Monday, 29 September 2008

Amusements at the Reichenbach Falls

You know how it is. Holmes and Moriarty wrestling on a cliff edge with the Reichenbach Falls thundering behind them...

This Bail Out Wall Street drama is actually becoming quite - is 'exciting' the right word, or is it 'comical'? No,no, no, not half sombre enough, surely! But you can't be entirely sombre at a cliff-hanger. It's either suspense or laughter.

I came home from a late class at the university (just as a lot of people were arriving to hear the late Cherie Blair speak in the Lecture Theatre) to the news that the House of Representatives had voted down the big $700 billion bail-out scheme. It seems the Republicans voted it down, not because they thought it was a bad idea - in fact they were all prepared to support it - but because nasty Nancy Pelosi had the gall to blame the current administration for the mess. How could she do such a thing! The administration had only been in power for eight years!

What she said towards the end of her speech, recommending the measure, was..

"[W]hen was the last time someone asked you for $700bn? It is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush administration's failed economic policies — policies built on budgetary recklessness, on an anything-goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision, and no discipline in the system."

...and other stuff like it. Well, you can't go around saying things like that when it's a bipartisan bill and it is clearly nobody's fault, nor ever has been, especially not the administration's. "If she's going to say things like that, we're just not playing!' said enough Republicans to sink the bill, as a result of which the Dow has dropped a record 700 points. But it's a matter of principle. Sooner let it fall twice as much as have your record so much as referred to!

It is hard to believe the Republicans could have been so stupid, because it is going to play very badly for them in the press. Obama has already taunted them with preferring party pride to the interests of the country. I can't quite see the escape clause out of that one. That is unless the Republicans can turn round in one extravagant gesture and accuse the Democrats of having effectively finessed them out of office by betting on their stupidity, a bet they won.... but then, er..

Note: Mark Granier at Lightbox has posted a very intelligent, well argued response to my comments about Damien Hirst. I will follow that up as soon as I can.


Andrew Shields said...

Before I looked at the numbers and heard the comments, I thought that the defeat of the bill might have been a principled thing that the bill, though not as bad as the original proposal, is still not a very good bill.

But I was making the mistake of thinking that the current Republican Party has principles that extend beyond the ends of their noses!

George S said...

I don't think it's a GOOD bill, Andrew. It just seems to be the only possible short-term bill. There is no alternative to the capitalist system to hand without an extremely bloody revolution (physically and metaphorically speaking). There is only - as far as I, in my layman's way, can see - a better regulated version of what we have. Mixed economies, and so forth.

There are deep moral issues involved, of course, but if we don't want mass unemployment, hunger and despair, I think it had better be realismus rather than abstract principle. What do you think?

Mark Granier said...

Realism sounds good to me George. And as you say, capitalism is the only system we have at the moment.

But capitalism is awash with unrealities too. I am presently trying to work my way through 'The Shock Doctrine' and much of it confirms what I had half-known or suspected about the gory background to the system we live by. It was (and presumably is) ideologically fueled by Milton Friedman's economic theories (which Klein calls Disaster Capitalism) which Thatcher and GW Bush and the Neocons were keen supporters of. These theories were put into practice in Latin America in 1970s and resulted in rivers clogged with corpses of the disappeared. Friedman's solution to everything, it seems, was wholly deregulated, rampant capitalism. So he would have insisted that the only thing wrong with the present economic system in the US was that it had too MANY regulations. There's irony there alright, along with all those buckets of blood.

Gwil W said...

We may be analysing this too deeply.
On BBC World News today a Zurich gnome accused the US of hillbilly politics. And yes, there was yesterday a State Senator who said he wasn't prepared to eat the cowpattie (sic) to get to the marshmallow. That's about hillbilly level I should say.

Andrew Shields said...

By now, I think my first response did involve overanalysis: many of the reps (Rep reps) who voted the bill down did so for the silliest, pettiest reasons. I gave them much too credit for being thoughtful, I think!

(Sorry I could not respond sooner.)

Gwil W said...

To put this US$700 billion fix in perspective, compare with cost of Iraq War up to now US$648 billion