Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Rough Beast Called Bailout

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
-- William Butler Yeats

I doodled this long ago in another connection, but it seems apt: Tonight the Rough Beast Called Rescue Bailout slouched right through the Senate, 74-25, and continued its dreadful progress. It seems like a millennial event -- the Senate could be in session for 2,000 years and probably never pass a more misbegotten abomination.

Clearly something needs to be done. A host of responsible voices have suggested solutions that would better protect the taxpayer and be more likely to work, mostly variants of the "Swedish model" of the government taking an equity stake in the banks it helps, instead of reflexively throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at them. I'm proud that one of my senators, Russ Feingold was one of 25 senators who voted against the highly flawed Senate bill.

The original Paulson giveaway was only 3 pages long. After a weekend of negotiation, it grew to 42 pages. After the House toyed with it and then ultimately rejected it, the bill was 102 pages long. But the Rough Beast was still a mere infant. What the Senate rushed to cobble together in the last couple days added up to 451 pages. How many Senators even had time to read it? How many actually know what they voted for (remember, the Devil is in the details)?

451 is an interesting number. As Ray Bradbury reminded us, Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which paper catches fire. I say burn all 451 pages, before they do more harm. Or, second best, I hope the House follows Feingold's lead and votes it down. Then we can get serious.


Dr Bud Diablo, Friendly Beast said...

Yeats's Rough Beast shambles across my screen daily. People are in an apocalyptic mood, and see the Beast in every statesman they loathe and every political development they deplore.

It's funny that Lefties make such free use of the Beast. Yeats was a right-winger who sneered at democracy and yearned to see society reorganized along feudal lines. Furthermore, he welcomed the Beast as a destructive but historically necessary force that would pave the way for a new era. Yeats dismissed democratic Ireland as "a nation of shopkeepers" and would have cheered the wipeout of the middle class.

As far as the bailout, MadGuy, we gotta reliquify the credit markets. Some people will benefit who don't deserve to benefit, but that's always the way. "Why do the wicked prosper?" asks the Bible. Because they're wicked, obviously.

Anyway, the bailout won't be enough. Yesterday, I read the article I've been expecting to read. Folks are defaulting on their auto loans and credit card. This debt also gets packaged into dubious securities, so more trouble is on the way. Another Rough Beast, as it were.

The market is up today on news that the bailout has passed. Woot! While I think the measure is necessary, it's not my idea of good news. I'm staying in cash, and am prepared to stuff it in the mattress when the time comes.

The only Dow stock not down in the 777-point rout the other day was Campbell's Soup. Some people know something. My investment advice: Don't buy the stock, but do buy the soup in bulk. The time is coming when you'll be able to swap a can of Chicken 'N' Stars for a Campari.

Bud "Beast of Burden" Diablo said...

Your Thurber-esque doodle isn't much of a Rough Beast. He doesn't even look carnivorous. I certainly can't picture him with a 666 brand. I would call him a Gruff Beast at best. Can't you come up with something a more demonic beast, or at least something that looks like it has a chip on its shoulder?

It's not looking good for Aaron Rodgers this week. We may be seeing Packer rookie Matt Flynn. It's lucky we're at home playing hapless Atlanta--or is it? Time will tell.