Bank Bailout: Enough is Enough

by Jeff Siegel

They invaded Iraq, and we said, “Well, OK, because Saddam is such a bad guy.”

They let New Orleans die, and we said, “Well, OK, because I don’t live there.”

And now they’re going to bail out the banks, and they expect us to say, “Well, OK, because finance is so confusing.”

Well, it’s not OK, and it’s not confusing, and it’s about time the American people said so.

Enough is enough. In the past eight years, the Bush administration has run the government for the benefit of rich people, and they’ve run the country into the ground in the process. Tried to get a mortgage lately? Tried to buy gas? But what do they care? Does Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have a mortgage to pay off? Does Dick Cheney sit at the kitchen table and write checks, trying to figure out how he is going to stretch this month’s paycheck to cover all the bills? Does George Bush even know how much a head of lettuce costs?

The bank bailout is more than bad policy. It is morally reprehensible: rewarding rich people people who fail for no other reason than they are rich. And I don’t exaggerate. The 2005 bankruptcy bill, which made it more difficult for consumers to declare bankruptcy, was praised by the Bush administration (and its Democratic allies in Congress) because the law made it harder to “abuse” the bankruptcy laws. So working people get the shaft, while the rich get a welfare check.

And, because the Bush administration’s arrogance knows no bounds, they tell us that we don’t understand why it’s needed, that we must do it immediately, and that they know better than we do.

Which is, to use a French expression, a bunch of merde. The only thing they are better at is covering for their friends. The Financial Times, hardly a wellspring of Bolshevik thought, understands exactly what is going on. These companies are getting bailed out not because they are too big to fail, it wrote during the AIG fiasco, but because they are too connected.

And we’re not, so we get screwed. Which is why it is time to say we will not let them do this to us any more. It’s still our government, despite their best efforts at taking it away from us — unsanctioned wiretaps, tax cuts for the super rich, and all the rest. So now we need to do something about it. And that’s as easy as walking into a voting booth in November and throwing the bums out.

(Political graphic by AZRainman. To see more of AZRainman's work, please check out his blog.)

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Tony Romm said...

I think it's too convenient to claim prematurely that the new bailout bill is a failure purely because the administration in the past has failed at similarly sweeping reforms. The president's speech last night was, arguably, the most comprehensive thing he's said in eight years -- I finally felt like he understood, to some degree, what was happening and needed to be done -- and while it did include its fair share of rhetorical duckouts, it also got across his most important point: that prolonging legislation for political reasons is tantamount to failure.

No, the Congress should not write the treasury a blank check; yes, the current proposal does give the treasury too much unchecked authority; no, we should not be so naive to believe we'll recuperate more than $700 billion in asset sales once we spend the bailout money; no, we don't need to authorize the entire lump sum at once.

But yes, there needs to be a bailout bill -- regardless of the president's previous economic shortcomings -- by next week that allows the treasury to take some kind of action.


PS: Don't be so quick to assume all Americans "get it." At least two-thirds of my friends had never heard the acronym "ARM" before last night. I follow each day's news (and, occasionally, help report it), and even I, admittedly, sometimes have to spend an hour learning what a term or policy means. And we're all reasonably educated college students. To my family, for instance, who has never (and probably will never) have enough money to invest in anything (much less dream of retirement), this stuff is beyond foreign.

Jeff Siegel said...

Call it pessimism bred by eight years of watching the Bush Administration screw up, but they long ago used up any benefit of the doubt. If George Bush showed up at my house tomorrow and told me it was Friday, I'd get a calendar and check.

What's wrong with this plan? You name it:

First, the Bush generalissimo, who, though unelected, will run the U.S. banking system with more power than any official has ever had before.

Second, the panicked sense of urgency that is forcing Congress to get this done in a week. It's the same way they foisted the war on us, by rushing the issue and making us think we didn't have time to debate it. I don't know about you, but when this much money is at stake, I'd like to have a thorough, honest discussion.

Third, that the federal government will take whatever bad loans the banks want to give them, without the banks being penalized. This is in contrast to the policy pursued by the well-known lefty Ronald Reagan during the S&L crisis in the 1980s. Then, the government took over the banks, good loans, bad loans and all, and the banks went of business.

The argument is not whether something needs to be done, because it does. As I have written, this is the worst meltdown since the Depression. The question is what needs to be done, and this ain't it.

Finally, don't underestimate your generation. Many may not know what's going on now, but you'll learn soon enough when college loans dry up, unemployment rises, and you're living at home with your parents.

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