When you get gemons, “make lemonaide” the saying goes. But when spending taxpayer billions for a fiscal and economic recovery plan or “bailout” that almost nobody likes, a lemon can get in the way….
The Washington Post
Friday, November 14, 2008; Page A19
Finally, the outlines of a coherent debate on the federal bailout. This comes as welcome relief from a campaign season that gave us the House Republicans’ know-nothing rejectionism, John McCain‘s mindless railing against “greed and corruption,” and Barack Obama‘s detached enunciation of vacuous bailout “principles” that allowed him to be all things to all people.
Underlying the policy differences is a philosophical divide. The Bush administration sees the $700 billion rescue as an emergency measure to save the financial sector on the grounds that finance is a utility. No government would let the electric companies go under and leave the country without power. By the same token, government must save the financial sector lest credit dry up and strangle the rest of the economy.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is willing to stretch the meaning of “bank” by extending protection to such entities as American Express. But fundamentally, he sees government as saving institutions that deal in money, not other stuff.
Democrats have a larger canvas, with government intervening in other sectors of the economy to prevent the cascade effect of mass unemployment leading to more mortgage defaults and business failures (as consumer spending plummets), in turn dragging down more businesses and financial institutions, producing more unemployment, etc. — the death spiral of the 1930s.