29 September 2008

Representing Me: The Bailout

My representative in Congress is Michael R. McNulty, a Democrat. He is as close to a lame duck as anyone in Congress gets, having announced his retirement, but he remains a soldier of his party, concerned to get his primary-appointed successor, Paul Tonko, elected in his place over a Republican challenger. He joined the majority of New York State Democrats and the party's House leadership by voting for the bailout bill, which failed by a 225-208 vote. He did not comment during the debate and has not issued a statement to the media. I was unable to access his website minutes ago. It has since come on line, but without any comment on the bailout. He has told television that he intends to return to Washington to take care of unfinished business.

The district neighboring mine is represented by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat who unseated a scandal-scarred Republican in the 2006 election. She voted against the bailout bill, and issued a statement insisting that her constituents should not have to pick up the bill for Wall Street's failings. She also demanded a "a comprehensive plan that will minimize the effects that this economic fallout will have on the middle class and taxpayers."

Without commenting on the merits of the bailout proposal itself, it ought to be considered on its own without adding extra details. The bill under consideration is intended to stabilize the nation's banking sector and restore credit streams for necessary business. Nothing that isn't directed toward that end should be added to the bill, but there ought to be a bill in preparation for Gillibrand's priorities. It would be interesting, in that case, to see who voted for one bill, and against the other.

Certain Republicans, in my opinion, made a major mistake by blaming Speaker Pelosi's "partisan" speech for the bill's defeat. They argued that more representatives on their side were prepared to support the bailout, but were offended by Pelosi's remarks blaming the crisis on Republican policies. Leaving aside the truth of the argument, these Republicans can't help but look petulant and petty -- not to mention "partisan." You would think from their outrage that Pelosi's speech was embedded in the language of the bailout bill. I suspect that some of the representatives now nursing wounded sensibilities were never going to support the bill, but were looking desperately for a way to spin it so that they were voting against Democrats, not against President Bush. Whatever the real motives, their words should be publicized to the utmost, as should Rep. Frank's words chastising the Republicans for voting on the basis of hurt feelings. We should also learn as soon as possible what is being promised to holdouts from both parties in order to get them to vote for the bailout next time, amended or not. But the first priority should still be stabilizing the stock market, unless you think that a complete crash is the only thing that will push people toward genuine and necessary political change.

4 comments:

crhymethinc said...

Although I disagree with Mr. Keyes on almost every issue, I think his take on the "bailout" is quite agreeable. Why should the middle-class tax-payers be saddled with the debt of mismanaged corporate America? What then will be their impetus to change their business practices if they know all they have to do is start threatening another "depression" if the tax-payers don't pay them off. It is damn close to extortion. No...everyone responsible for the bad decisions made that have caused this "meltdown" should be held directly, physically and fiscally responsible. Whether they are high-paid CEOs or Washington politicians, they should be brought before the public. The people ought to have a right to know who it is they're being economically raped by.

Also, perhaps another "great depression" is what the people of this country need to remind them who is supposed to be benefitting from the government of their country...a government which is supposed to be "...by the people, of the people and for the people".

Samuel Wilson said...

CEOs are people, too, but I get your point. We all like to talk about "the people," but what does that mean, exactly? Is the whole greater or less than the sum of its parts? If certain specific people benefit from a policy while others don't, do "the people" in general benefit, or does a policy benefit "the people" only when it can be shown that everyone, or maybe an indiscriminate majority, benefits.

Since you comment on Alan Keyes here, let me wonder aloud why none of the independent candidates, most of whom oppose the bailout, seem capable of taking advantage of the moment to let "the people" (most of whom also apparently oppose the bailout) know that there are candidates for president who agree with them? Are they really all that poor? Can't Ron Paul buy some air time for them? Can't they even get into the newspapers or radio? Their apparent absence anywhere besides the Internet is inexcusable.

crhymethinc said...

The President Who Cried "Wolf"

I see President Douche is once again publicly speaking (begging?) in support of the nearly trillion dollar bail-out, warning of dire consequences for the economy if the banking industry isn't bailed out by the public.

The problem is, Mr. President, that you've lied so much and so often over the past 8 years that no one believes you any more. There is probably less confidence in our own government than there is in our shaky economy because of you. If you really want to support the bail out, take my advice and shut your mouth. Stop making daily appearances on the television. Find someone to be your spokesman who isn't a lying, back-stabbing piece of human waste. Because as long as you support anything, mainstream America is against it.

Sorry about being a bit off topic. But to answer your criticism, my point is that it is NOT to the benefit of "the people" to have to time and again bail-out big business because of poor decision-making skills of overpaid CEOs. The S&L scandal, the Amtrak bailout, the airlines bailout, and now this. And what do the taxpayers get in return? NOTHING! CEOs get multimillion dollar parachutes, while the rest of us get higher taxes to pay it all off. What needs to happen is that everyone of the people who made bad decisions (whether it be politicians who "forced" banks to make bad loans, politicians who eliminated government regulation, or simply upper management idiots) that has caused this problem need to be publicly outed as the incompetant bastards that they are. They need to be publicly fired from their jobs with NO severence and legally blacklisted from EVER having a position where they can screw us over. Then we'll be willing to discuss a bail-out.

Samuel Wilson said...

There used to be a code of honor in the business sector. I remember reading The Count of Monte Cristo years ago, and one of the plot threads in that novel is the predicament of a businessman facing bankruptcy. If he fails to raise the funds to meet his obligations on time, he intends to kill himself. This is melodramatic, of course, but it must have some root in a reality in which bankruptcy is a source of shame. That sort of thing, I suspect, went out with debtors' prisons. These were unpopular with all levels of society because everyone understood that bad luck could strike anyone. History since the 18th century has tended toward making it easier to get credit and easier to escape from our obligations when times get tough. Rich and poor alike have demanded this, whether it comes in the form of printing paper money so farmers can pay off bankers more easily, or in the form of the Paulson bailout plan for banks themselves. The history of modern times could be told to some extent as the history of credit, but the moral of the story remains unclear.