All snarking about this current crisis aside (which we are doing a lot of, especially in the comments and with the Comrade titles and the potshots at the nationalization of the free market), I really have no clue what is going on with the current mess. I vacillate between there being a very serious problem that needs a bailout and this being nothing more than a last minute attempt at looting on an almost hourly basis, although there may be enough evidence out there that a little bit of both is going on. Likewise, I am wholly convinced that no matter which of those scenarios is most accurate, we are in deep trouble financially at a very basic level. We are not a healthy nation.
Part of the problem with all of this is that there is so much information flying around that it might as well be in a foreign language, and to some extent to the wizards on Wall Street, that is not a bug, but a feature. LIBOR, CDS, OTC, TED, and on and on. The numbers, too, are out of the realm of imagination. Seven hundred billion dollar bailout (and if the bailout is needed, this is just the beginning. If a real bailout is needed, and this is not just looting, I would bet this will be a multi-trillion dollar affair)? Sixty trillion dollars in credit default swaps? Five hundred ninety six trillion dollars in OTC derivatives? Sorry, folks, but this is over my head.
Then you add in the rumor mill. Those trying to spread rumors to make a buck, those spreading rumors out of sheer terror, those spreading rumors out of ignorance. At a time when we need a competent press, we simply are left to our own devices to try to figure things out, all while one of the two major parties continues their petty jihad against the media in an attempt to additionally dilute the concept of truth in order to further their short-term political agenda. What we are left with is a bunch of preening frat boys on the finance channels and the masters of the dominant narrative in the rest of the media.
And finally, the real problem is one I mentioned earlier- the crisis in confidence is not limited to Wall Street and the Market. Right now, there is a crisis in confidence in Washington, and this can be pinned solely on the Bush administration and the Republicans. The repeated distortions and prevarications from these crooks, from “the war will pay for itself” to “Heckuva job, Brownie” to mumbling “Anyone who outs a CIA asset will be fired” while commuting the sentence has my confidence in government at an all time low. And don’t be confused, the rot in the GOP goes all the way down to the base. It has been both distressing and entertaining this week watching the markets meltdown and the only thing the right wing blogs are focused on are a video posted on youtube by an Obama supporter and a 20 year old kid who read some of Palin’s email.
Add to that the fact that the man charged with selling the need for bailout can’t even give three minutes of truthful testimony and lied in his opening statement, and I simply do not know what to believe. It also seems clear to me that Paulson and Bernanke are deeply, deeply scared (they were obviously unnerved during their testimony today), and are not really being open with the extent of this crisis. Once again, a little bit of honesty would really help us all out, but instead we are told that we can’t handle the truth. More than the trillions of dollars of debt added in the past few years, perhaps even more than the lives of all our troops lost in the last few years, the squandered trust of the American people is the biggest crime of the Bush administration.
So, yeah. I am skeptical. I am disgusted. I am confused. I am concerned. And I don’t know what to believe or what to trust. And that is a dangerous thing, because I am not alone- lots of us are feeling the same thing, and are lashing out at Washington this week. The reflexive desire to oppose the bailout, to extract pain, and to be petty and childish is not isolated to one anonymous member of congress. If there really is a problem, if there really is a need to act immediately, being paralyzed by cynicism could be every bit as disastrous as being paralyzed by fear or incompetence. It would be a terrible tragedy if the one time the citizenry and the Congress stood up to the Bush thugs was the time we should have trusted them.
It would, however, be the perfect ending to the shittiest eight years of governance in the history of this nation.