Doubling Down on a Bet

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Sep 29, 2008 2:56 PM
More than half the House Democrats voted for the bailout bill.  Much more than half the Republicans voted against it.

By doing so, House Republicans have shown themselves to be gamblers.  If all of this turns out all right despite the absence of a bill, kudos to them.

But it's a big gamble.  If the economy now tanks, they will be blamed, unfairly or not.  From here on out, the Democrat and the media meme for any disaster will be, "Republicans could have prevented it, and they didn't."  

Anyone who thinks their voters will admire their principles, should this grow worse, is dreaming.  Concerns like creeping socialism vanish pretty quickly if 401Ks are disappearing in a pouf of smoke.  "Main Street" won't be grateful, either, if credit dries up and they're unable to get a line of credit to meet payroll.  At that point, they will then turn to the Republicans who voted against the bill on their orders and say, "Why didn't you know? You were supposed to use your judgment!"

All the stuff about Pelosi's partisan speech and the fact she couldn't bring along more than 60% of her caucus won't matter.  What voters will remember (and what they will be told) is that Democrats took a hard vote to avert disaster; Republicans refused.  It will be a huge setback not only for the GOP brand, but more importantly, for free market principles, which will appear to have failed.  And then good luck averting even worse legislation than this was.  As I've noted

Of course, if the gloom-and-doom scenario never materializes, it will be because John McCain was right in stating that the fundamentals of the American economy are sound.  But the problem with a crisis of confidence like the one we've seen is that things spiral downward for little cause (or no cause at all).

I'm hoping that the people voting against this weren't the ones who needed glossaries earlier in the week to learn what all the financial terms meant.  I'm hoping that we're not reaping the whirlwind for a generation of "education" that's neglected basic economic literacy, and instead substituted a bunch of class resentment and populist rhetoric.

What people need to understand is that if Wall Street collapses, eventually, everyone is going to feel it, in a way that's going to be very sharp and very ugly.

Update:  The comments below are instructive.  But to my friends who say, "Better a Great Depression than losing our constitutional state" (or words to that effect), check my post from Friday.  I noted then the historical fact that many of the Big Government elements we deplore most today were introduced as the country writhed in the throes of the Great Depression, and people were desperate.  

If things go badly downhill, what, exactly, do they think will happen again?  Market principles will be deeply discredited, and we will all get much, much more socialism -- and more constitutional incursions -- than we would have, even with this far-from-perfect piece of legislation.  The TVA, NRA, CCC, etc. would look like child's play, as President Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi's Congress and Harry Reid's Senate construct a statist superstructure that could never be completely eradicated.