So I just heard Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson defend the bank bailout (now a buy-in) by saying, “Government owning a stake in any private U.S. company is objectionable to most Americans — me included. Yet the alternative of leaving businesses and consumers without access to financing is totally unacceptable.”
So we're doubling our deficit (tripling? quadrupling? Is anyone in Washington even counting any more?) to buy stock in banks so folks can continue to spend money they haven't earned yet.
I know, I know, the modern economy runs on credit. Darn few people (myself included) have the cash in their pockets to start a new business or buy a house or even a car.
But has Secretary Paulson just defined a new fundamental right? Is it really "totally unacceptable" that I can't get a loan?
We don't call it totally unacceptable that millions of Americans don't have access to health coverage. We don't call it totally unacceptable that millions of Americans have lost access to millions of good manufacturing jobs and slid precariously toward the bottom edge of the middle class. Or at least, we don't find them so unacceptable that we will pour $250 billion dollars all at once into rectifying those problems.
If you and I and the 10 a.m. brain trust from Gary's Bakery were sitting in Washington and we could steal $250 billion from our kids and grandkids to spend on today's problems, would we really burn it up buying stock in banks that got us into this mess in the first place? Would we then trust those banks to make the best use of that money?
Or would we spend it to help our neighbors directly? Would we pay Amert Construction to put a couple dozen more young fellas to work fixing roads and bridges? Would we come up with a program where we'd help our neighbors pay their mortgages in return for some work picking up trash or helping out at the elementary school? Would we pay off our neighbors' medical debts so they could avoid bankruptcy court and get back to spending their money at Sunshine and Pamida (or even saving up for their retirement)? Would we pay thousands of workers top dollar to install solar panels and wind turbines on city hall, the water treatment plant, and every other government building we can get our hands on?
That's what I might do... but I guess that's why I'm not in Washington. All those other things strike me as being a little more important to America than boundless credit. Silly me.
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