...and didn't the command-economy-types lose?
So as I write this the Dow is up 400 points on the news that the US Treasury is going to probably end up assuming ownership of all the bad paper behind this latest mess in global capitalism. The first thing I want to do is reiterate a comment I left at Chet's place -- the US Government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to do absolutely nothing: nothing, that is, except reinforce the status quo. Oh sure, there's some nice words about making sure the middle class gets something out of this too, but the motive force is coming from the Wall Street Bailout. And of course, there's the dilemma of a) whether it will actuall help matters (pace McCain, the fundamentals of the US economy aren't particularly strong) and b) whether there's any other realistic option.
What it does mean, I think, is that the very first things Barack Obama should do when inaugurated is 1) propose legislation to the US Congress creating single-payer healthcare in America, and 2) initiate a massive program to get America off coal, oil and natural gas. Expensive, you say? Big goverment, you say? Bite me. If the US taxpayer can be put on the hook for billions to no purpose at all, while the arsonists reponsible for this mess escape without so much as a night in prison, then we can afford pretty much any amout of big-government project you can name. (And, btw, Iraq is still slated to cost $3 trillion plus...)
The justification here, it seems, is that Wall Street needs to be "recapitalized", which in plain English means the treasury is going to give banks hundreds of billions of dollars for chunks of big shitpile. Fuck me, if you want to give somebody billions of dollars for nothing I could probably set up a solvent, competent banking system too. The difference is I haven't just spend the last decade running businesses in to the ground, which apparently disqualifies me from running a Fortune 500 company, or a Republican Presidential campaign.
When I say this is money being thrown down a hole, somebody is sure to object that this is, in fact, a necessary rescue. The equivalent of calling in the fire department. No, it's not. This is the equivalent of spending years building shitty matchstick homes. Made of paper, plywood and frayed wiring. On the side of a volcano. And then calling the fire department to rescue the poor, innocent people who could never possibly have predicted they were heading towards disaster.
Here's my alternate bailout proposal: instead of the trillion dollars that it's now estimated the US is going to spend getting out of this mess, how about we let Wall Street burn and spend that money rebuilding the actual economy? On today of all days, don't tell me the US can't afford high-speed rail or solar power. The government can charter what ever GSEs it needs to get through the immediate crisis, and in the meantime if Wall Street collapses entirely they'll deserve every bit of it and the supply of donations to the Republican party will dry up appreciably. I call it win-win.