Don't Just Do Something; Stand There


I don't know if he really means it (not long ago he was confessing that economics is not his strong suit), but John McCain is making the right noises about the mortgage mess, braving derision as a do-nothing, head-in-the-sand market worshiper from Democrats who are eager to intervene:

Drawing a sharp distinction between himself and the two Democratic presidential candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona warned Tuesday against vigorous government action to solve the deepening mortgage crisis and the market turmoil it has caused, saying that "it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers."…

"Rampant speculation" on both sides is the root cause of the crisis, Mr. McCain said. He placed part of the responsibility for the mortgage mess on lenders, who he said had grown "complacent" in a rising market and as a result acquired a "false sense of security" that caused them to "lower their lending standards."

But in a departure from Democrats, who have focused on the lending industry's role in the crisis, Mr. McCain suggested that some homeowners had also engaged in dangerous practices, including borrowing too much in hopes that a rising market would cover their mortgages….

"Some Americans bought homes they couldn't afford, betting that rising prices would make it easier to refinance later at more affordable rates," he said. Later he added that "any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren't."

That last part does leave the door open a bit to some sort of bailout. But on this issue McCain sounds more sensible than Barack Obama, who in turn sounds more cautious than Hillary Clinton.