Tuesday :: Sep 30, 2008

Capitalism


by Turkana

Watching the debate, last Friday, I kept wishing that Barack Obama would have challenged the conventional wisdom on important issues- the lie that the surge is working, the lie that the violence in Georgia is wholly the fault of evil Russia, the lie that Iran is some imminent danger. But to have done so would have required labored explanations, which would have left the pundits aghast, to McCain's benefit. And Obama's only purpose, right now, is to win. And the polls show that he did what he had to do in that debate. It was a good night. I would like to think Obama eventually will do the hard work of challenging dangerous presumptions, once he becomes president, but I'm not convinced he will. Even that may be asking too much. For now.

If you're riding on a runaway train, and it's headed for a cliff, you're not going to waste time debating whether our antiquated rail system should be upgraded to conventional high speed technologies or maglev or something entirely new. You're going to try to stop the train from going off the cliff. That's going to be Obama's primary purpose, if he wins this election. We could not have had a more disastrous administration than that of Bush and Cheney, and controlling and repairing the damage will require almost all the next president's efforts. Unless, of course, McCain somehow prevails, and sets about the task of getting us over that cliff faster and with a bigger boom. To switch metaphors, I envision a president McCain as Slim Pickens, howling with mad glee as he rides a missile to his and the world's doom.

All of this ties into my feelings about the financial bailout fiasco. The more we learn about the failed bill, the worse it appears to have been. But I don't think the Democratic "leadership" was looking for an actual resolution. I think it was looking for a compromise it could pass, to calm the markets, while hoping it could improve it, next year, with an Obama administration and larger Democratic Congressional majorities. Pelosi, Hoyer and company never have had the minimal amount of guts or savvy necessary to confront the most unpopular president ever, and they just wanted to get something done. Quickly. Neither presidential candidate took much of a lead, but at least Obama didn't spend a week posturing, demagoguing, and otherwise behaving like a petty little self-absorbed prick. McCain, as he so often has, of late, proved, yet again, that he is utterly unfit to be president. But even the compromised compromise bill failed, and it was McCain who proved, yet again, a hypocrite and a liar, while it was members of his own party who scuttled what good could have come of the bill. If the bill was so bad- and we all know it was- the Republican "leadership" never should have allowed it to have come up for a vote. The stakes are too high for these political games. The market reaction proved it. The Democrats got played, but they were trying to make an honest effort. The Republicans couldn't even manage that.

So, now we're back to square one. Bush will make another speech. Nobody will pay attention to him. Paulson will try again. It will be another half-assed effort that mostly rewards those who should be punished. Big Tent Democrat is right, that the Democrats should now offer and pass their own plan, without Republican input. Let Bush veto it. If it's a good plan, the pundits and the public might even notice, and they might reward the Democrats for doing something right. A lot of people also have pointed out that this would be a marvelous time for Obama to offer something different and substantive. And the easiest way to get things rolling would be to address the most obvious flaws in the previous plan. Not only would it be good policy, it would be good politics. Here's where I would start:

  • Put some teeth into the provisions that prevent criminally incompetent corporate execs from profiting at taxpayer expense. This shouldn't have to be explained.
  • Bail out the homeowners, first. Nobody likes the idea of a Wall Street bailout, but a homeowners' bailout could garner the votes in Congress, and would be popular with the public. It also would set the right priority, both morally and financially.
  • Mandate that any government stock purchases will be at fair market values, not arbitrary or pre-crash market values. Rather than seizing companies, as some would like, or subsidizing their failures, as the Paulson plan would have done, buy them fairly. Show confidence in the concept of capitalism. Enlist management consultants to run the companies. Take care of displaced workers. When the companies are back on firm footing, and their stock values have risen, sell them for profits. Both short-term and long-term, this will be incalculably less expensive than the Paulson plan would have been, and it will be more responsible both for government and for business.
  • I'm not an economist, and I'm sure there are smarter people than me who will have genuinely smart additional ideas. But from all I've read, these first steps would address the Paulson plan's most serious flaws. They also would address the Paulson plan's most unpopular flaws. We are not a socialist state, and we shouldn't be a corporate welfare state. If our government leaders believe in capitalism, it's time for them to prove it.

    Turkana :: 9:42 AM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!