The Trillion-Dollar Question

It’s always worth remembering the famous question that Dsquared posed back in February 2003:

Can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration

2. It was significant enough in scale that I’d have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)

3. It wasn’t in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.

Now, do I have more faith in Hank Paulson than in Don Rumsfeld? Yes. But given the panicky and incoherent noises that John McCain has been making about the economy over the past week, I can’t say the same thing about Paulson’s successor. (According to InTrade, there’s still a good 48% chance that McCain will be the man in charge of staffing that key position.)

Here’s Brad DeLong:

There is no way in hell that anybody should give any extra power to any Treasury Secretary chosen by John McCain.

I beg the Democrats in congress: write a bill that makes sense.

And here’s Paul Krugman, today:

Some are saying that we should simply trust Mr. Paulson, because he’s a smart guy who knows what he’s doing. But that’s only half true: he is a smart guy, but what, exactly, in the experience of the past year and a half — a period during which Mr. Paulson repeatedly declared the financial crisis “contained,” and then offered a series of unsuccessful fixes — justifies the belief that he knows what he’s doing? He’s making it up as he goes along, just like the rest of us.

To allow the Bush Administration free reign in prosecuting one trillion-dollar initiative may be regarded as a misfortune. To do it twice looks like carelessness.

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