Congress - of whom I generally have low expectations - has startled even me today. They actually voted down the bailout bill that Congressional leaders had spent an entire week hammering out.
So now what? No one is quite sure. The trouble with the bailout bill, though, was that even if it had passed both Houses of Congress, no one was quite sure what next. Henry Paulsen had something he considered a plan, but he never explained it in much detail - IMHO because even he wasn't really sure what it was, but he was convinced that if he could throw enough money at the problem, some of it would stick.
The interesting thing is not that the markets are down - everybody expected that - but they aren't down as far as one might expect. They're down about 7% at the end of the day. The Dow is down not quite 778 points, which is the all time high in number of points lost - but is NOT one of the 10 greatest market percentage drops (see the lists in this article from CNNMoney.com), and the market is still above 10,000. Ten thousand on the Dow was a pipe dream for most of the years I've been watching the markets. The market is still higher than it was in March 1999, when it crossed 10,000 for the first time in history.
So the interesting question is: why isn't the market worse? (As well as, "Now what?") I don't have an answer.
Politically, of course, they "had to do it". According to NPR this morning, every Congressional office in the country has been flooded with furious calls from constituents, urging them not to bail the bastards out. They're all up for re-election in November - the entire House of Representatives - and they all felt they couldn't face the voters unless they could justify their votes. In fact, the real political courage today was shown by the people who voted for the bailout.
I wonder if the leaders of the financial industry realized exactly how much they were hated by Joe Sixpak, that quintessential American on Main Street. I'm quite sure they didn't care.