Is This Really How It Happened?

Is This Really How It Happened?

I'm pretty sure I remember this differently, but the New York Times wouldn't lie to me, would it? Here's their take: the engine of the Tea Partiers' discontent was not the 2009 Stimulus Bill or GM bailout or ObamaCare. It was the 2008 TARP bill! But TARP was structured so that there was a good chance taxpayers would be paid back in full, and what do you know, that may actually be happening, in spite of all subsequent efforts to divert TARP paybacks to other social experiments. So it turns out the Tea Partiers never had anything to complain about, and they should STFU.

Alternate reality per my memory: conservatives were very queasy about TARP, but were just barely willing to tolerate it, because we were very afraid that an intense liquidity crunch would throw the financial system of the U.S. --- if not the world -- into chaos. We'd often wondered whether President Bush had genuinely conservative economic principles, but we at least believed he wouldn't lie to us, and that he was advocating the best course according to his judgment and the judgment of his advisors. The bill was in fact structured so that taxpayers should be paid back, and there was a decent chance of that happening. So we held our nose and for the most part reluctantly supported our president.

Then the new gang took over, and the worst part about TARP appeared to be not so much that it smelled like expensive crony capitalism, but that it opened the floodgates for massive new federal spending that (1) wasn't aimed at easing a critical liquidity crunch that could destroy the financial system, (2) had no prayer of being paid back, (3) was much larger and seemed calculated to lead to endless iterations, and (4) made the crony-favoritism aspect of TARP look like faintly amateurish gestures in contrast. And, what do you know, the Tea Party erupted in outrage and growing influence.

But now that it turns out TARP may not have been so awful, which we always thought was reasonably possible though not guaranteed. So the Tea Partiers should be happy as clams and embrace Spendulus and every other Keynesian nonsense anyone can dream up. Well, OK then!

Another possible interpretation: Government interventions in the economy probably can be held to a benign level, and may be implemented in ways not totally doomed to failure, if they are not administered by spend-happy lunatics in simultaneous control of the White House and both houses of Congress, including a filibuster-proof majority. It follows that we should go out on November 2 and elect fiscal conservatives dedicated to limited government. They won't always be able to stop the madness, and they may occasionally succumb to madness themselves, but they'll do less harm less often. So: go Tea Party.

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