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The $700 billion question


   That's the message people are sending to members of Congress this week. After Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and AIG and Bear Stearns, enough. No more bailouts to save Wall Street from itself.

    And it's a message that, viscerally, feels right. After all, most Americans didn't buy their houses with the exploding-cigar mortgages that fueled a real estate boom (and bust). Most Americans haven't been "flipping" condos or investing in mortgaged-backed securities or credit default swaps that turned out to be worthless. So why should the vast majority of Americans bail out everybody who was so stupid?

   But, like most visceral feelings, this too may pass.

   After all, lawmakers are hearing that credit is tightening everywhere they look -- and they worry that without credit, the gears of the American economy will grind to a halt.

   And while none of them would say so outright, many must be wondering: OK, if you don't like a $700 billion bailout, do you have any better ideas?

-- Jerry Zremski



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