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Re-Branding Bailout Won't Help

The whole reason for the urgency is that people genuinely are concerned that a financial collapse will spark a deep recession that will cause a lot more pain in Muncie than in Manhattan. But you sure as hell wouldn’t have known that. ~Ezra Klein [1]

It depends a great deal on who he means by “you.”  If he means that a lot of the constituents burning up the Capitol phone lines were not fully aware of the negative consequences for the broader economy, he might be right, but I have to say that I’m pretty skeptical.  While some outlets tried to avoid spreading panic by not describing things in the darkest terms, there seemed to be no shortage of pundits, reporters and bloggers who were quite pleased to talk about another Depression, which even the most historically illiterate would recognize as a very undesirable outcome.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many references to Hoovervilles in my life as I have in the last week, so I am finding it hard to believe that most Americans were unaware of the alarmist scenarios bailout advocates were promoting.  Perhaps it reassures supporters that the public turned against the plan because of poor marketing–this is, of course, a classic Bush administration response to the rejection of its bad policies.  “If only we could get the sales pitch right…” has been the lament of many an administration official over the years.     

Paulson and Bernanke never used language quite so outrageous, but they made it clear in their testimony that they believed this would hit everyone where they lived and hit them hard.  All of the news programs did interviews with the relevant committee chairmen, and they made the same points.  If so few people were aware of the worst-case scenario, how is it that Rasmussen [2] found that 79% of respondents were somewhat or very concerned about a depression “like 1929”?  Where on earth would that come from if not from the daily bombardment of fearmongering from the administration and bailout supporters?  What the Rasmussen results seem to show is that the government and media have done a good job of working most of the country into a fit of tremendous anxiety and fear, and still only 45% support “taking action.”  The public is actually evenly-divided on whether the government should do anything–chew on that one when considering the politics of all this.  That 45% figure probably overstates support for this specific bailout, er, I mean Glorious People’s Victory Plan.  

Update: John Schwenkler critiques [3] Klein’s interpretation of poll results on the bailout.

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7 Comments To "Re-Branding Bailout Won't Help"

#1 Comment By Adam01 On September 30, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

79% convinced that it is 1929 all over again, and not even half of people in that sample support the plan. As Schwenkler noted here:


The surveys that provide the most accurate description of the Glorious People’s Victory Plan (CBS/NYT & USA Today/Gallup) garner the lowest amount of support. The
Pew/ORC 9/19-22: “investing billions to try and keep financial institutions and markets secure”. (57% for, 30% against). The survey with the most, ahem, rosy view of the plan:

Pew/ORC 9/19-22: “investing billions to try and keep financial institutions and markets secure”. (57% for, 30% against).

I suppose that you could put me down in that 30% opposed to “investments” to “keep markets secure,” but then again I’ve been known to cast a disapproving glance at Mom, the flag, and apple pie as well. Unserious & nihilistic of me to be sure, but sometimes my inner Tyler Durden just needs to let his freak flag fly.

#2 Comment By John Schwenkler On September 30, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

Thanks for the link, Daniel. The headlines this morning screaming DOW HAS RECORD FALL were similarly absurd, as [4] pointed out – but far and away the biggest MSM failure was in not devoting enough space/airtime to serious discussion of the Paulson plan and its alternatives by academics and other experts.

#3 Comment By dougie On September 30, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

By “people” Ezra is referring to the politicians; the “you” are the Muncie boys. It’s the genuine concern that he is saying wasn’t communicated effectively, not the fire drill.

#4 Comment By rawshark On September 30, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

‘but far and away the biggest MSM failure was in not devoting enough space/airtime to serious discussion of the Paulson plan and its alternatives by academics and other experts.’

Who’d buy ad space during that show? Yawn!

#5 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On September 30, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

Who’d buy ad space during that show? Yawn!

True enough. No one would buy such an ad, because the herds of ruminant voters won’t watch.

Another reason to be skeptical of mass democracy. That, and the influence that Yankee speculators and their successors in interest have always wielded over the magistrates.

It’s true, though, that the visceral “Don’t bail out these rat-bastards with my children’s money!” bespeaks a certain folk wisdom that the commentariat, for all its self-regard, will never acquire.

A neocon once asked me what sort of politics I would advocate since I was so skeptical of mass democracy. How about [5] or [6]? Surely we do not have their like among us.

#6 Comment By bayesian On September 30, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

@GOM –
Not my area of any real knowledge, but yeah, I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Stolypin (you can keep Salazar, thank you very much). I tend to think he was the Russian ancien regime’s last chance to avoid something fairly bloody, if not exactly the Bolshies. Though my understanding is that he was already losing power when he was assasinated, having tangled too many times with Rasputin.

For a slightly more serious strongman, how about Mannerheim?

#7 Pingback By "The day the market crashed" « Upturned Earth || John Schwenkler On October 1, 2008 @ 11:31 am

[…] "The day the market crashed" October 1, 2008, 11:34 am Filed under: economics, politics That’s what Ezra Klein is calling the occasion of a single-day, 7% decline that ranks 17th on the list of all-time percentage drops – not even close, in other words, to the term’s common usage. But we’ve got to get people scared, you know? […]