The amount of paper wealth that evaporated in the stock market debacle Monday
$1.2 trillion is more than twice as much as the cost to date of the war in Iraq.
That's a lot of money to lose because Republicans and Democrats were more interested
in blaming each other for the crisis than in solving it.
The 778 point plunge in the Dow following the rejection in the House of
Representatives of the bailout bill for financial institutions was the largest in
history. But in proportionate terms, it was only one third as savage a blow as the
stock market suffered on Oct. 19, 1987. The Dow fell 22 percent then, 7 percent
Few Americans remember that earlier "Black Monday," because the crash had little
impact on the overall economy, and the stock market recovered fairly soon
We should keep that in mind as we assess the fallout from rejection of the bailout
bill. The stock market opened higher Tuesday, which suggests that while the credit
crisis is very serious, it may not be a catastrophe leading directly to Depression
2.0. However bad the situation might be, it isn't improved by panic.
The responsibility for torpedoing the bailout rests primarily with House
Republicans, who voted against the measure, 65-133. But 95 Democrats also voted
against the bill (140 were in favor).
The behavior of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) was peculiar. She made an
incendiary partisan speech a few minutes before the vote, which Republican leaders
said caused 10 to 12 of their members to switch their votes. And she made little
effort to encourage Democrats to vote for it.
"(House Majority Whip Jim) Clyburn (D-SC) was not whipping the votes you'd have
expected him to, in part because he was uncomfortable doing it, in part because we
didn't want the push for votes to be successful," a House Democratic staffer told
the American Spectator's "Prowler."
Barack Obama didn't exert himself on the measure's behalf, either. According to the
New York Times, he made no phone calls to Democrats urging them to support the bill.
Most members of the Black Caucus voted against it.
John McCain did exert himself, but the results were embarrassing. Two thirds of
House Republicans including all the GOPers from Arizona voted against it.
Did Democrats want the measure to fail? "The worse the better," Lenin used to say.
In the past, Democrats have prospered at the polls when the economy has done poorly.
Would they rather blame Republicans for an economic disaster than prevent the
disaster from occurring?
But the shortcomings of the Democrats are overshadowed by those of the Republicans
in the House who voted against the bill. The bailout bill is terrible. But the
alternative to passing it is very much worse.
Most who voted against it did so because constituent phone calls and emails were
running astronomical to one against the bailout. People wonder why their tax
dollars should be used to rescue fat cats whose greed and stupidity are chiefly
responsible for the crisis.
Here's why: Credit is the oil that keeps the engine of commerce running. Drain
that oil, and the engine seizes up. If people can't get auto loans, Detroit can't
sell cars. If Detroit can't sell cars, the auto plants close and workers are laid
off, and as orders for the stuff cars are made of are cancelled the recession
spreads to those industries.
But too many House Republicans lacked the guts to buck the strong, but misinformed,
populist sentiment, or the brains to realize that those hot against the bailout now
would be hot against them for not supporting it once their credit cards have been
cancelled and their 401ks and pensions have shrivelled.
This crisis was brought on by the greed and stupidity of the elites on Wall Street
and in Washington, and is being deepened by cowardice and partisanship.
"An entire generation of leadership is failing, as the world watches aghast," said
Victor Davis Hanson.