Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A time for Congress to drag its feet 

In the hastily arranged 2002 Minnesota senatorial debate, Walt Mondale responded to Norm Coleman's claim to know how to get things done, "You said, 'Get it done.' I don't think your bill should get done."

As I've absorbed more information and opinion (Here's an article that brilliantly analogizes the problem in terms of marbles) I've changed my prior evaluation - this is a momentous and urgent crisis. However, because of its huge and deteriorating-by-the-day nature we can't shoot from the hip as we're doing - it's far more important to get it right the first time, as it's perhaps our only chance.

For far less important issues, Congress habitually holds many hearings and digests the opinions of many experts. As far as I know, and I think I'm right, Congress has taken testimony on the Paulson bill from zero experts aside from those in the Treasury Department and Fed - who played more than their fair share of a role in creating the conditions that allowed this crisis in the first place.

The strength of an idea is best tested by putting it up against competing ideas. Yes, the bill becomes more palatable each time through the sausage grinder, but by addition, not by modification or validation of the main ingredient. That the bill has "improved" speaks nothing to whether the fundamental concept of buying toxic assets from banks is the solution, a solution, part of a solution, or a hair-brained non-solution. From the expert opinion I've absorbed I'm judging it as one of the latter two possibilities.

Paulson has told negotiators he could only use about $50 billion (heh, "only") a month from the proposed fund (sorry, can't find link at the moment). $100 billion would get his plan as requested through the election, after which cooler heads may be more available to prevail. Or at least make cooler heads more available in general on Capitol Hill. The added wisdom to parcel out the appropriations over time is only equaled by the addition of congressional oversight, but again, good spices added to meat of unsure quality doesn't enhance flavor but masks it.

This is not the first time the Bush Administration has warned Congress of a can't-wait-must-act emergency shortly before an election. I hope this time we fail to act decisively before its too late to fail to act on a possibly devastating idea originating from Bush's bad idea factory.

This sentiment was stated most eloquently by Jeff Sessions (Republican of Alabama) during the hour and a half of the Senate floor debate I caught. Enthusiastically agreeing with with Jeff Sessions makes me feel creepily violated when I think about it but at the same time heightens my sense that the middle most "sensible" majority in Congress are being swept upstream by the frantic noises made by the White House.

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