The Corner

What Would Vin Do?

If you used to serve in Congress, I suspect these are not days you’re missing your old job.

Vin Weber is a former congressman from Minnesota. He’s conservative and smart on economics (among other things). In light of the dilemma conservative members are facing today, I asked him what he’d do if he were still a voting member of the House. Here’s what he said:

Conservatives are unhappy. 

Over the last eight years they’ve seen an expansion of the size and scope of government under a Republican president, and now they’re being asked to vote for an unprecedented expansion of federal power to rescue the faltering financial system.

If I were back on Capitol Hill I’d be unhappy too. 

But I’d definitely vote “yes” on the financial package.

I haven’t had a single conversation with anyone in the real economy that does not confirm the Paulsen/Bernanke  warning that a failure to act now will precipitate a meltdown of our financial system that will, in all likelihood lead to a long and deep recession.

Simply put, it is that prospect that ought to worry conservatives most, because in tough times Washington expands exponentially.

The New Deal, which represented the major historic shift toward big government liberalism, came in response to unprecedented distress in the real world.  Bankrupt farmers and small businesses and unemployed workers called for help and the government responded with massive assistance, and an entire new paradigm of government was born.

Imagine, just to play a mind game, if Herbert Hoover had engineered an intervention that had prevented the stock market collapse from turning into a full-scale depression.  The whole course of history might have changed in a direction far more to the liking of conservatives.

A “yes” vote on the financial rescue package is a vote to intervene in the market precisely to prevent the collapse that could usher in the next vast expansion of government.

It’s not a pleasant choice, but it’s not a close call to my way of thinking.

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