As Congress and others engage in the entirely necessary efforts to get Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke to (i) explain why what they're proposing is necessary--beyond a promise of Armageddon if Congress doesn't follow, quickly, like lemmings; (ii) build some serious accountability and oversight into any program; (iii) ensure the United States taxpayers get significant upside for whatever they spend; and (iv) maximize the likelihood that whatever is done to stabilize markets not only actually accomplishes that result but also stabilizes affected households (both homeowners and renters) and communities, I get the awful feeling that $700 billion is starting to feel like play money. It isn't. No one suddenly gave us $700 billion to spend, no matter how eager the Secretary is to make it sound that way. It will come from new borrowing, which we and our children will have to pay back, with ever more interest.
If we're going to spend $700 billion, that money could be used--and long since should have been--to repair infrastructure, create jobs, fix the health care system, improve education, and to support alternative energy strategies and a host of other critical domestic needs. So, as Congress pursues its course, it should also pause and ask: if we're going to spend this money--even temporarily as an immediate cash outlay to be [perhaps] repaid later--are there other uses that would better serve the economy and the American people, in the long-term as well as the short-run? If the answer is "yes," the core question of "should" as well as "how" deserves far more attention than it has gotten to date.