Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Humpty Dumpty Does A Star Turn

As I and other folks who weren't born yesterday have already written, there is a very different feeling to this economic crisis.

Perhaps the last eight years of deregulation, rampant greed and an epidemic of book cooking has diminished my faith in our financial institutions to such a point that I can't see straight. But what is happening on Wall Street and happened yesterday in Congress in the single most profound smackdown of a sitting president in memory just doesn't have the feel of the 1987 crash, the dot-com bubble kaboom or the post-9/11 plop.

In each of those instances it felt like the ship would right itself, and it did. But this time I get the feeling that things won't ever be quite the same again and whatever adjustment occurs will be as inadequate as Washington's flailing efforts to plug the gaping holes in the ship's hull while not even beginning to deal with the underlying causes.

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While the parallels with the waning years of British Empire are uneven, I keep getting the feeling that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the American Empire.

John Gray of The Guardian wrote before the bailout vote yesterday that successive American administrations have lectured, among others, Indonesia, Thailand, Argentinas and especially China on the prudence of sound financial policies; which is to say policies on the U.S. model.

China has pretty more ignored this hectoring and now it is China that is ascendant while the U.S. that is looking for all the world like a dottering old man.

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I have written around the economic crisis because as relatively thorough as my knowledge of economics and the markets may be, we're in uncharted territory here.
I still can't figure out why AIG was not allowed to fail but Lehman Brothers was. Or why shareholders allowed once conservative bankers, seduced by the scent of easy money, manage their institutions like a bunch of hedge fund managers? I am on shaky ground when it comes to derivatives, and trying to fathom credit-default swaps brings tears to my eyes.

So my hopes for the next few days are modest.

I'm not even sure that House Democrats, whose leadership is at least less shaky than that of The Decider and Treasury Secretary Paulson, can get a revised bailout bill passed that contains what I want -- less taxpayer money and more taxpayer protections.

That will be a Herculean task because Republicans are at this point either in a full panic as they run around trying to put the
Humpty Dumpty of the Good Old Days back together again or in a full dander because they just don't see the crisis in apocalyptic terms and sense that Main Street is fed up with Wall Street.

In that I am quite sure they are correct.

For other voices on the economic crisis, check out
today's Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere.

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