Sunday, September 21, 2008

Election? Why Bother

Yesterday the administration sent Congress an emergency proposal to bail out Wall Street. The President spoke briefly about the mammoth disaster about to happen and just why he believes the government needs to pour $700 billion in order to save those financial institutions about to go under because of the mortgage debacle. Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary, spent the day in conference with dozens of congress critters urging them to act quickly to enact the proposed bill because the crisis was so severe that our very way of life was threatened.

The proposal, which the NY Times has published in its entirety here, is dramatically simple. Written in comparatively straightforward English (unlike most legislation), it runs to only three pages. The President, Treasury Secretary, and Fed-head, Ben Bernanke all urged the Congress to act swiftly because time was of the essence.

This Los Angeles Times article is typical of the coverage being given to the financial crisis, and it focuses on some of the more important provisions contained in that three-page document prepared for Congress.

A draft of the plan was delivered to Congress early today, and lawmakers will spend the weekend poring over it. As written, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson and his successor would be handed expansive authority, beyond the reach of U.S. courts, to attempt to rescue staggering financial markets. ...

At the White House, President Bush acknowledged the immensity of the plan, which would give the Treasury secretary enormous control and bypass many of the traditional checks and balances of government.

"This is a big package, because it was a big problem," Bush said in the Oval Office as he met today with the president of Colombia. "I will tell our citizens and continue to remind them that the risk of doing nothing far outweighs the risk of the package, and that, over time, we're going to get a lot of the money back."
[Emphasis added]

It sounds a great deal like the rush to pass the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) and The Patriot Act, doesn't it? Well, that's only because this same kind of pressure is being applied in the same way. That alone should raise suspicions in Congress. And some of those people and their advisers are suspicious.

"It's got to be done right away, but they won't make any concessions in order to get it to happen," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who sits on the House Financial Services Committee.

"They are playing Russian roulette in the hopes that if the economy gets shot, the Democrats get blamed," Sherman said. ...

Robert E. Litan, a Treasury official with the Clinton administration who is now a senior analyst with the Brookings Institution, said the new plan seemed to invite banks and securities firms to dump their very worst assets on the government with no clear way for Washington to get rid of them.

"What they're going to get is the financial equivalent of radioactive waste," he warned.

Several in Congress have already started complaining that the massive bail-out does plenty for Wall Street and absolutely nothing for Main Street, and, since it's the people of Main Street who are putting up the money, those Congress Critters are uneasy about the proposal as it stands. They want to include relief for the actual victims in the whole mortgage scams, those who have or about to lose their homes.

But here's the part of the proposal that has me aghast:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
[Emphasis added]

That's right. What Secretary Paulson (and his successor) want is absolute and unfettered authority to do whatever they want with what will probably end up to be over $1 trillion. No Congressional oversight, no judicial review. Their actions will carry a conclusive presumption of appropriateness.

How's that for striking at the heart of Constitutional government?

No wonder the administration is in such a rush. Hopefully Congress will notice at least this provision in the short proposal and strike it immediately. If it doesn't, then we might as well cancel the November elections. It won't matter who the President is, he won't be the chief executive. The Treasury Secretary will.

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Anonymous Nora said...

That was one of the first things that caught my eye. No review? Of any sort? How could that possibly be constitutional? I know that Bush never studied law, and I assume that Paulson never did either, but surely there are some lawyers over there (and I'm damn sure there are some lawyers in Congress) who know that you cannot give this kind of unbridled, unreviewable discretion to a cabinet officer under the U.S. Constitution.

Doesn't anyone remember the New Deal and the Supreme Court rulings that demolished the alphabet soup agencies on that basis alone?

7:55 AM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

Since we don't have any representation in this, does that mean we don't have to pay taxes? I's just a cliche.

8:23 PM  

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