakfast-cereal industry, fer chrissakes) say that his colleagues are fired up by the "the importance of getting something done" or Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus say "There's a realization that we have to do something and that we can't leave town until we do," don't believe them. Believe the American people instead. At least just this once.
Because we're the ones—along with our kids, and our kids' kids, and whatever cyborg offspring roam the broken-down corridors of Spaceship Earth humming Zager & Evans' tunes in the year 2525—who will be writing it off. Or, perhaps more precisely, are in the process of being written down. And then off.