Monday, September 29, 2008

What I don't want to hear.

Our leaders are failing. They don't comprehend the level of the crisis we face, and seem unwilling to set aside personal political gain for more than a sentence at a time. Public utterances have taken this form: "We need to put aside partisan politics to resolve this crisis. Now let me tell you why the other guys suck." This is unacceptable.

Charlie had a comment at Amba's place today that partially captures the enormity of the moment:

Pat, until this sorts out, there are no good risks. People are talking about a potential for a 4,000 point loss out of this, maybe in the next month. (Remember, Wednesday is October. And Octobers are bad.)

Every measure of the market says it would take an atomic war to be more worrisome right now.
Let me put it another way. Today is roughly equivalent to September 12, 2001 - crisis has overwhelmed mere partisan concerns. Action needs to be taken right now to prevent events from spiraling out of control.

But this comparison to September 12, 2001 is wrong. The crisis we face now is worse. Beyond the immediate death and destruction of that day, the 9/11 attacks led to a double-dipper recession, a couple of minor wars and some bad domestic legislation. All in all bad times. But today we face the prospect of entering another global depression, a catastrophe not seen since the 1930s. To understand how bad THAT got, consider that World War II can be considered a secondary effect of the Great Depression.

Right now the politicians should only discuss how to keep the current crisis from turning into a complete disaster. After the immediate crisis we can assess blame and resume partisan bickering while we figure out how to fix the root causes. But not now.

I understand that ideas about how to avert disaster differ, often from deep philosophical differences, and that heated exchanges will occur. But I don't want to hear any more overt partisanship. Until the deal is done, I don't want to hear any Democrat use the word "Republican". And I don't want to hear any Republican use the word "Democrat". I don't even want to hear phrases like "the other side". We're staring disaster in the face, and it's time for our elected representatives to lead and to govern. As a first step they must quite acting like "me first" partisans. In short, put aside parties and act as Americans. The nation requires it.

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