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A Genuine and Immediate Crisis

What Congress has to do now.

1:45 PM, Sep 27, 2008 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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I've received phone calls in the last hour from two economists I respect, one of them Larry Lindsey, the other in a position where he'd prefer not to be named. Both have government experience, neither is alarmist by nature, and they say this:

The huge European bank Fortis is apparently about to fail. The ripple effect on the American banking system could be disastrous, with bank runs, liquidity crises, and stock sell offs possible Monday. Wachovia may well fail next week. As Larry put it, this really will be 1933 soon if we don't move rapidly to stabilize the banking system.

And here's the bad news: the current bailout bill, whatever its merits and likelihood of passage, does nothing to address this.

Congress should pass by Monday simple legislation doing two things:

1. Giving the FDIC authority to provide unlimited deposit insurance through the FDIC for transaction accounts in banks.

2. Authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to provide unlimited protection of principal in money market funds through the Treasury's exchange stabilization fund.

Maybe my acquaintances (and I) are too worried; maybe this legislation wouldn't quite be the right solution. But I wanted to sound what may be, unfortunately, a needed alarm.

William Kristol is editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.