Bad craziness

By EDITORIAL  |  September 17, 2008

Not surprising, it is difficult to get anyone to agree on the degree to which our nation is indebted. A combined estimate of $50 trillion dollars for individuals, corporations, and government is not, however, an unreasonable figure. That’s $50,000,000,000,000 — a lot of jing. Economists call it debt, but an Old Testament prophet would surely recognize it for what it is: greed, unbridled and, thanks to the Republicans with the passive assent of too many Democrats, unregulated.

Republicans enjoy touting President Ronald Reagan’s victory in the Cold War by boasting that we forced the Russians to spend themselves into bankruptcy. Maybe we did. But with the national government debt increasing at a rate of $1.7 billion a day, it certainly appears that we have turned that weapon on ourselves.

The idea that Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain, a self-confessed economic ignoramus, is up to the task of dealing with the economic crisis is laughable. After all, his idea of executive backup is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Your witness.

In addition to McCain’s deeply flawed sense of personal judgment, there is his record as a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, where his idea of government regulation helped foster the savings-and-loan scandal. McCain may not be the architect of today’s economic emergency, but as a stone-cold opponent of financial regulation, he was certainly one of its enablers, and as such is unqualified to face our grave new financial realties.

Regular readers of this newspaper will not be surprised that we believe the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, is better equipped by vision and temperament to referee the conflicting needs of social justice and economic reality that will be required to navigate this crisis.

Promising to break the cycle of greed with smarter regulation will not be enough.

The emotionally painful, politically divisive, and militarily dangerous task of ending the Iraq War — or at least reducing involvement to the point where the government can claim it is disengaged — may, ironically, be made easier by the economic catastrophe triggered by the war itself. That America can not afford the war becomes a more potent and persuasive fact with every passing day.

Obama’s greatest challenge will come in persuading the ranks of his own party that before the government can deliver on neglected issues such as health care and education, it must tend to the tattered national pocketbook. If he can not do that, Obama, if elected, will merely be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. And we all know how that story ended.

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