What if the current mortgage/credit crunch is not just an isolated financial crisis, but, in fact, the signal for the death of one era, and the (painful) birth of another?
If that is the case, it goes a long way towards explaining the bizarre nature of what we're seeing going on in Washington and on Wall Street … and suggests that we need a whole different set of solutions.
Living out here in Silicon Valley, the heartland of American innovation, it's hard not to be appalled by the events taking place 3,000 miles away in the seats of American finance and government -- and hard not to fall back on the 'pox on both their houses' attitude that polls say is increasingly common among American voters.
From where I sit, the United States government has embarked on two pieces of social engineering in the last few years. One was to make oil as expensive as possible to drive people to greater use of alternative energy sources -- because anything less would be irresponsible and destructive to the environment. The other was to enshrine home ownership (i.e., easy-to-obtain mortgages) as a new American right because anything less would be unequal and racist.
None of us voted on these decisions -- indeed, neither was even spoken about directly, much less debated. But nevertheless, both became national policy and both have sparked national, and now international, crises.
Once they became crises, both were blamed on "greedy capitalism," instead of what they really were: legislative interference into market forces.
Fine. We've been through this before, and no doubt we will see similar, government-induced crises again -- inevitably accompanied by administration officials and our elected representatives pointing at everyone but themselves.
But what makes this particular economic crisis so appalling, at least from this vantage point, is the sheer scumminess, corruption, short-sightedness and general incompetence of everyone involved. At least in the business world, especially in the take-no-prisoners world of high-tech, that kind of venality and ineptitude either gets you fired or kills the company; by comparison, in Washington, it puts you in charge of the recovery effort.
Nobody in this mess has covered himself or herself in glory.
President Bush seems to have had the right instincts on this, but as a lame duck who long ago burned up all of his public support, he mostly seems dithering and toothless. The Democrats declare that the nation is at risk, then go about as usual turning the bailout bill into another -- yet another -- partisan pay-off scheme to fund the next round of crisis-creating social engineering.
It is a measure of just how corrupt the Dems have become that Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, who perhaps more than anyone in Washington, are responsible for this crisis -- not only are allowed to keep their committee seats, but run the press conference on the bailout.
The crowning moment, of course, comes just before the vote on the bailout package when Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided, putting the needs of her country first, to use the podium to attack the Bush administration and the GOP.