Hank Paulson, a highly respected former treasury secretary and Wall Street Titan, is proposing a mammoth, $ 700 billion bailout for financial companies with a clear warning: Refuse to intervene in the country in grave danger.
Washington politicians, faced with the preparation of the voters in a matter of weeks, suddenly their courage and ideological beliefs to the test.
If you really a laissez-faire, let-the-work-market conservative, how can you sign up for a bailout, which effectively nationalizes parts of Wall Street? And if you more of a populist, and ensure that the little boy will get stuck to the costs, how can you log on a plan that does not help homeowners at risk of exclusion?
To further complicate matters, there is a presidential campaign failed. Not only is the ongoing, it is in the final stages, when those undecided voters pony to a single candidate. And both candidates – not known for their economic expertise – have difficulty in finding the right tack and tone.
Senator John McCain, who is not only branded a maverick, but an anti-CEO, populist anti-corporate greed, has a difficult decision: Will he logs on a bailout measure if it does not take into account very strong restriction on compensation for Wall Street executive Hotemetoten?
And Senator Barack Obama, who rode the outsider / change the horse all the way through elections, has to decide whether Washington should lead the way at this point.
That’s the problem: Washington is about as unpopular as he ever was. That is the reason why the presidential candidates are running against. That is part of the reason Sarah Palin is a success: She’s about as outside as you can get.
It is no coincidence that this has become McCain’s standard line when he performed with his mate: “I can not wait to introduce Sarah Palin to Washington.” What he means is that Washington will hate her, what a very good thing.
So if the anger in Washington and the government itself, was a very large part of the election campaign, what a politician should do when you are asked to approve a $ 700 billion bailout? That means that big, bad government has to help. That means that trust Washington to get the right thing. It also means confidence of President Bush – who has an approval rating below 30 percent – one last time.
So far, at least, the economic bailout has received the support of a majority of the public – but it’s not enthusiastic, and many more questions are raised every day. If the public hates to Washington, how can politicians who are active support of Washington outsiders as a solution for the economic mess?
Some will not, making the case on the basis of ideology.
Others will look to sweeten the bailout by the inclusion of guarantees that Main Street is secured by a mortgage foreclosure help, and by giving the Treasury the benefit of a stake in the bailed-out companies.
And still others, like McCain, plays the populist card against the Wall Street millionaires.
In the end, what is needed is leadership – and it seems the rarest of all commodities in Washington.
Hank Paulson can not tell what the country is at stake. And officials fear that if they really honest about it, they may panic in the audience even more. President Bush might be able to lead the way, but the voters consider him both (a) irrelevant or (b) not a reliable source.
So, oddly enough, it’s up to the two men seeking the presidency to act, well, presidential. Put the game. Changing of the bailout as necessary. and lead the nation. Voters can only follow.