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This country can't afford more mistakes

September 30, 2008

To review, Congress didn't want to spend $6 billion to provide health care for 9 million of the nation's poorest children. But $700 billion is OK, since it's going toward the worthy goal of bailing out Wall Street fat cats pulling down tens of millions of dollars a year.

OK. Makes sense.

Good thing we didn't spend that $6 billion on the kids, or we would have only had $694 billion left for the tycoons.

All of a sudden, that $50 million bridge to nowhere sounds like the greatest bargain that ever was. Who knew we'd have to pony up for a $700 billion bridge to nowhere?

I know, $700 billion sounds like a lot, but on the bright side, that's only $478 billion euros. And it won't really cost us that much, we are told, because the government stands to recoup much of it if it can buy up the troubled debt for less than it's worth. It might even turn a profit.

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Could happen. Just like the way they said we could make a killing on all of that oil we would get after invading Iraq.

So we make a mistake overseas and it has cost us nearly $600 billion so far. Then we make a mistake here at home and it costs us $700 billion. 'Dees mistakes is getting expensive.

Congress always wants a raise, so how about this? We pay the 535 members of Congress and the president $1 million each to stay home and do nothing. We all come out way ahead and everybody's happy.

But, oh well, when your national debt is $9.5 trillion, what's another trillion and a half?

And if you think the numbers are confusing, try drawing up a flow chart of who is in favor of it and who is not. To wit, serious conservatives hate it. George Bush loves it. Serious liberals hate it. Mainstream congressional Democrats love it. John McCain loves it publicly but hates it privately. Obama is starting to look as if he wishes he had run for county surveyor or something. The chattering classes feel very strongly both ways.

I heard Bill O'Reilly screaming at "conservative talk radio" hosts, calling them liars for supporting the bailout. Well, OK, but wouldn't that be like me criticizing dimwitted newspaper columnists?

I wonder what Sarah Palin thinks. I'd pay money to listen to her wax philosophic about the intricacies of advanced finance.

Nancy Pelosi says that this "isn't a bailout ... it's a buy-in." Great. A buy-in. Buying worthless things has always been a hobby for us in Washington County, so we should dig the move - just think of it as the mother of all financial-instrument yard sales.

I also feel good about the fact that the bill was to be posted on the Internet 24 hours before the final vote. Like some 13-year-old Wii player in Wisconsin is going to notice a typo on page 98 that cedes control of Goldman Sachs to a Kansas City stripper named Bambi.

And with a bill this long, you just know that Robert Byrd has slipped in language to build three more highways in the Eastern Panhandle.

Personally, I don't have a bad mortgage, but I am thinking about getting a couple. It's apparently the only way to get something out of this legislation for yourself - anyone who ever made a stupid financial decision in the past decade gets a payoff, and everyone who was financially responsible will have to pay for it.

I'm nothing if not a fast learner. I figure General Motors will be next to run to government hat in hand. So I'm going out and buying an Escalade. On credit.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com.

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