Friday, October 3, 2008

Fool Me How Many Times?

Iacta alea est (at least in the Suetonius version). As Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported (or as they apparently prefer to say, "wrote") for the Associated Press, the "sweetened" version of the bailout proposal that the Senate passed has been passed by the House 263-171. There are still the heroes of dissent, who insisted that you cannot deliberate without alternatives. The flamboyance of Dennis Kucinich won him another Chutzpah of the Week award, while Marcy Kaptur responded with language more relevant to our faith-based administration:

Pray for our republic. She's being placed in very uncaring and greedy hands.

Our faith-based President exerted all of the pressure of his office in the interest of "rapid response," because, as he put it (probably oblivious to the double entendre of "confidence"), "it's important to have confidence in our financial system." The bill was passed from the Congress to the White House so rapidly that, for all I know, the ink had not yet dried when the President applied his signature, according to Davis with the following comments:

"We have acted boldly to help prevent the crisis on Wall Street from becoming a crisis in communities across our country," Bush said shortly after the plan cleared Congress, although he conceded, "our economy continues to face serious challenges."

He should have kept his mouth shut.

The task of writing now shifted from Davis to Business Writer Tim Paradis, who accounted for how the financial system reacted:

The Dow fell 157.47, or 1.50 percent, to 10,325.38 after rising more than 310 points just after the House vote began.

Broader stock indicators also ended lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 15.05, or 1.35 percent, to 1,099.23, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 29.33, or 1.48 percent, to 1,947.39.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 18.27, or 2.87 percent, to 619.40.

Bush may have stressed the need for urgency in terms of "people" (whoever they were) "losing confidence;" but at the end of the day (which is usually when the numbers "go on the record"), what matters is whether or not the "financial system" (embodied in those who exercise it through trading) has confidence in itself, so to speak. The President pushed, Congress capitulated, and Wall Street reacted. Unfortunately, their reaction may have been one against acting too hastily in the face of a poor understanding of what the problems really were and what actions were likely to be most effective, whether or not they were most efficient. In other words confidence (or lack thereof) in the judgment of the Government ended up trumping (and trouncing) confidence in the financial system.

This brings us back to poor embattled Bernie Sanders, who really tried to be the guy you couldn't fool twice, and Lloyd Doggett, who declared on the House floor that we had already been fooled twice, first by the Iraq War and then by the Patriot Act. Now it looks as if even the traders are siding with Kaptur. Just who was that pundit who had asked rhetorically how much more damage the Bush Administration could do before leaving office? "[N]ever send to know for whom the bell tolls," indeed! The tolling has gotten damned deafening!

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