It's good to be Newt Gingrich

The former House speaker calls for the government to stop bailouts and let troubled companies go into bankruptcy. That's easy for him to say.

Published March 19, 2009 9:30PM (EDT)

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich came out Wednesday with his proposal for what to do with struggling companies like AIG and big banks that have been receiving federal bailout money: Cut them off and let them go bankrupt.

"Bankruptcy would send a needed message to U.S. investors: Don’t assume the government will bail you out when you do something stupid," Gingrich wrote in the latest issue of his newsletter. "What Washington should learn from all this outrage is to return to the common sense that should have guided it all along: When you reward failure, all you get is more failure."

Salon's own Andrew Leonard has pointed out the flaws in this kind of logic before: "[T]o suggest that we do nothing, stand back, and let them go down in flames is simply not a credible strategy. One would have imagined that the global economic disaster caused by letting Lehman Brothers fail would be enough to prove that."

But that's the advantage Gingrich has right now. He's not in government, he has no actual power and there's no risk that anyone who does have power will actually take this advice, so he doesn't need to advance a credible strategy.

Gingrich is something of an idea man; he's known for floating a number of different proposals at any given time without ever really being all that concerned about their implementation. So his current political position actually suits him quite well. He can advance ideas that will appeal to the kind of Republicans he'll need to attract if he does decide to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012, while at the same time knowing he'll never actually have to take responsibility for any of his plans.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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