Right not always popular

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008

By Staff
No less a statesman than Thomas Jefferson once said, “What is right is not always popular; what is popular is not always right.”
I don't like the idea of a $700 billion bailout for banks that engaged in risky lending practices, and I don't like the idea of bailing out homeowners who foolishly bought more house than they could afford.
But I think our lawmakers have to hold their noses and vote for such a package - albeit with greater protections for taxpayers - because if they don't, we're all in for more economic trouble.
The failure of the bailout bill in Congress on Monday is indicative of a larger problem - the vacuum of leadership on the economy. Headlines all weekend had proclaimed a deal on the rescue package, so when it went down in defeat nearly everyone was stunned.
The stock market reacted with predictable emotion, falling nearly 800 points in one day.
It's easy for many of us to look at that reaction and think, that doesn't affect me. I don't have any money in the stock market.
But here's the problem: Calling the plan a “Wall Street bailout” isn't accurate. We are in a credit crisis, not a stock market crisis. Money tied up in stocks isn't the biggest problem; if you think you lost thousands in your 401(k) on Monday, you'll probably get it back, and then some, by the time you retire. That's just how the markets operate.
The $700 billion plan is a rescue for the credit system in our country. Banks aren't lending to each other, so they aren't lending to the rest of us. That means small businesses can't get loan to operate; students can't get loans to go to school; and consumers can't get loans to buy cars.
If anyone in a leadership position could better explain why this rescue is needed, perhaps there wouldn't be such vehement opposition.
Yes, it isn't fair that we have to bail out so many risk-takers when many of us pay our mortgages and our bills. But if we do nothing, as U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner pointed out in explaining why he had to vote, we could be facing a much greater economic disaster. Bonner, to his credit, did what was right, not what was popular. Hopefully more lawmakers will join him if a rescue package comes back up for a vote this week.
With apologies to Franklin D. Roosevelt, here's an analogy of why we have to help: If my neighbor's house is on fire, do I stand by and deny a bucket of water because they were irresponsible and knocked over a candle? No, I help out - it's both a selfless and a selfish act.
I help put out the fire because it's the right thing to do - and because if I don't, my house could catch on fire, too.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 867-4876 by e-mail at kerry.bean@brewtonstandard.com.

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