Taming the Monster

Throw money at it.
“In my view it has to be between five and seven hundred billion dollars,” proclaimed Senator Charles Schumer Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” The “it” is the economic stimulus package the new Congress intends to send to the new president, Barack Obama, in January.
How much? Who knows?
On TV, he simply invoked the authority of “most economists,” who, according to Schumer, “say, to make this work, you need about 5 percent of G.D.P., which would be $700 billion...” Economists still do have considerable sway in our public life — even though it doesn’t seem that a large number of them have been particularly prescient in warning about, or strikingly persuasive in explaining, the current economic situation.
The startling thing about the economy is how we shape it and grow it, but it really has a life of its own. It does what it wants, and nobody seems to know how to control it. We are attempting to tame a monster we have little power to control.
Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee also weighed in Sunday on television and said: “I don’t know what the number is going to be, but it’s going to be a big number. It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission.”So a key member of Obama’s economic team hopes a big federal spending number will “startle the thing into submission.” That’s reassuring.
Like a circus elephant, kept calm by whips, shocks and commands - he is under control for only as long as he chooses.
But, basically, it seems to me, we’re all flying blind. The markets are spiraling down, and our leading experts don’t have much of a clue as to what to do.
Yes. Bill Kristol is right. We are clueless. The blind, being led, by the blind - and the well connected.
Given that, one has to welcome the expected appointment to senior positions in the Obama administration of economists like Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, Jason Furman, Peter Orszag, and Goolsbee himself. They’re sober and competent people who know we face a real crisis — and who, importantly, may be more willing than many of their colleagues to adjust their thinking early and often.
It's going to take a ton of imagination, fresh thinking, and competent leadership to see us through this crisis.
During his two years on the campaign trail, Barack Obama has often cited Abraham Lincoln. Well, it turns out Obama could be taking over the presidency at something more closely resembling (though still far short of) a Lincolnian moment than one would have expected. And it was Lincoln who wrote, in his second annual message to Congress, in December 1862: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”