Ripped from the wires ... Howard Troxler provides us a glimpse of ordinary Americans trying to figure out the bailout bill:
By HOWARD TROXLER,
Tom, Dick and Irene go to a bar to figure things out.
TOM: Y'all, I am still having trouble getting this bailout thing.
DICK: Looks simple to me. It's about the taxpayers helping out rich so-and-sos on Wall Street.
TOM: That's all?
DICK: The way I see it, one bunch of guys sold a bunch of shaky mortgages to Americans. Another bunch of guys pretended that all those shaky mortgages were good investments. Now the rest of us are supposed to pay for them.
TOM: So a bailout is just rewarding the free market's irresponsible behavior?
DICK: Right! No more fat salaries for those Wall Street jerks, either.
IRENE: Wait a minute, Dick. This isn't just about "bailing out rich guys.''
TOM: Irene, why not?
IRENE: The deeper problem is that the bust of this market was setting off an even more dangerous crisis a global credit crisis.
TOM: Like my VISA bill?
IRENE: Think a little bigger. With all those bad mortgage securities out there, the financial world totally freaked out. The flow of credit from bank to bank that lubricates our economy has been drying up.
TOM: What do I care about that?
IRENE: Believe me, you care. The flow of credit in the U.S. economy is what lets business and commerce operate on a daily basis. No flow, no commerce no jobs. On top of that, there's the threat, literal and figurative, of a run on the bank that destroys everybody's pensions and piggy banks.
TOM: So we had to hold our nose and bail out Wall Street, because not doing it would be even worse?
THE BARTENDER: Excuse me, may I butt in?
THE BARTENDER: That credit argument is pretty good, but this bailout is misdirected anyway.
TOM: We are all ears
THE BARTENDER: Instead of throwing $700-billion at Wall Street to buy its bad decisions, Congress should just make sure no American caught in this crisis defaults on his or her mortgage. Help the little guy, not the big guy. The underlying securities wouldn't be in trouble then. No more crisis.
TOM: Isn't that sort of what U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, said when he voted no?
THE BARTENDER: I hate to admit it, but yes. I attribute it to coincidence. Besides, the Senate loaded the thing up with another $110-billion in tax breaks and pork spending an outrage!
TOM: You don't like the higher FDIC insurance coverage on everybody's bank account, or the alternative minimum tax patch that helps a lot of Americans?
THE BARTENDER: Not in this bill. In this bill, they are just bribes to get it passed. Neither do I like the silly special-interest tax breaks stuck in there. Bows and arrows, and rum? Come on!
TOM: So, let me get all this straight. Dick says we shouldn't bail out rich guys, period. Irene says it's deeper than that, and we had to fix the credit crisis. But you're saying there are still good grounds for opposing this bailout, without Smart Guys getting to call you a dummy?
THE BARTENDER: Exactamundo.
TOM: Once again, sir, you have come in handy.
THE BARTENDER: Just doing my job.
Troxler is a St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times columnist and blogger.