My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Thoughts On A Prayer 

As I was considering the current condition of the country the other day, a quote from an entertaining but otherwise meaningless movie leapt to mind:

"May God grant us the wisdom to discover right, the will to choose it, and the strength to make it endure. "

Let us consider that prayer in relation to the government's bailout of the financial sector two weeks ago.

The "wisdom to discover the right" is a disturbingly rare thing in Washington. Only one fool had the candor to admit that "nobody knows what to do," and he's the subject of an attack ad now. If the beginning of wisdom is the phrase "I don't know," then that makes Harry Reid a wise man.

Is anybody else as frightened as I am that Harry Reid is "wise" compared to the rest of Washington?

And, of course, note that not knowing what to do DID NOT stop Harry Reid from doing something, anyway.

I suspect, based on the original vote in the House, that there actually were a few people who knew what to do. In fact, I know that's the case:

One lawmaker who voted against the bill, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said the measure would leave a huge burden on taxpayers. "This legislation is giving us a choice between bankrupting our children and bankrupting a few of these big financial institutions on Wall Street that made bad decisions," he said. Culberson voted against the bill.

Other conservative Republicans who voted "no" argued the bill would be a blow against economic freedom.

Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., said the bill posed a choice between the loss of prosperity in the short term or economic freedom in the long term. He said once the federal government enters the financial marketplace, it will not leave. "The choice is stark," he said.

Yes, for full disclosure, I should point out that I opposed this bailout as well. And I wrote about it here: it makes sense, from an economic perspective, to let institutions that act stupidly fail; it also makes sense to build a firewall around them so they don't take out the whole economy with them.

This bailout did not do that: this bailout saved the stupid from the consequences of their stupidity, while bankrolling an enormous government takeover of a segment of the economy, and making the American people foot the bill for it.

Nonetheless, led by President Bush and Treasury Secretary Poulson, the Senate under the leadership of Harry Reid went running right into the tunnel chasing the light at the other end. Once they did that it was relatively easy to push the smart members of the House to stop acting smart and get on board.

Which is where the second part of the prayer comes into play: the "will to choose it." After Senate passage, 58 members of the House changed their minds and voted for it. So, because of political momentum and pressure, elected officials--whose oath is to the Constitution, mind you--decided that freedom was not important enough a principle to stand on.

Moreover, where does this President, who ran and got elected on "free market" principles, get to decide--unilaterally--that the market is no longer an effective mechanism for managing the economy? Surely it occurred to him that Henry Poulson, whose background is on Wall Street, might have a mixed motive in deciding whether or not to bail out his old friends and future benefactors.

Or did he "look into his eyes . . . " and blah blah blah

There were a handful (171) of House members who had the wisdom to discover the right, and the will to choose it--they just happen to be outnumbered in Washington by about 2-1.

And, how's that working out for us?

On the day the first bailout bill failed, the Dow Jones fell over 700 points. But, on the next day, it rebounded by over 400 points; on the day of the second House vote, the Dow was up as much as 300 points, fell after the vote and ended the day down 157 points. In the week after the financial sector was "rescued" by Washington, the Dow Jones dove by over 1800 points--more than 18% of its value--to finish its worst week ever (for comparison, in July 1933 (The Great Depression) the Dow dove 17%, its previous worst).

I think the pattern is clear: the markets don't believe the government can help.

And what about that last portion of the prayer: the "strength to make it endure"?

We, as a people, are guilty for this one.

We have looked to the government to solve our problems, to manage our lifestyles, to take care of our opportunities, and keep us healthy, and, as a result, have elected to Congress people who are telling us all about how they best can do that for us. As a result, the "right" is no longer something that we can have endure--we have lost track of it altogether. Those few with both the wisdom and the will are so overmatched in Congress that they don't have the strength to make it endure.

WE don't have the strength.

And that's on just the economy. Later I will discuss the possibility that this is not just an economic disaster--the Big Picture is pretty bleak, as well.


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