Bailout Plan Falls Overboard  

Posted by Big Gav

I must admit I was rather surprised to see that the US bailout / handout plan for the banks was rejected by the US House of representatives - though it appears it was as much a strange outbreak of Republican spite (at least that's how the mainstream media is spinning it) as it was a sign of a populist uprising - House to meet Thursday after rejecting bailout.

In a stunning vote that shocked the capital and worldwide markets, the House on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue for the nation's financial system, ignoring urgent warnings from President Bush and congressional leaders of both parties that the economy could nosedive without it. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 778 points, the most ever for a single day. ...

Republicans blamed Pelosi's scathing speech near the close of the debate — which attacked Bush's economic policies and a "right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation" of financial markets — for the vote's failure. ...

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the whip, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.

Frank said that was a remarkable accusation by Republicans against Republicans: "Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decided to punish the country." ...

With their dire warnings of impending economic doom and their sweeping request for unprecedented sums of money and authority to bail out cash-starved financial firms, Bush and his economic chiefs have focused the attention of world markets on Congress, Ryan added.

Glenn Greenwald was pretty surprised by the outcome, having just blasted Congress for being a bunch of corrupt, complicit and morally destitute sheep - Bailout follows the 10 normal principles for how our government functions.
The word being used most frequently to describe the bailout package that is about to pass is "extraordinary." That adjective may apply to the amounts of money being transferred from taxpayers to Wall Street, but the process by which this is all happening is anything but "extraordinary." All of the "principles" that drive how our Government functions in general -- what explain the last eight years at least -- are perfectly evident in what has happened here:

(1) Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency. Nancy Pelosi has praised herself for decreeing that the new law will be online for 24 hours before Congress votes on it -- a full 24 hours for the American public to understand and assess a law that forces them to subsidize Wall St.'s losses in a way that may impact them for decades, if not generations. The most significant and consequential pieces of legislation over the last eight years -- the Patriot Act, the various expanded surveillance laws, the Military Commissions Act -- were the by-product of identical anti-democratic processes.

(2) Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored -- systematically excluded from the process. Professor Nouriel Roubini:
It is pathetic that Congress did not consult any of the many professional economists that have presented -- many on the RGE Monitor Finance blog forum -- alternative plans that were more fair and efficient and less costly ways to resolve this crisis.
Last week, Hank Paulson -- who bears responsibility for the crisis in numerous ways -- demanded that $700 billion be transferred to him in order to purchase toxic assets from his Wall St. friends, and while there was much howling of outrage in many quarters, no other framework was ever considered.

(3) Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions. Much is being made over the allegedly strong oversight provisions to limit the Treasury Secretary's power, accomplished through the creation of two oversight panels -- one that is composed of 5 administration officials (including the Treasury Secretary himself, the Federal Reserve Chairman and the SEC Chairman -- the definitive foxes guarding the hen house), and another that is appointed by Congress but which -- as is true for everything Congress touches -- has little real authority over what is done.

Identically, executive compensation limits -- used to bestow the plan with its populist bona fides -- are minimal and extremely limited. Worse, the public is being told that the financial services industry must pay for any losses to the Treasury still outstanding after five years, but the bill requires nothing of the sort, simply requiring that the president "propose" a plan for recoupment, not that Congress enact any such plan.

And, most of all, while not as absolute as it was in the original Paulson proposal, the Congressional plan still vests extraordinarily vast and centralized power in the Treasury Secretary -- just as Paulson demanded. As the NYT put it this morning: "During its weeklong deliberations, Congress made many changes to the Bush administration’s original proposal to bail out the financial industry, but one overarching aspect of the initial plan that remains is the vast discretion it gives to the Treasury secretary."

(4) The Government begins with demands for absolute power so brazen and absurd that anything, by comparison, seems reasonable. Thus, the law that will be passed does improve on the original Paulson Plan in certain ways -- equity shares under some circumstances, some oversight provisions and mild home-owner protections -- and people thus end up grateful for what is, by any measure, an extreme outcome, all because it's not quite as extreme as what the Bush administration began by demanding. ...

(10) Whenever you think that the Government has done things so extreme that it can't top itself -- torture, theories of presidential lawbreaking, a six-year war justified by blatantly false pretenses -- it always tops itself. On top of the massive debt under which the country was already drowning, another $700 billion is now being added in order to save the nation's richest individuals from the consequences of their own recklessness, allowing many of them not only to remain enriched, but become further enriched, all while basically ensuring that the Government is incapable of spending any money for years, if not longer, on programs designed to improve the lives of the vast, vast majority of its citizens -- the same citizens who are forced to fund this bail-out. That seems hard to top, but the only thing certain is that they will find a way to do so.

1 comments

The bailout is just another bad idea on top of a mountain of other bad ideas!

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