So here we are -- wherever "here" is, economically, financially speaking. The House balks at the bailout. The markets tumble. What next? No expert who tells you he knows what's ahead is to be believed, and you can tell him a colleague said so.
I wonder if we might, anyway, engage in some guess work. I have a few notions of my own.
I think the election of Barack Obama has not been cinched, but that the Democratic ticket's chances are vastly enhanced. It is a melancholy thought. I share it with reluctance.
If I correctly read human nature, I see my fellow Americans as ready for a brand-new version of the same-old same-old. I see them ready, that is, for "change." For anything but news accounts about the crash of companies and the shredding of retirement accounts and stock portfolios.
The most sensible editorial page on the planet, the Wall Street Journal's, saw the bailout bill as generally, under the anguished circumstances, OK. That gave some hope. Yet the House went ahead and shot the thing down. I have the sense that Americans, whatever their view of the proposed bailout, are sick of the whole sideshow. They want it to go away. But it won't. So they hope for something new.
Many are tired of the old doctors -- associated as they are with painful treatment rather than cure -- with bailouts, with takeovers, with anguish, with loss. They want a new set of physicians. In fact, I think what they want is that which children who cut their fingers want. They want authority figures to "kiss it and make it well." But just get it done!
This is where we are politically, I think. The polls show Obama sprinting into the electoral lead. I do not think it is because he is Barack the Wonderful. I think it is because he was outside the room when the ceiling came crashing down unexpectedly and the moaning started.
Nor do voters require him to have infallible answers. They require only that he inspect the damage, pick up the phone, call in the work crews.
Which can be a problem for the new gang. What if they don't work out? What if their plans aren't any good, or anyway noticeably better than the old plans? The Obama administration -- see, I am starting to think of it in those terms -- lacks ideas unconnected with enhancing the clout of "progressive" interest groups like labor unions and "community organizers." Tax increases, suffocating oversight of credit decisions, general dampening of the spirit of innovation and risk-taking -- stunts like these can keep an economy stalled indefinitely, to the mounting anger of those who demanded "change" to begin with. Even the House has come to wish it had bailed out for dear life!