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Best columns: Bailout apologetics, Oil paradox
It isn’t fair that “folks who didn’t get caught up in the real estate frenzy of the 2000s” are on the hook for those who did, says Chris Farrell in BusinessWeek.com, but the alternative is worse. The fa
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he necessary evil of bailouts

It isn’t fair that responsible “folks who didn’t get caught up in the real estate frenzy of the 2000s” are on the hook for those who did, says Chris Farrell in BusinessWeek.com, not to mention the extremely well-compensated bank and mortgage executives who enabled them. But that doesn’t mean that the massive housing bill signed last week is a mistake. If the “Herculean actions” taken by Congress, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury save us from “an economic plunge of frightening proportions,” then the bailout is fair for all of us. Innovation-driven capitalism entails busts as well as booms, and “like it or not,” limiting the downside of a bust is a critical part of monetary policy.

The darker side of falling oil

The falling price of oil is good news, says Fortune’s Colin Barr in CNNMoney.com, but “not nearly as good as you might think.” It will give “strapped consumers relief at the gas pump,” yes, but falling oil prices also mean that the recession “the U.S. has so far avoided is well on its way.” The biggest factor in the oil price drop is likely sinking U.S. demand, and that reflects a drop in consumer spending, which has driven the economy for years. All this means more layoffs on top of the jobs lost over the past year to the energy-cost surge. And giving motorists a little extra pocket change won’t make up for that.

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