"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailing on the bailout

In a turnaround that virtually no one from the Beltway to Wall Street expected, the $700 billion financial bailout package was shot down in the House of Representatives by a vote of 228-205. The catalyst for this failure appears to be none other than Main Street; voters wrote to their representatives, telling them not to support the bill, and lo and behold: Congress listened. Despite pleas from Bush, various economists, and congressional leaders on both sides, a majority of the American people weren't willing to stomach a bill whose own supporters acknowledged was garbage. Whatever else may come of this, today was a sterling example of democracy in action.

Of course, congressional leaders were also quick to blame each other as soon as the bill failed. All of these accusations are disingenuous. Republicans blamed a hyper-partisan speech given by Speaker Pelosi before voting commenced, which I think is a silly red herring. Democrats claimed that they lived up to their side of the bargain and called on Republicans to "put their country first", a remarkable exercise in doublethink considering Reid and Pelosi couldn't even get all of their own party to vote for the bill; they technically don't need Republican help at all, since they own both chambers of Congress.

No, what happened today was simply the result of taxpayers telling their representatives that they would not chow down on the shit sandwich the government wanted to foist on them. The legislation stank and voters wanted nothing to do with it. Perhaps a new bill will be passed in the future; perhaps not. But I suspect that while we wait, and wait, and wait for Washington to come up with a Plan B, life - and the markets - will somehow go on. Overly optimistic? Maybe. It's worth noting, however, that today's 777-point loss on the Dow - while the highest single-day loss yet recorded - doesn't even make it to the top-ten list of highest overall percentage losses. And, despite the length of this crisis, our economy has still posted postive net growth this quarter; no recession yet.

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