—or, to shift out of our metaphor for a moment—banking, insurance, and finance experts. These whiz kids went to work on our economic transmission, removing the regulators that made it shift more smoothly, and then converting it into an automatic so your old mother could drive your laughably under-powered truck. They claimed they were making it safer and better, called this "financial innovation," and for decades it allowed Americans almost not to notice that they were systematically becoming poorer (with less power and torque). With our huge fancy transmission, society continued to move forward. We could even get over some little hills. Transmission experts grew in power and influence, gaining control over their own pay as well as most of ours. They paid themselves extravagantly, attracting more smart people into their ranks. The engine mechanics were fired, outsourced, and underpaid so that only folks bearing GEDs bothered applying for those jobs. The old V-8 engine in our truck developed a miss, burned oil, lost some of it's power as it stopped firing on all cylinders, effectively becoming a six, then a four. Mechanics suggested engine fixes—new spark plugs, valve adjustments—and questioned the utility of the big transmission. The transmission guys told the mechanics to shut up, and added more gears to the transmission to keep our economic truck rolling. They awarded themselves bonuses. In 2008, trying to get up a hill, our engine smoked and wheezed on its two or three remaining good cylinders, while the gears in our clownishly scaled transmission ground to a stop. Now our engine is so weak and our transmission is so large and so few people remember what it's like to have a good running engine, and those people are dropouts anyway who don't know anything. All the important people know only transmissions, and those people are our best and brightest. We've mistaken our transmission for an engine. All our resources are going to fix this outsized gearbox, which was never needed and should not have been installed but for someone's decision, two or three generations ago, to concentrate only on making bigger and better transmissions and allow the economic engine to wear out. Seen in this light, the financial-services reform proposals in congress make little sense, not because they're a gift to the financiers or because they'd "stifle financial innovation," but because they're still concentrating effort on the wrong machinery. Rebuilding our pickup truck would require dismantling the huge, heavy, drag-inducing transmission and replacing it with something appropriate to the vehicle—a modern six or seven-speed automatic, say, maybe with four wheel drive. But the real job—which almost no one is talking about—involves rebuilding (or replacing) that sputtering old V-8 engine: the neglected and maligned manufacturing sector. And we can't do that until we recognize that the engine is the primary thing and the transmission—the financial-services industry—is secondary.