With financial institutions crashing and burning like me asking Sharon Donovan out on a date in college and Barack Obama and John McCain doing their best second grade “He did it! No, he did, it”, I was thinking to myself – who actually is to blame for this mess?

There is really no clear answer, and both sides are saying things that are true and also may be not so true. The answer (ironically enough for this column) is somewhere in the middle.

Surely the greed and questionable ethics of major lenders plays a major role, as Alaina pointed out last week. But I can’t put the blame completely in the laps of these corporate doofuses. That’s a little like blaming an addict who overdoses when the laws limiting access to his drug of choice were wiped off the pages.

No, these money-addled morons who run companies like AIG, Lehman, etc. were enabled to walk down this road to bail out by both the Republican and Democratic parties. For Pete’s sake, just before it went belly up last week, Lehman set aside a bonus fund of $2.5 billion for its 10,000 New York City employees. We bail them out, and they are stuffing the silverware in their boxers as they get pushed out the door.

It started with Phil Gramm. Yes, former chief economic advisor to the McCain campaign. The guy that called the nation a bunch of whiners. That Phil Gramm.

He of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The Houston Chronicle on the act:

First, he got top billing on the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the 1999 law that eliminated the Depression-era restrictions preventing banks from owning securities and insurance firms.

As such, Gramm played waterboy for Sandy Weill, then head of the insurer Travelers Group, who needed legal legitimacy for his purchase of Citibank a year earlier.

Oh, the Democrats played along too:

Paving the way for today’s financial supermarkets was, to be sure, a bipartisan affair. The law was signed by Bill Clinton, and Clinton’s Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, now sits atop Citigroup.

The new law blurred the lines among financial institutions, allowing them to dabble in home lending, stockbrokering, wealth management, investment banking, commodities trading, insurance and a slew of other activities that swirled into the miasma from which the current crisis grew.

A year later, Gramm co-sponsored the Commodity Future Modernization Act, which exempted arcane derivative investments such as credit default swaps from government regulation.

Gramm’s acts and the Democrat’s acquiescence to these acts have created a maelstrom of economic turbulence that, in my opinion, goes deeper and is more critical than many care to believe. I watch the finance and economics professors that I work with just shake their head in despair at the state of affairs when I ask them what they think.

I’m not a fan of regulating things, but there are certain areas that just need some government oversight. Food. Medicine. Money. These are things that are critical to our survival, and just a smidgen of “the man” is called for to make sure the people that run these vital industries don’t fall off the wagon, don’t run amok in a business that can claim the greedy so easily.

McCain was roasted for his “the foundations of the economy are strong” statement, even on here by our resident liberal firebrand. Even as many on here rose to defend McCain, they pointed out that many of the indicators were, indeed, strong. He retreated from the statement quickly and it has quietly faded away behind a barrage of Bidenism’s replaced it on the moron-o-meter. Saying that was a gaffe. But was it more than that?

I can forgive a gaffe, but only if that’s what it was – that McCain simply misspoke. What concerns me here is that McCain, a man who admittedly is not strong on economic policy, once relied on the guy that can take a big part of the blame for the current financial situation. That is a little scary to me.

But the alternative isn’t exactly appealing either.

Obama has said little to make me think he would be able to do much to improve the situation. He’s obviously far more open to regulation than McCain is, but my fear is regulation of the regulation on top of the regulation. I don’t want big government, I want good government.

Which makes me wonder. I think I answered my question, that both sides, along with our greed-blinded, misguided brethren on Wall Street are to blame for this mess. That leads to the next question – who can fix it?

I’m not so sure either of the candidate can.

So where do I stand?

Patrick Keegan to the left of me, Red State Eddio to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with no clue.