Well, I've finally found a way to have a semi-informed opinion on the bailout package, and I'm for it -- reluctantly. And it was the Democrats who have convinced me.
From the outset, the Democrats have failed what I like to call the "Reynolds test" -- "I'll believe that there's a crisis when the people who say it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis." If you listen to the Democrats, then you might think we're on the verge of another Great Depression. But if you look at what they do, not what they say, then the hysteria fades a bit.
When the bailout package was first being kicked around, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to sneak into law an extension of the ban on developing shale oil. He was hoping that no one would be paying attention to a very innocuously-worded amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act.
Then, when the bill itself was being crafted, Democrats tried to write in a subsidy to groups like ACORN and help even more people who probably shouldn't buy houses buy houses. Paying off one's allies is a time-honored partisan tradition, the kind of thing that really ought to be set aside when there is a real crisis.
Also, the House Democrats pretty much pissed all over the Republican minority at every opportunity. They set up a meeting to work out details for the bailout package, but pointedly excluded the Republicans from the meeting. Then they denounced them for not showing up to a meeting where they were not invited.
That was the kind of thing that led to John McCain getting personally involved. He inserted himself into the negotiations process and demanded that the House Republicans be given a seat at the table. That led to a lot of compromises (including the ACORN provision that had me -- and a lot of others -- infuriated), and everyone thought would pass.
And then, just before the vote, Nancy Pelosi couldn't control herself. She gave a speech on the House floor and laid the whole blame for the current financial problems on the Republicans, lock, stock, and barrel.
At that point, apparently, enough Republicans said "screw this, we ain't going along if we're gonna keep getting pissed all over" and chose to vote against it.
So, to me, it seems abundantly clear that the Democrats don't see the current situation as a crisis, and are acting like everything is business as usual. To me, that says -- far more clearly than their words -- that they don't think things are anywhere as bad as they say they are.
And that is what convinces me that things are far worse than they think.
Because the Democrats have been consistently wrong on the whole situation, and have been for years. There is no end of videos of leading Democrats praising Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's stability, of their performance, defending the leaders (most notably Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson), and thoroughly denouncing and scuttling numerous attempts to head off the problems that have started to come to a head in the past month or so.
It's a kind of negative evidence, but it's persuasive to me: the Democrats have a solidly established record of being utterly and completely wrong on the whole mess. They are now acting as if the situation isn't so bad, and are still far more interested in playing their run-of-the-mill political games with the whole process. If they are still wrong (and the odds are highly in favor of that conclusion), then we are in real trouble and the bailout that they don't seem to care about whether or not it passes is probably a necessary evil.
Thanks, Democrats. You've saved me at least a couple years of thorough study of macroeconomics and high finance and the nuances of our financial system (which I find incredibly tedious -- serious MEGO territory for me, almost as bad as polling) before I could render a truly informed and educated opinion.