Trying to Put Our Vast Economic Experiment into Perspective

esterday I quoted the late John Updike on “This I Believe” – talking about his belief in the wisdom of the American political experiment. This experiment is based on the ideal “of trusting the citizens to know their own minds and best interests.”
    The last sentence of Updike’s statement caught Robert H. Crilley’s eye. “I agree with his statement,” he said, “but I wish I had some refinement of what he means in the last sentence: ‘To guarantee the individual maximum freedom within a social frame of minimal laws ensures — if not happiness — its hopeful pursuit.’ Because, it would appear that in the last eight years, the government pattern of minimal laws has wreaked havoc in the banking industry and diminished safety in the food and drug arena.”
    I agree. Too little regulation and oversight is what caused our current financial crisis, as we discussed on late last year. Periods of excessive deregulation always precede financial disasters.

    The pendulum began to swing in the other direction during Bush’s administration, starting with the huge bailout of Wall Street financial institutions, followed by big bridge loans to Detroit automakers. The Wall Street bailout doesn’t seem to have worked, and lack of oversight has led to misuses of the money. It’s too soon to tell what the effect of the Detroit bailout will be.
    The U.S. House of Representatives – or, I should say, Democrats in that body – voted to approve Obama’s $825 billion economic stimulus plan. If the Senate approves it, the total bill for all three packages – Wall Street, Detroit, and the stimulus package – will exceed $1.5 trillion.
    How do we put these vast new values into perspective? Novelty companies are making jokes about the size of the debt. A fake “trillion-dollar bill” sells for less than 50 cents online these days.

    How much is a trillion dollars? There are several analogies. Here are two of my favorites.
    Placed end to end, “one trillion dollars would stretch nearly from the earth to the sun. It would take a military jet flying at the speed of sound, reeling out a roll of dollar bills behind it, 14 years before it reeled out one trillion dollar bills.”

    Welcome to one of the biggest economic experiments ever.
    How do you feel about it?

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