As we speak the House just rejected the big bailout plan and congressional leaders are trying to line up a second vote. I'm no economist but I'm sure not convinced that this plan is a good idea, and I still haven't seen anyone attempt the story I suggested last week, explaining in simple terms what would happen if we taxpayers don't give these well-dressed thieves $700 billion or more of our money.
There were a couple of smart op-ed columns in the New York Times last week at least raising questions about all of this.
Thomas Friedman made the good point that one of things weakening the U.S. economy is that it's built on fluff, not stuff:
We need to get back to making stuff, based on real engineering not just financial engineering. We need to get back to a world where people are able to realize the American Dream — a house with a yard — because they have built something with their hands, not because they got a “liar loan” from an underregulated bank with no money down and nothing to pay for two years. The American Dream is an aspiration, not an entitlement.
And Maureen Dowd had a smart observation: "Who would have dreamed that when socialism finally came to the U.S.A. it would be brought not by Bolsheviks in blue jeans but Wall Street bankers in Gucci loafers?"
What I do know is that $700 billion is a lot of money. That's $700,000,000,000. A 7 with 11 zeroes. Yike. Here in Seattle, where officials and voters have been wringing their hands for years about how to replace the crumbling highway on the downtown waterfront, you could buy 300 new viadcuts for $700 billion.
As Jon Stewart famously put it last week (mocking a real TV news report, actually), that figure amounts to 2,000 McDonald's apple pies for every man, woman and child in the United States. Michelle and I don't eat at Mickey D's, but putting it in terms that matter to the M&M economy, our "apple pie" share of the bailout equals 10 buy-ins to our regular poker game, 10 bottles of Bombay Sapphire (the good shit, in the big bottle), 50 pounds of Starbucks French Roast and one iPhone for good measure. Each.
So, like, a couple of weeks of fun.
I know the world financial markets may hang in the balance, but I'm not sure it's a good trade.
In case you missed it, here's Stewart's riff from last week:
Update: Oh my god, I watched this and found myself agreeing with George Will. "We're getting dangerously close to the truth," he said in this panel discussion, "which is that the sainted American people are the problem here."
Will mentions the 105 billion credit cards held by Americans, the self-reported credit card debt of $12,000 per household, and the fact that total household debt is 139 percent of household income.
"The refusal to defer gratification is a fundamental attribute of childishness," he said.
This show, "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," was pretty good show all around. More clips here. I wonder whether now that Russert's gone Stephanopoulos will take over as the must-see Sunday morning news show.