Another vote for “go home now, George”

Friedman – got to be my favorite columnist – writes today:

If I had my druthers right now we would convene a special session of Congress, amend the Constitution and move up the inauguration from Jan. 20 to Thanksgiving Day. Forget the inaugural balls; we can’t afford them. Forget the grandstands; we don’t need them. Just get me a Supreme Court justice and a Bible, and let’s swear in Barack Obama right now — by choice — with the same haste we did — by necessity — with L.B.J. in the back of Air Force One.

Unfortunately, it would take too long for a majority of states to ratify such an amendment. What we can do now, though, said the Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein, co-author of “The Broken Branch,” is “ask President Bush to appoint Tim Geithner, Barack Obama’s proposed Treasury secretary, immediately.” Make him a Bush appointment and let him take over next week. This is not a knock on Hank Paulson. It’s simply that we can’t afford two months of transition where the markets don’t know who is in charge or where we’re going. At the same time, Congress should remain in permanent session to pass any needed legislation.

This is the real “Code Red.” As one banker remarked to me: “We finally found the W.M.D.” They were buried in our own backyard — subprime mortgages and all the derivatives attached to them.

While his main point is solid – please read the column – I really like the little side street suggested in this paragraph:

Right now there is something deeply dysfunctional, bordering on scandalously irresponsible, in the fractious way our political elite are behaving — with business as usual in the most unusual economic moment of our lifetimes. They don’t seem to understand: Our financial system is imperiled.

I don’t think it’s just the political elite, though. I sense in the general public – my own gut as well – a sort of backing off where part of me thinks it’s over. That is, we’ve had our little panic, now we can return to normal. Not so, of course. Look at all the markets – or any of them. Look at any of the traditional economic indicators. It’s all bad news. But – we seem to rip through news at a ferocious pace these days and we don’t have the ability to collectivelt pause and focus on a problem.

I blame it in part on the 24-7 news cycle – but also on the frantic competition in the press to grab hold of the latest story and the headlines which catch the most eyes – not the stories that we need to know, not the headlines about the most important things.

We have simply developed a style where we plunge into something, tear it to shreda by blasting it all over every front page and every TV screen for hour after hour, then we get tired of it and drop it. We’re a bunch of news sharks that live from one feeding frenzy to the next. We need relief. We need to get hold of ourselves, we need to quit – focus on a few important things – get them done and done right.


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