Size Matters

Ben Smith inexplicably claims “it would have been a different campaign had McCain sounded in September like he does today,” in reference to this quote:

I regret the President’s decision to give away over $17 billion to the domestic automakers. Just last week, the Senate rejected a bailout plan because it failed to provide assurances that the domestic manufacturers would fundamentally change the way they do business to ensure their long-term viability. I find it unacceptable that we would leave the American taxpayer with a tab of tens of billions of dollars while failing to receive any serious concessions from the industry.

I’m going to resist the temptation to excoriate Ben Smith for doing his job — that is, trumpeting the importance of politics — and instead just suggest that it’s odd that $17 billion (in loans, no less) has worked the nation into such a tizzy when not long ago we gave $700 billion to the Treasury to save the odious Wall Street types. I mean, we’re talking about a loan that’s 2.4 percent of the TARP and 0.001 percent of yearly GDP. This isn’t to say there isn’t an argument to be made for a government-eased bankruptcy or restructuring, but the cavil about $17 billion just seems a little too trifling. Or, in other words, much akin to the earmark crusading John McCain championed during the campaign.

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