Washington Babylon — September 27, 2008, 8:19 am

Lousy Is As Lousy Does: McCain puts his finger on the economic problem

There didn’t seem to be any clear winner in last night’s presidential debate, which presumably is good for Barack Obama since he seems to be slightly ahead at this point. It was discouraging, though, to have Obama endorse the money pit known as “missile defense,” and for him to more or less hold up Henry Kissinger as a foreign policy guru when he talked about the desirability of negotiating directly with Iran (and other “enemies”) without preconditions.

Surely the most penetrating observation of the night came from McCain, when he said in discussing the beleaguered people of one nation currently enmeshed in an economic crisis: they “have a lousy government, so therefore their economy is lousy.” He was talking about Iranians, but I imagine the sentiment rang true for quite a few Americans as well.

“Lousy government” is in fact the best explanation available for the current financial disaster, and House Republicans put on a fresh display the past few days by posing as populist defenders of “Main Street” while offering further tax cuts to Wall Street. As Steven Pearlstein wrote today in The Washington Post:

If you worked at Saturday Night Live and had to construct a parody of what Republican wing nuts might come up with as a solution to the current financial crisis, you simply couldn’t do better than the loopy plan served up by House Republicans this week. Minority Leader John Boehner and his crew have never met a problem they think couldn’t be solved by attracting private capital, and never met a dollar of private capital that couldn’t be lured with a tax cut. So it should have been no surprise that they would try to use the same approach to plug the trillion-dollar hole that’s been blown in the American financial system.

That’s right, my fellow Americans, we can lick this financial crisis just by offering an additional capital gains tax break to any investor or hedge fund that agrees to invest in a bank or Wall Street investment house.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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