Bill Steigerwald

You can't pin any blame for the country's financial meltdown on Congressman Ron Paul. The libertarian Texas Republican and former Pittsburgher has been warning for two decades about the unhappy -- and inevitable -- economic consequences of a loose monetary policy, fiscal irresponsibility and too much meddling in the marketplace by the federal government.

Not surprisingly, Rep. Paul says he is "positively opposed" to what he calls the Bush administration's "slipshod" $700 billion bailout plan. As Paul warned the House of Representatives Wednesday, "Our economy faces a bleak future, particularly if the latest $700 billion bailout plan ends up passing. We risk committing the same errors that prolonged the misery of the Great Depression, namely keeping prices from falling."

I talked to Paul by phone from Washington early Thursday evening as the Beltway political powers were still meeting and trying to agree on how to fix the problem they are largely responsible for creating.

Q: I suspect we won't hear you cheering about the bailout -- or "The Rescue" -- as they are trying to call it?

A: No way. I think that it's just going to bring more problems. You can't stop a problem of too much spending and too much deficits and too much monetary inflation with more of it. So I’m positively opposed to the bailout and believe it will just delay the correction that is required. We need to correct the imbalances and if you interfere, you just delay it and make it more difficult and make the problems worse for ourselves.

Q: Did you see President Bush’s 15-minute speech on the economic crisis Thursday night?

A: I did see part of it.

Q: Do you think he is telling the story as straight as he should be or is he glossing over some things?

A: Well, I’m sure he’s glossing over. I imagine he believes what he’s saying. But you know I was just on the (House) floor and a couple other members came over and showed me some articles and letters they’ve received. One was from a banker who’s involved with 1,500 banks in the South. He was positively opposed to the bailout. He said, “Why punish all of us when just a few people have really messed up?” Someone else came along with a chart that showed that credit has not frozen up and that there’s as much credit available in the last couple weeks as there was in the last six months. So that means the (bailout supporters) are working on some propaganda to sort of frighten members of Congress into voting for it. If you don’t vote for it, and there’s a problem, then you’re going to be blamed for it.

Q: Is this truly a national crisis? So many of national crises really are regionalized or localized problems.

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald, born and raised in Pittsburgh, is a former L.A. Times copy editor and free-lancer who also worked as a docudrama researcher for CBS-TV in Hollywood before becoming a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a columnist Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Bill Steigerwald recently retired from daily newspaper journalism..