The bailout of the auto industry, after all, was as unpopular as the bailout of the banks, even though it was much tougher on the companies (G.M. and Chrysler went bankrupt; shareholders were wiped out, and C.E.O.s pushed out), and even though the biggest beneficiaries of the deal were ordinary autoworkers. You might have expected a deal that helped workers keep their jobs to play well in a country spooked by ballooning unemployment. Yet most voters hated it.
Similarly, the failure of free markets during the financial crisis might have led people to think that the government should be more involved in the economy. Instead, the percentage of Americans who think government is trying to do too much is higher than it's been since the late nineties.
It's hard not to chuckle from afar watching the gears grind away in the attempt to understand all of this. Even a guy like Mr. Surowiecki, who wrote a pretty good book on the wisdom of crowds, gives away the game when he uses "you" and betrays who he thinks his readers are and what he thinks they think.
I never expected the auto bailout to "play well," because it was a Reverse Robin-Hood aimed at taking money away from ordinary taxpayers and using it to bail out relatively well-off unionized auto-workers. It was the government helping out a politically powerful interest group at the expense of everyone else. And I don't view the financial crisis as a failure of free markets but as a series of failures within a market in which decisions and incentives were heavily influenced by government actions.