Ladies and gentlemen: Do not panic. I repeat: do not panic! However, I feel it is my duty to tell you that if you do not accept this bailout package immediately and without question, you will be subject to the consequences of a hideous financial meltdown which will make our earlier mortgage crisis look like a check-cashing fee instituted by your local bank, which, by the way, may or may not be open for business, or may now be owned by an investment firm (unless your bank went ahead and bought an investment firm – or maybe Warren Buffet bought them both, in which case we can all rest easy because the man’s resources are unlimited, aren’t they?)
At any rate, as I said: Do NOT panic. We are going to get through this, maybe even rise above this, unless we first sink into a depression the likes of which will make the Depression look like a late charge on your credit card, whose line of credit, by the way, has been cancelled. And no, we are no longer accepting mortgage payments made on your credit card; in fact, maybe we’ll just cancel your card and take your house. By the way, is your house worth anything – or at least more than the firms we’re bailing out?
Oops, I said bailout, which a guy at a bar the other night told me was absolutely the WRONG term to use. It’s the responsibility of the government to fix the economy by whatever means necessary, he said, and that’s what we’re doing. Shoring up free markets (or the free-market economy; I get confused) is the government’s job, whether it’s bailing out – er, temporarily investing – in the airline, auto or finance industries. By the way, the guy was an investment advisor, bless his little heart and he didn’t look the least bit worried, which made me feel better about the bailout – damn, I mean the taxpayer investment.
Okay, the price tag seems a little high and the powers granted to the Treasury Secretary seem a little, er, powerful but, as my guy at the bar pointed out, who better than someone who used to run Goldman Sachs. You see how well they’re doing; Warren Buffet likes Goldman. The current governor of New Jersey was also president of Goldman Sachs at one time and you see how well New Jersey is doing – number one when it comes to the state deficit. Go Jersey!
Anyway, yeah 700 billion seems like a lot of money but it really isn’t. I mean, it’s not quite three times as expensive as the Iraq war has been and while that’s supposed to bring us long-term peace and security and a return to our former glory around the world, this investment is going to bring us stability and security and the assurance that once the big boys get back on their feet and start spending all that money on crappy mortgages (ours) and second homes in the Hamptons (theirs), some of it will trickle down to you and me. Can’t wait! Sure, the oversights seem minimal and it’s not clear what we, the investors get out of it but it’s absolutely imperative we don’t start making rules which might scare the big boys away.
See, that’s why it’s so important for the American people not to panic and not to ask too many questions either. Come on, do you understand derivatives? Does Congress? Gimme a break. Besides, as my barfly friend reminded me, Congress people, they’ve got, like, ten things on their plates. Better to rely on Paulson. Bet he knows what a derivative is.
Anyway, the good news about this plan is it’s really shaken things up in Washington. We have Democrats who hate the plan but might support it, although they hate Bush, think the amount is atrocious, distrust the powers granted to the Treasury Secretary, want to know why we can’t help people defaulting on their mortgages and wonder why the Republicans won’t support it. We’ve got Republicans who hate the plan and won’t support it because they’ve suddenly remembered they hate government intervention almost as much as they hate government oversight. What kind of politics the Administration is practicing is beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend at this point but it appears to be primarily about the politics of fear, at which they excel. But no need to panic.