I’m deeply disappointed in the Democrats for passing the bailout bill in the form that they did. Once again, the majority party in Congress makes an important decision — actually a momentous and hugely consequential decision, in this case — and resorts to the politically expedient path instead of the correct one.
They did this mainly, I believe, because the Republicans initially voted against it, and by taking the opposite side, the Democrats could leverage their already strong advantage in the economic arena, and hammer the opposition with the criticism that they are hurting Americans by delaying the “rescue.”
But the plan is a faulty one. It is a little better than what Treasury Secretary Paulson first proposed, but so what? Of course the Bush administration is going to take an extreme position, so that in the inevitable “compromise” they’ll get more of what they want. Republicans are very good at that game. They’ve been doing it forever. However, compromising with an extremely bad bill results in just a very bad bill.
The “safeguards” that this celebrated “compromise” resulted in are not in any way sufficient. They rely on an oversight board picked by the president, for one thing. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said it best, in his speech on the floor regarding the final draft of the bailout bill:
“In the midst of all of this, we have a bailout package which says to the middle class that you are being asked to place at risk $700 billion, which is $2,200 for every man, woman, and child in this country. You’re being asked to do that in order to undo the damage caused by this excessive Wall Street greed. In other words, the “Masters of the Universe,” those brilliant Wall Street insiders who have made more money than the average American can even dream of, have brought our financial system to the brink of collapse. Now, as the American and world financial systems teeter on the edge of a meltdown, these multimillionaires are demanding that the middle class, which has already suffered under Bush’s disastrous economic policies, pick up the pieces that they broke. That is wrong, and that is something that I will not support.
“If we are going to bail out Wall Street, it should be those people who have caused the problem, those people who have benefited from Bush’s tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, those people who have taken advantage of deregulation, those people are the people who should pick up the tab, and not ordinary working people. I introduced an amendment which gave the Senate a very clear choice. We can pay for this bailout of Wall Street by asking people all across this country, small businesses on Main Street, homeowners on Maple Street, elderly couples on Oak Street, college students on Campus Avenue, working families on Sunrise Lane, we can ask them to pay for this bailout. That is one way we can go. Or, we can ask the people who have gained the most from the spasm of greed, the people whose incomes have been soaring under president bush, to pick up the tab.
“I proposed to raise the tax rate on any individual earning $500,000 a year or more or any family earning $1 million a year or more by 10 percent. That increase in the tax rate, from 35 percent to 45 percent, would raise more than $300 billion in the next five years, almost half the cost of the bailout. If what all the supporters of this legislation say is correct, that the government will get back some of its money when the market calms down and the government sells some of the assets it has purchased, then $300 billion should be sufficient to make sure that 99.7 percent of taxpayers do not have to pay one nickel for this bailout.”
The Ronald Reagan era is over, and if it’s not, it’s a shriveled up, slimy grotesque bottom-feeding swamp thing that deserves to be, to turn Grover Norquist’s meaning around, “drowned in a bathtub.” The only “trickling down” that’s been happening is the rich pissing on the poor (and the middle class). What we need now is some “trickle UP” economics.
We need a new New Deal. That’s “trickle-up” economics, and it has already proven itself. By creating programs to foster the type of economic growth we really need, we can at once solve many pressing problems AND put people to work. Right away, the economy would get back on its feet. For what IS the economy, if not fundamentally a function of how the population is doing in it’s exchange of goods and labor?
Right away, people would have more to spend, as neighbors and relatives get work in the new green industries which would flourish with a little boost from the government. Right-wingers can no longer frighten people with the charge of “socialism” when it comes to these types of programs — sorry, not after you cried so hard for $700 billion for your big-buck buddies. No, investing in our infrastructure will not “socialize” the country into a bunch of mindless commie reds — it will simply be an investment — remember that word? — in ourselves, in our nation.
Now that the bill has passed, Congress must not allow our $700 billion to be squandered away by Paulson and his Wall Street money “experts.” We must hold most of it back, until we get some sane leadership back in the White House, by electing Barack Obama. At that point, Obama must, I repeat, must, free himself from the old economic policies still held by his unfortunate pick of economic advisers, and, in his own words, “do the right thing” with our money.
Maybe then, we can finally, for real, “get the country back on track.”