Tom Foreman | Bio
Two roads are diverging in a Washington wood, and frankly that’s scaring the hell out of Congress.
I’m talking about the economy of course. The latest numbers from Dr. Obvious (meaning whomever has pumped out the most recent terrible news about jobs, production, failing businesses, you name it) is just confirming what we all know: The economic woods are growing very dark ahead of us. And our nation’s leaders are standing at a crossroads.
In one direction is the sign that points to Bailout Town. With the stumbles over the car industry’s request for help, it is possible that this road is fast closing. But let’s say for a moment it remains open. The best hope for anyone traveling this way is that massive infusions of your tax dollars will help stabilize a series of key industries, which will in turn help stabilize the economy overall. But there are plenty of potential pitfalls on this path. Already rumbles are arising from everyone else lining up for assistance: telecommunications firms, insurance companies, airlines, municipalities, and on and on the list goes. You pay a lot of taxes. I pay a lot of taxes. Trust me, we still don’t pay enough taxes to cover every company that would like a check right now. And we don’t know if the road to Bailout Town will really get us anywhere.
Our other potential path is marked by the sign to Market Forces-ville. Problem is, we were following that path pretty darn confidently right up until we found ourselves suddenly out on the edge of town, getting lost in these woods. If we take this path now, the idea is to let some of these companies fail; swallow the bitter medicine of some hard hits to unemployment; launch some painful reorganization of our financial plans at all levels of the economy, and hopefully emerge stronger and invigorated. But plenty of leaders, both Democratic and Republican, are warning that unless we load our backpack with new regulations on business, and some pretty serious oversight, there is no reason to believe those market forces can produce results in a time frame that most Americans will be willing, or able, to accept.
So which path is right? Or is there some combination of both that might work? At the moment, no one in Washington seems to know for sure. They know this: The economic woods are getting darker, we don’t have a map, and winter is coming fast.
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