Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Waiting Game

The Uncommon Wife has left The Common Man all alone with The Boy for the rest of the week, while she flies out to NYC to visit The Brother-in-law. Faced with complete, utter freedom from womanly ways, The Common Man tried to figure out how to have the manliest time possible and to impart manly wisdom to The Boy before he turns two next week. As is typical, The Common Man tired of thinking around the 30 second mark, and decided instead to take the boy back to Minnesota to, again, visit his grandparents.

Like The Common Man, it seems as though the United States Congress does not want to think long and hard about the problems facing the nation's economy these days. Today, before House Committees, Treasury Secretary Harry Paulson and FED Chairman Ben Bernanke tried to quiet panicky lawmakers who claimed that the banking bailout plan, approved in September, was not working. Since originally receiving the ok to use government funds to buy up at-risk mortgage debt, Paulson has shifted strategies and used the money to infuse $158 billion in cash into troubled banks. Paulson defended his strategy, saying, "When the facts changed and the circumstances [surrounding the financial crisis] changed, we changed the strategy. We didn't implement a flawed strategy. We implemented a strategy that worked." Yet critics are still worried that Paulson's strategy has not yet freed the wheels of the frozen credit market.

While lawmakers are right to closely watch how Americans' money is being spent by Paulson, The Common Man again hopes (once again) that everyone can just take a deep breath here. After all, how long did it take for this crisis to develop? Years, perhaps a decade or more. The pressure has been building for a long while for sure. To be up in arms because the proposed solution hasn't been an unparalleled success within two months is either a) impatient and moronic or b) blatantly opportunistic, using the crisis as a smokescreen to further shift blame for the meltdown onto an unpopular and ineffective lame-duck president who has next to no political capital at this point.

As for Paulson's apparent shift in strategy, The Common Man doesn't claim to be smart enough to know whether his new tactic will be a success or not. The Common Man is not an economist, nor does he have a lot of experience with macroeconomics (sorry Grandpa, only now does The Common Man see the folly of not taking that Econ course, as you suggested). But he does know that when financial systems are this unhealthy, like a patient recovering in ICU, they will take some time get back to normal. And lingering symptoms of whatever disease made them sick may be felt for some time, no matter how good the doctor treating it is. And given how slowly Congress can move and how rapidly the financial crisis may shift in composition and tenor, perhaps its best that Paulson have the flexibility to shift gears when he needs to, rather than waiting for approval to do so.

So sit back, America. Just hold off on the panic a little longer. The Common Man knows your portfolios are hurting (his is too). And he knows that there are still some tough times ahead. But for God's sake, don't shout blindly to the rafters that the roof is falling while Paulson works hard to prop it up. Show some restraint. Show some backbone. And show some manly fortitude. Wait and see what this this strategy can do before you come to bury it.

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