Time to bail?

I know I'm supposed to write here about things having to do with Apple, or at least technology in general. But today, it's hard to write -- or even think -- about anything other than the failed bailout plan and the 777 point drop in the Dow. Perhaps I can tie it all together by pointing to the huge plunge in Apple's stock today.

Anyway, I normally have pretty clear and strong opinions about the controversial topics of the day. And I would be the first to admit that my views tend to be firmly planted on the left side of the fence. Still, in this case, I confess to feeling as if I am three feet under water and the answers are circling in the air above me -- beyond my understanding and out-of-reach.

It's hard to figure out what to believe when you have left-wing pundits, such as Paul Krugman and David Sirota, taking a position against the bailout bill that sounds remarkably close to what the most right-wing Republicans in the House are saying. At the same time, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate appear aligned with the stance taken by, of all people, President Bush. When was the last time that happened?

Between the conflicting jumble of opinions and the complexity of the economics, it's hard to figure what to support.

Why should we save failing institutions who took reckless risks, while paying out huge executive salaries and employee bonuses, and yet do little or nothing to help relatively blameless individuals in similar straits? How did we even get to the point where so many institutions are "too big too fail"? Can we blame it all on Bush for eliminating virtually any hint of regulatory control? Why do we keep "privatizing profits and socializing losses"?

On the other hand, when your house is on fire, it's probably not the best time to try to figure out who or what is to blame. Or how to prevent the next fire. First, you need to put out the flames. But is $700 billion dollars too much or too little "water"? Could it just make things worse? Should we be looking at an entirely different quick fix instead? Or is it too late for that?

Do we really need to do something immediately to prevent the entire economy from going into meltdown (as today's drop in the Dow might suggest)? Or are politicians exaggerating the threat just to scare us into passing something we really don't need? Or is rejecting the bailout tantamount to biting your nose to spite your face -- punishing those Wall Street jerks at the same time that we watch our own savings and jobs disappear?

In truth, I believe that nobody knows where the road to recovery actually lies. It's all a guessing game. After all, how many of these same politicians were able to correctly predict the current situation? None. So why should we have much confidence now?

Ask any of these politicians or pundits how much of their own money they would be willing to lay on the line in a bet that their position turns out to be the correct one. My guess is that you won't see much money in the pot -- assuming they have any money left after today's debacle.

Meanwhile, while the political Neros fiddle, Rome burns.

The day will hopefully come when all of this is a distant memory. But don't count on that day coming any time soon. This is a systemic problem, one that is shaking the foundations of Wall Street to its roots. No matter what we do now, it will be a long time before our economy returns to anything that resembles normal.

Buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

A personal note: I will be on vacation until October 20. See you when I get back.