Our politicians are running true to form. I was skeptical about the House going against the bailout — excuse please, "rescue" — bill, figuring it was just a gesture so they could tell the folks back in their districts that they voted against it before they voted for it. Now, the Senate has "sweetened" the plan by tossing a further $100 billion into the hopper for special-interest breaks, including "an exemption for excise taxes on certain wooden arrows designed for use by children and more favorable tax treatment of income from litigation over the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska." That enabled the Senate to pass it with a clear lack of conscience and will no doubt help the House members suddenly find room in their hearts to contribute to the Banking CEO Aid Society.
I thought if the House turned down a bill, that was supposed to bin it. I guess the rules have changed. Now a branch of Congress can vote a bill down and after three days of pressure can see the light and reverse itself. We've become like the European Union, where if a country refuses in a referendum to join they just keep having more referendums until the opposition gets so tired of the effort that they yield to the inevitable.
Updating yesterday's entry about NPR: I listened to "Marketplace" again last night. To be fair, the program did begin with an interview of a Congressman from Oregon who insists the bailout won't work and will just contribute additional moral hazard, with large institutions becoming more confident than ever that they can play fast and loose because they will be saved by the government playing Robin Hood in reverse. (It's interesting that the bailout has brought the word "moral" — previously a quaint antique among our chattering classes — back into limited use in the media.)
With that segment out of the way, "Marketplace" got back into high gear promoting the bailout. The lowlight of the show was an interview with a psychologist. Host Kai Ryssdal prefaced it by wondering why, when so many would benefit by the bailout, they were willing to go against their own interests just because they were angry at Wall Street. That seems to be a big element of the Party line, a variation on What's the Matter With Kansas? (The little people are too stupid to know what's good for them, unlike their Liberal Establishment betters, and so vote wrong.)
I didn't catch the psychologist's name, but he was perfectly cast. Even had a Dr. Freud-like possibly Viennese accent. He explained that people who are angry often want revenge. My word, these brain masseurs are smart! He added that if our Supreme Leaders want to get the bailout passed, they should throw in a few "revenge" provisions like capping CEO pay to win the support of the yokels.
The program's next tactical move was to show how we need the bailout for ordinary salt-of-the-earth small business owners. We heard interviews with several of them, whingeing about how they couldn't get loans to expand their businesses or meet their payrolls. One woman who owns a fragrance boutique or some such thing bewailed her inability to borrow from a bank to hire a new employee.
I sympathize with anyone trying to keep their own business afloat, but there may be more to the story. There was no evidence that the reason these people couldn't get any dosh from the banks was because the banks were marking time waiting for the bailout. Possibly there are still some loan officers with a shrewd ability to assess an enterprise's prospects. After listening to a few of the stories, I couldn't help wondering: is there no one left in this country who can run a business with a positive cash flow?
I often enjoy the irreverent comments on the MarketWatch Web site (not to be confused with "Marketplace"). Today, "Goldbrain" writes, "Based on the reaction to the Senate vote yesterday, specifically the strengthening of the dollar today, there seems to be no concern about ever paying back any of the money borrowed/printed out of thin air. The next plan should be to eliminate taxes altogether and simply print all the money necessary to pay for all government services, the military and free health care etc. If nobody cares, then nobody cares!"
"Daveward" writes, "Perfect. Tell the taxpayers they can defer all taxes to three generations down the line. Talk about stimulus!"