I've been doing my best to understand the financial turmoil gripping the US and with it the rest of the developed world. I'll never have a complete grasp of what's going on, I but know it has to do with making mortgages too easy for people to obtain. These risky mortgages underwrote other types of investments; when people began to default on the mortgages that much broader pool of investments began to teeter. And then credit lines froze and the Bush administration decided that a $700 billion bailout was in order. If no money is forthcoming, much of our economy could be stopped in its tracks.
So whatever the final plan is, I accept the argument that something must be done. On this point, President Bush and I agree.
I was particularly struck by this statement in the President's address to the nation Wednesday night: "The government is the one institution with the patience and resources to buy these assets at their current low prices and hold them until markets return to normal." Coming from a man who touts that government is always the problem, never the solution, this is a startling admission.
But it wasn't news to me. Growing up I became a Democrat when I realized that Republicans want to regulate what should be private (whom people marry, what they do in their own bedrooms) while Democrats stress regulation of what affects everyone (such as our economy.) Excessive and onerous regulation is not good; when the markets work smoothly that's great. But markets aren't always rational, as we are learning anew this week. There is a constructive and enduring role for government in economic affairs, whatever conservative demagogues might say.
Amidst this financial turmoil I stumbled upon a short article in the Economist about how people in conservative southern Wyoming love their public libraries. They check out more books than people in other states, and the selection of books is mostly predictable but with some pleasant surprises (like the extensive offering of novels by Margaret Atwood.)
The centerpiece of the Laramie County libraries is in Cheyenne, and it works so well because of a $27 million sales tax increase. Just like the economy needs the government, the benefits of life in a civilized society require paying taxes.
But don't take it from me. Even cowboys in Dick Cheney's Wyoming say so.