Stitch in Time

As the subprime mortgage crisis spread through Wall Street last week, bipartisan consensus formed to stop the hemorrhaging. Saturday, Treasury Secretary Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke announced a $700 billion bailout plan in which our government would buy trouble mortgages in hopes of stemming further financial fallout. As President George W. BushâÄôs Friday âÄúdeadlineâÄù for the proposal nears, Congressional critics are scrambling to include various measures in the plan. But time is of the essence. While CongressâÄô failure to regulate the emerging credit-default swap market deserves blame for current woes, leaders must remember that they are dealing with a worried Wall Street. Small slips can snowball into brutal collapses within days or even hours; in this environment of uncertainty, fear of government failing to promise swift, provisional stability can prove infinitely more costly than the stability measure itself. Many leaders are fuming that the plan opens the door for greedy CEOs to obtain âÄúgolden parachuteâÄù severance packages. Taxpayers are angry enough, footing the bailout bill, but individual culprits donâÄôt deserve a taxpayer penny. Other critics argue the plan should provide homeowner-end relief. Unscrupulous lenders and investment banks deserve as much blame for this mess as the folks who ignorantly took out unaffordable mortgages. Wisdom requires a blend of relief methods to alleviate market stress. Finally, calls for independent oversight over the bailout are appropriate, but pro-regulation factions must be patient. Using the bailout negotiations as an opportunity to pass broader market regulations is foolhardy. As Ben Franklin aptly noted, âÄúA stitch in time saves nine;âÄù critics must pick their battles to ensure this costly stitch is made in time.