Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obviously, we're not economists here. Frankly, I'm not sure even that expertise offers a clear awareness of the scope of the current financial crisis, much less the judgment and insight to know how to fix it. Still, it puts you several steps ahead of me (and most of the bloggy heads now offering strong opinions). It does occur to me that any institution that, by going under, can bring us - apparently - to the brink of economic collapse is an institution that's entirely too big. But that could just be the ignorance talking.

Where I come down right now is wedged between 2 concerns: I don't like the idea of bailing out risky corporate greed for the failure that we should expect from risk and greed. But, at the same time, if that failure is going to cause a systemic collapse of our economy, the likes of which we haven't seen since the 30s, then the greatest harm will come to those who don't deserve it, and can least afford it. If that threat is real, then something must be done - something bold that addresses structural fault lines that hold us in peril.

And, there's the rub. The Bush Administration has proven itself untrustworthy and incompetent in identifying, measuring and addressing national threats. I can show you a foolish war to prove it. After the WMD fiasco, we collectively wondered: how will the world and the country respond the next time they tell us a serious threat requires immediate and dramatic action? And, here we are. We assumed the test would be an international issue, not an economic one, but here were are anyway. And instead of being able to unite around the common cause of national fiscal stability, we're left skeptical, worried of an overreaching power grab by Republicans, or a pandering cave of principles by Democrats.

There is a trust vacuum right now. And let there be no mistake about who put it there. Political gamesmanship and power-hungry government officials are not a new concern. But, the last 8 years have left us unable to believe in the judgment and good faith of our leaders even in a moment of national crisis. At a time like this, we are left with little choice but to hope that experts - dare I say elites - with the nation's well-being clearly in their sights will drive the discussion, and that national leaders will absorb the truth as best they can, and do what has to be done to avert catastrophe and retain our national principles of fairness and justice. And yet, we don't believe in them. I don't, anyway. That, if you ask me, is the legacy of George W. Bush. Corporate greed runs unchecked, the law is crooked and disinterested, and people are on their own.

[UPDATE: At TPM, Josh Marshall puts it a little more succinctly.]

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