Monday, September 29, 2008

The 777 Club

In a stunning display of bipartisanship, both Democrats and Republicans put their own parties and their own political futures ahead of the country today, failing to iron out the problems with the bailout bill, failing to pass the bill, but not failing to blame each other with bitterness and carefully aged vituperation (with shades of calumny and a note of venom) for the mess.

In other words, it was business as usual:

Democrats and Republicans argued bitterly over who was at fault for the 228-205 vote that torpedoed a compromise bailout plan that would have allowed the Treasury Department to buy up toxic assets from struggling banks.

Lawmakers shouted news of the plummeting Dow as they crowded on the House floor during the roll call, which dragged on for roughly 40 minutes as leaders on both sides scrambled to corral enough of their rank-and-file members to support the deeply unpopular measure.

Ample “no” votes came from both sides of the aisle, but Democratic leaders managed to persuade more than 60 percent of their members to back the measure, while more than two-thirds of Republicans balked at spending so much taxpayer money just before the Nov. 4 elections. [...]

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the Financial Services Committee and a leading negotiator in crafting the compromise bill, blamed breakaway Republicans for killing the plan.

Frank noted comments by some Republicans who said a floor speech shortly before the vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was needlessly partisan and said he had not “computed that level of pettiness” across the aisle.

“Sixty-seven percent of Republicans decided to put political ideology ahead of this nation,” he said. “The numbers of deeply offended Republicans turned out to be the number you would need to defeat the vote.” [...]

But Republicans who voted against the bill objected, saying the measure did not do enough to protect individual investors and bank account holders.

“New York city fat-cats expect Joe Sixpack to suck it up and foot the bill for their excesses. I think not,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said he had three insurmountable problems with the bill: It was too expensive, it rewarded Wall Street firms by guaranteeing private profits with public funds and it did not address an antiquated regulatory system.

“This throws a life jacket to Wall Street, but it doesn’t teach them to swim and prevent this from happening again,” Kingston said.

I would like to believe that the Republicans are taking a principled stand, here--but this is, as the article says, a "deeply unpopular" bill and it is an election year. I would like to believe the Democrats aren't exploiting the situation for political gain, but I can barely type that with a straight face: the Dems want the White House so badly, and if they're going to sell soft socialism to the American public how better to do so than to call it "the Change we need?"

To the Democrats, I'd like to say: Nice try. You've wanted to turn the markets over to the government since those heady days in the sixties back when most of you still had hair and thought the world's problems could be solved with a little peace, love, understanding, and recreational drug use. You'd like to vote yourselves in as head of healthcare, so it's understandable that you'd seize an opportunity like this and run all the way to the bank with it. Unfortunately, your plan only makes sense to fellow travelers and/or those who never stopped using recreational drugs.

To the Republicans, I'd like to say: Nice try. You've been pretending for a long time now that "The Market" (insert golden trumpet fanfare) will always guarantee the economic safety and security of this nation, that free trade which hands everything to foreign economies and punishes our own is really "free," and that government subsidies in the form of huge corporate tax breaks for giant-large-mega-huge multinational corporations which owe America no loyalty and care little whether we rise or fall is an example of "letting the market work," even though all you're really doing is artificially creating a market where small businesses and family-owned concerns can't compete with the big guys. Well, guess what? This is your so-called Market at work. The crash we're seeing is the natural result of letting the big guys do whatever they want while craven opportunists on both sides of the aisle pocket the chump change in the form of campaign contributions these big guys spread when they're in the mood to share the largess--and when they've attached a sufficient quantity of string to it.

We don't have a Congress anymore. We have a little clique of smiling enablers and yes-men who will do whatever it takes--to keep getting elected. We ought to forget about names like "House" and "Senate" and call them, instead, "The 777 Club."


Babs said...

This crisis was caused by the Community Reinvestment Act of Bill Clinton. He and congress enacted laws that forced banks to lend to low-income bad risks... one of the legacies of Clinton's radical egalitarian and utopian policies. A market that forces bankers through threat of lawsuit to lend is not truly free. The Community Reinvestment Act of the Clinton administration set this process in motion. If the market was truly free, banks could refuse those bad risks.

Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

As usual, RC, well said!