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Financial-market wise guys, who had been seized with fear, are suddenly drunk with hope. They are rallying explosively because they think they have successfully stampeded Washington into accepting the Wall Street Journal solution to the crisis: Dump it all on the taxpayers. That is the meaning of the massive bailout Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has shopped around Congress. It would relieve the major banks and investment firms of their mountainous rotten assets and make the public swallow their losses -- many hundreds of billions, maybe much more. What's not to like if you are a financial titan threatened with extinction?
More important, if the taxpayers are compelled to refinance the villains in this drama, then Americans at large are entitled to equivalent treatment in their crisis. That means the suspension of home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies for debt-soaked families during the duration of this crisis. The debtors will not escape injury and loss -- their situation is too dire -- but they deserve equal protection from government, the chance to work out things gradually over some years on reasonable terms.