Saturday, March 07, 2009


A detail from a new Newsweek poll (emphasis mine):

Majorities of Americans think too much has been spent so far to help rescue large banks in danger of failing.... A somewhat surprising majority (56 percent) supports nationalizing large banks at risk of failing.

I'm not surprised. Here's what I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

Among the political and media elite, Obama's plans are seen (by supporters and critics alike) as some degree of socialism, and nationalization would be seen as a significantly greater amount of socialism. But I wonder if the public would have a very different -- perhaps completely opposite -- view.

... the public thinks we've just been throwing money at banks and getting very little in return. Is it possible that nationalization would be seen not as more of the same, but rather as the exact opposite -- a necessary law-enforcement act of search and seizure, like a raid on a drug kingpin's den?

I think some of the fear of nationalization is -- as usual -- the chatterers' fear of (or agreement with) throwback right-wing red-baiting. But ... the public sure doesn't feel sorry for the bankers or feel they should be spared the punishment that nationalization would in some ways represent. I think the public might really find nationalization rather satisfying.

Here's the poll question, along with the results:

Temporary nationalization is another way for the federal government to deal with large banks in danger of failing. This is where the government takes over a failing bank, cleans its balance sheets, and then quickly sells it off. In general, which do YOU think is the better way to deal with failing banks...

29 Government financial aid WITHOUT any government control of the bank, OR
56 Nationalization, where the government takes temporary control?
11 Neither/Other (VOL.)
4 (DO NOT READ) Don't know

Yeah, the word "temporary" is emphasized in the question -- but "nationalization" and "government takes over" are in there, and these are phrases that give Beltway insiders the vapors. Notice that the public doesn't feel the same way. Notice that "Neither/Other" (the presumed choice of the Randians in the GOP) doesn't score well at all.

Nationalization: If you can make it work, go for it. Only chatterers find it scary.

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