Bailouts R Us

Unless you've been living in a cave, by now you will probably know that Bush's Big Bailout finally got it's approval Friday night by a vote of 263-171.

US President George W. Bush hastily signed the bailout bill that could cost American taxpayers $700-billion and then, in a short Rose Garden appearance, told them they would probably get their money back, sometime.

"The government will purchase troubled assets," he said. "And once the market recovers, it is likely that many of the assets will go up in value. And over time, Americans should expect that much, if not all, of the tax dollars we invest will be paid back."

Although the bill got passed it wasn't without much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

"Nobody in East Tennessee hates the fact that I am going to vote yes more than me," said Representative Zack Wamp. "On Monday, I cast a blue-collar vote for the American people," he said before voting. "Today, I am going to cast a red, white and blue-collar vote with my hand over my heart for this country, because things are really bad and we don't have any choice. We're out of choices and our backs are up against the wall."

Maybe Zack noticed the news Friday that more than 159,000 American jobs disappeared in September, roughly twice the pace of job losses previously this year.

Anecdotal reports tell of sharp drops in the last two weeks of consumer purchases of big-ticket items, especially motor vehicles, either because they are afraid to buy or can't get financing. And businesses are getting cut off from the cash they need for day-to-day operations.

"We're hearing more and more stories about small businesses that just got shut off from credit and missed a payroll," said Jim Wilcox, an economist at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

There was no burst of confidence in the locked-up credit markets late Friday. Interest rates that financial institutions charge on loans to one another remained in the stratosphere as they continued to shy away from lending and instead put free cash into US government securities.

Interesting times lie ahead.