Two men. One: brash and rippling with muscles, a Big Swinging Dick from Goldman Sachs turned public servant. The other: bearded, soft-spoken, nebbishy, a onetime economics professor at Princeton. They are different, and yet they have come together for a common cause: saving the financial system from collapse. Using their combined knowledge, they have drafted a plan of action, and time is of of the essence. The fate of the world rests in their hands! But first, they must get through Congress: “Over these past days, it has become clear that there is bipartisan consensus for an urgent legislative solution,” Paulson told the Senate Banking Committee last night. “We need to build upon this spirit to enact this bill quickly and cleanly, and avoid slowing it down with other provisions that are unrelated or don’t have broad support.” Bernanke chimed in: “Action by the Congress is urgently required to stabilize the situation and avert what otherwise could be very serious consequences for our financial markets and for our economy,” he pleaded.
But lawmakers don’t necessarily understand the plan, or why it is needed, and therefore don’t believe in it. Or they’re insisting on weighing it down with all kinds of pesky regulations. Or, they just might be kind of dumb:
“I walked down LaSalle Street on Friday, a great street in Chicago lined with banks and big office buildings,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat. “A lot of people came up and said ‘hi.’ But a lot of them came up and said: ‘Are you really going to do this? $700 billion bailing out the banks? And I said: ‘I don’t know. At the end of the day, I just don’t know.’ ”
But time is running out! Can the Bernanke-Paulson team save the world? Soon, for better or worse, we’ll find out.