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We are in agreement there. If the people do not demand fiscal responsibility from our elected officials, then it won't really matter how much rolls back into our coffers. Of course, right now, we're a heavily-indebted nation. And we take that stance in a world where China is building huge surpluses, growing its smaller economy at three times the rate of ours, and buying up commodities as it modernizes. The numbers tell the story. Unless we make major changes to how we live our lives, whom we elect into office, and what constraints we place on special interests, the next 50 years are not going to be half so friendly to us as the last 50. Look no further than at how ludicrously bad the accounting systems are within our government agencies to know that we have a major problem with fiscal responsibility. . that, if fixed, could present major upside for us. (One of the reasons a possible Michael Bloomberg run for the presidency was attractive to me.)

But right now, we need to deal in the short term -- sadly. And that short term says we need capital in the system. Telling the banks to fix their own problems is simple. They will halt all lending. And then they'll begin rationing out withdrawals for customers. You'll end up with bank lines. The consumer will halt spending. And then we'll see up close what it was like to be in Japan in the early 1990s and America in 1930.

I have no interest in lining corporate pockets. We regularly attack the banks in our editorial at The Motley Fool. We've mocked investment banks for years. No other entity was more responsible for forcing changes to the flow of information to individual investors as ours. As we grow as an organization, we are going to be able to have a stronger voice on behalf of individual investors (and taxpayers). But right now, it is obvious to me that we need to ensure our system can function. Once we have that in place, then we should begin placing new demands on our elected officials. Those demands should include:

a) fiscal responsibility;
b) transparency for the special interest process;
c) new regulation to ensure that speculators are reigned in;

Without these and other measures, this bailout will help us only to the next bump. And the next bump will be a lot more painful.

Tom Gardner
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