Pure and simple: “If we fail to pass this, I fear the worst is yet to come.” Mitt Romney agrees, as does the Heritage Foundation, as does the Journal, echoing Ryan’s point about bailing out Wall Street to protect Main Street. Ryan’s no squish, either; he helped lead the GOP revolt a few days ago.

And yet, as I write this, the bill’s just failed in the House. The Dow dropped 300 points, down to about -675, as the vote was going on. It’s steady at -500 as I write this.

The takeaway, a la Rich Lowry, is that the ultimate socialist option here is having a depression drive a terrified public irretrievably to the left. Like I said in one of our Headlines threads last night, we have what may or may not be a ticking nuclear bomb; we can hope for the best and let what happens happen or we can send in the bomb squad at potentially fabulous expense. Explain to me why the risk of letting this thing go off and start a global economic meltdown is better than at least trying to defuse it. To quote Megan McArdle, who’s no socialist: “My basic reasoning is this: given just how badly the Great Depression sucked, I’m willing to gamble on stopping it, even if that gamble fails, even if it is not necessary (a question that, if we actually go through with it, will be much argued and never answered). I’m not willing to gamble for the bankers; the worst thing that will happen to them is that they retire on a pittance, or take a boring job somewhere. I’m worried about the 40 million or so people who might end up out of work, and with nowhere to go. I’m willing to do quite a bit to stop that from happening, even let the bankers off scott free. I don’t think it’s actually necessary to do that, but if I have to choose between helping the 40 million, or expressing my moral outrage–well, there’s always skywriting.” Click the image to watch.