Now that a $700 billion (or is it $850 billion?) bailout bill has become law, reversing within only a few days a vote that struck down a less pork-laden version, it might be instructive to look at how this issue was presented to the American public.
My time is tight today, so I apologize if this entry is pretty scant, but this is something I have been listening to for a couple weeks now. Today I will merely enter into evidence this news story from NPR in collaboration with This American Life that I heard on the radio last week. It’s an excellent story, explaining to the uninitiated the workings of money market funds and the commercial paper market, and what all that has to do with the current liquidity crisis. But look at the language used to describe this crisis by both the reporters and their interview sources:
The potential for disaster was horrifying.
…the time when the American economy survived a brush with death.
The nation’s entire financial system slid toward a terrifying abyss….
…very real disaster.
“For those of you who’ve experienced an earthquake, some say it’s a soul-wrenching experience, and it’s massively moving everything,” Peterson says. “And that’s last week. There was a monster unleashed.”
“I think we were close to the abyss.”
If a money market fund loses money, that’s called “breaking the buck.” It’s like a tear in the space-time continuum. It’s simply not supposed to happen.
“Breaking the buck is sort of like having a serial killer in a high school — it causes a little bit of panic,” Balika says.
Wow, that is quite a load of metaphors. An earthquake ruptures the space-time continuum, unleashing serial killer monsters who push high schools toward the abyss.
Where’s the smoking gun mushroom cloud?
As it’s entertaining to see McCain’s panicked behavior make him look more like an ass than ever, we should not forget that Senate Democrats – including the Democratic nominee for President – are letting BushAdmin fear-mongering push them into going along with this bullshit bailout, so matter how many negotiated “principles” a revised bill adheres to.
There are two fantasies at play here: first, that we have $700 billion to spend at all; second, that putting ourselves more in hock to foreign lenders should be done for the sake of salvaging a corrupt and incompetent banking and financial industry. If we’re going to put my children’s grandchildren into debt, why not spend the money on things that will serve them best in the long run? Why not bail out the health care system? The education system? The energy production system? Are there not workers who need retraining? Are there not new technologies that deserve more research and investment to push them along so that we are free from fossil fuels, more secure as a nation, and less destructive environmentally?
The panic-stricken will scream that “doing nothing” will push us into a depression. I’m not saying “do nothing.” I’m saying, do something for the long term social and economic health of the country as a whole (with dividends for the rest of the world if we get our crap together), and let the bankers, the lenders, the investors, and the other money-monkeys go marching off to their own doom. As for the depression – be realistic. This bailout will not forestall the next calamity. Ruben Bolling explains why.
Props to my friend Leah for noting what a dodge this is. Head full of cold germs, my first thought when I heard CNN breathlessly report this morning (“this just in!”) John McCain’s proposal to delay his debate with Barack Obama and renounce campaigning until a bailout program is developed was, “Ah. Good strategy. Makes him look ‘presidential’ – whatever that means.”
Such is the obvious gambit. But, hey, what a way to get out of answering questions about an economy McCain fails to understand. Sure, the debate is focused on foreign policy, but a global economy facing a widespread crisis as the world’s largest consumer and debtor drowns in its own stupidity might have some bearing on how the next Prez interacts with his peers on the world stage. McCain has found a handy way to deflect criticism for last week’s gaffes and wild demands for firing the SEC chief, while putting Obama on the spot. The Bloomberg article linked above quotes a perfesser:
“The suspension does bring the ‘ready-to-lead’ issue back into focus for McCain,” said Paul Light, a public service professor at New York University. “Obama is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.”
Dana Perino helpfully chimes in:
“Bipartisan support from Senators McCain and Obama would be helpful in driving to a conclusion,” press secretary Dana Perino said.
But, hey, no pressure, “Barry”. So far, the AP reports that Obama is not, as Sarah Palin might put it, read to “blink.” If you’re thinking, “Er, isn’t this a non-issue meant to distract us from the sheer stupidity of the Paulson bailout plan,” I would chastise you for your cynicism. Really, just because neither candidate has anything more to offer than vague “principles” and is more interested in hedging their bets against either a full endorsement or a full rejection than, say, calling the Paulson bailout for the utter bullshit it is – that’s no reason assume they’re more comfortable arguing over porcine applications of lipstick. Are not presidential contests supposed to be about debate formats, the relative heights of podiums and microphones, the selection of bland moderators, and the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic?