Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bringing Us Together

How ironic. The Bush administration has managed to unite Americans about something: how much its emergency bailout plan stinks. Paulson and Bernanke found themselves facing hostile questions from both sides of the aisle. Here's a brief survey from the Sacramento Bee of the California delegation's response to giving Paulson $700 billion without any strings attached.

While the Bush administration is pushing for quick approval of an historic $700 bailout to calm Wall Street, skeptical Republicans and Democrats from California are pushing back, saying Congress must take its time in scrutinizing such a mammoth proposal. ...

Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged Congress to move quickly and "avoid slowing it down with other provisions that are unrelated or don't have broad support." But so far, Democrats are holding firm in their demands, and many Republicans are urging a more methodical approach, as well.

"This is a financially challenging time for America," said Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. "It's not a time for Washington politics, but instead a time for leadership to protect America's working families and their hard-earned retirement and college savings."

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco said the financial crisis "is clear recognition that the party is over for the Bush administration's anything-goes, failed economic policies that have damaged our economy." She said Congress will pass a bill "in a bipartisan manner that will protect the taxpayers' interests" but that the legislation must rein in executive pay, include independent oversight and offer protections for homeowners facing foreclosure. ...

[Sen. Dianne] Feinstein called Paulson's plan "a nonstarter" because it would give him too much authority.

"To ask Congress to pass a $700 billion bill, and hand this to one person with no oversight, I think is not at all prudent," she said. "The Congress should not do that."

She said Dodd's bill "is much better" because it would create an oversight body, mandate regular reports to Congress and limit executive salaries. ...

"We must get to the root of the housing crisis and work to keep people in their homes through refinancing," [Sen. Barbara Boxer] said. "If we don't, housing prices will continue to freefall and we will still be in a mess. In California, we have more foreclosures than any other state --- in August, more than 101,000 Californians received foreclosure notices and more than 33,000 lost their homes." ...

[Republican Rep. John] Doolittle, of Roseville, joined 30 other House Republicans who sent a letter to Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, asking them to stop using federal funds to save private firms.

Now such bipartisan criticism certainly doesn't mean that a really bipartisan bill will be crafted in response, but it does mean that the country and its representatives have had about enough of the boy-who-would-be-emperor's ham-handed approach to governance and give away programs for the rich. It would have been nice if this sudden development of spine when it came to challenging the administration had occurred about six years ago, but at least it finally happened. It's no accident that the development needed a presidential election to engender it, but I guess $700 billion in one lump sum opened a few eyes.

118 days

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