The Guilfoile-Warner Papers

October 1

Before I tell you how it could get worse for Sarah Palin, I have to confess, just for the record, that I have a little pastor problem of my own. My freshman year of college, I signed up for a class because it fit into my schedule. I don't remember the name of it or the subject, but it was a theology class of some sort and it was the only class I had in four years at Notre Dame that was taught by a priest. He was about 107 years old. One day, to the horror of everyone, he wrote on the blackboard 25 sexual sins in order of their deviance. I'll keep you in suspense about what was number one, but I will tell you that "bestiality" was number three. Another time he told us a story about how, back in the 1950's, a student came to his door in the middle of the night complaining about abdominal pain. So this priest says, "What is it, Phil? The devil?" and then proceeds to improvise an exorcism in the dorm hallway. When I suggested that, I don't know, his appendix might have been my first diagnosis, the priest sneered at me and insisted the kid got better with a little Latin and holy water. If he says so. Anyway, after a few classes I went and found another priest that I knew wasn't completely crazy and I asked if he'd ever heard of this guy. "Oh Christ," my priest friend said. "We are all waiting for him to die." I mention this because it seems to me that Sarah Palin's witch doctor situation is coming in a little under the bailout anxiety radar. Here's a good summary from Olbermann's show and then if you really want to go to the source, here is what appears to be video of Sarah Palin receiving protection from witches. Now if that doesn't freak you out, there's this excerpt from the latest train wreck interview Palin did with Katie Couric in which, when asked what newspapers and magazines she reads, or which publications have shaped her worldview, Palin replied, seriously, "all of them." You and I have said before that George Bush's most debilitating trait is a lack of curiosity about the world, but Sarah Palin makes George Bush look like Louis Pasteur. Also, she apparently believes in witches. We got a letter today from a fellow named Michael Brett. He had plenty of nice things to say about the new blog but he wanted to know why we were supporting the bailout.
Why give money to people who have already overwhelmingly proved their fiduciary irresponsibility? Today I head [sic] that employment might, MIGHT, hit seven percent next week? Seven per cent? In the GD (Great Depression), it was a QUARTER of the population! We are not entering a new GD, people.
Michael has a good point, and part of the problem here is lawmakers are trying to strike a balance between explaining the seriousness of the problem and not freaking everybody's shit out. As a result there's a lot of confusion at the moment about what's going on (and a lot of it is mine). But one critical reason we had a depression in the thirties was that the government failed to act to halt the failures of banks. It let banks and other companies fail, there was widespread panic and fear of borrowing, and people lost jobs and industries collapsed and it took a decade and a world war to pull us out of it. Michael and I aren't affected by the credit crisis yet (almost 10,000 banks failed in the thirties, and there are only about 100 on the government's watch list at the moment). Nevertheless we will be. Lending institutions are afraid to lend money because they're afraid they'll need the cash just to stay in business. Banks are going to start tightening lines of credit that companies use to function every day, which means that some of them will miss payroll. Just yesterday I heard about a large and longstanding arts operation in the midwest that might have to fold this week because its bank won't renew its bond under current conditions and the monthly interest they will have to pay is going to nearly quadruple. People are having trouble getting car loans which means they aren't buying new cars which eventually will mean thousands of layoffs. People won't be able to get home loans so they won't be able to buy houses. People who own houses will continue to see their property values drop as interest rates rise, and when the value of their property is no longer worth the mortgage they are paying they will have to walk away and let the banks take their houses. Which the banks will lose more money on. And so on. In his letter, Michael says he doesn't want to help "rich, white, greedy people." The truth is that many of the executives who made these poor decisions have already been shown the door (albeit with gilded parachutes, but the point is their humiliations and their undeserved rewards are already in the past). Most of the people who will lose their jobs when banks and brokerages fail are neither rich nor greedy (although a lot of them will probably be white, if that's really a concern). Millions of people will be affected if nothing is done. Look, this sucks. Ideally the private sector would take on this risk instead of the federal government, but there aren't any companies in the private sector big enough to carry a debit of this size for what might be several years. And as the stats site Five Thirty Eight points out, part of the problem with getting this bill passed is that voters understand neither the bill nor the implications of doing nothing, which makes politicians (especially in an election year) conflicted: "(E)veryone wants the package to pass but nobody wants to vote for it." I don't know if any plan capable of passing will be the best way to handle the crisis. We might never know. But it's almost certain that doing nothing will be very bad, because the last time we did nothing we had, in Michael's vernacular, the "old GD." When banks fail people panic, even if there's no rational reason for it. The government has performed similar rescues in the past. After the savings and loan bailout in the 80s not only did the economy recover quickly, but taxpayers eventually made a profit. The government looks like it will make a profit from the rescue of AIG just a few weeks ago. What we need is leaders who understand that they shouldn't be afraid of angry constituents a month from now as much as they should be afraid of angry and desperate constituents one and two years from now. We need to act today, and not when you and Michael and me have already loaded up the truck looking for migrant farm work in California. Some economists and libertarians believe we should just let the market take care of itself. Companies that made bad decisions will be punished and everything will eventually shake out for the better. They might be right. But economists and libertarians generally live in a theoretical world where everyone is a rational actor. The rest of us live in a world where the Republican nominee for Vice President might have believed that actual witches were standing in the way of her becoming governor of Alaska until an African witch hunter laid hands on her and "made a way" for it to happen. Oh, by the way: The worst sexual sin in that old priest's top 25 was masturbation, apparently because with beastiality there's at least some chance of cross-breed procreation taking place. And then, well, as long as you get married...
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