A really big number

October 1, 2008

The Senate is going to try its hand on the $700 billion bailout, so, naturally, the public doesn’t have the details yet. We couldn’t have that — then, we might be informed when we e-mail or phone in our outrage of the day:

On the morning after the sell-off on Wall Street, Congressional offices reported a shift in angry calls from constituents, with some now demanding that lawmakers take some corrective action — a distinct change from the outpouring of public opposition that contributed to the defeat of the plan.

Let’s recap. Democrats made it easier to make risky loans to people who really couldn’t afford the properties they were buying, then essentially forced those loans to be made. Republicans pushed for repeal of a law that kept banks and insurance companies from buying risky mortgage-backed securities, then the SEC, a Republican appointee during a Republican administration with a Republican Congress, relaxed many of the oversight rules, letting lenders double their leverage rates. Both parties thus contributed to the mess. Instead of admitting that, they each continue to emphasize the other party’s role. Instead of working together honestly to find the best answer, they are reacting  to us. We bounce around from being outraged one way or the other, and they vote accordingly.

That about it? These are the people we’re supposed to trust with $700 billion? Oh, and about that. You might have heard this elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating:

In fact, some of the most basic details, including the $700 billion figure Treasury would use to buy up bad debt, are fuzzy.

“It’s not based on any particular data point,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. “We just wanted to choose a really large number.”

Two good rules: 1) Don’t trust anything out of Washington. 2) If it’s election season, just assume everything you hear is a lie.

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