Not even the fertile brain of Samuel Beckett could have imagined the course of events that have transpired over the past week. (Or if it could have, I suspect it would only have been while under the influence of psychotropic substances.)
In the space of a single week, the Republicans have thrown away every last fiscal principle they ever even claimed to stand for. (Never mind that they actually stopped standing for them--or applying them--at least a decade ago.) Any Republican who claims to represent the party of fiscal discipline should hereafter be laughed out of the room--and preferably pelted with rotten vegetables to hasten his exit. Any Republican (or so-called conservative) who has the temerity to refer to a "free market" should be beaten about the head and shoulders with a copy of The Wealth of Nations until he can no longer utter the phrase "invisible hand" without cringing.
The week started with the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by means of federal loan guarantees. There followed the biggest plunge in global equity indices since the first time the Hedgemony fell asleep at the switch, seven years ago this month. That was followed by John McCain's insistence that "the fundamentals of our economy are still sound." (You couldn't hear the jaws dropping onto tables and floors around the nation over the noise of falling stock prices and the howls of anguish from people who were watching their retirement savings or their children's college tuition being flushed down the toilet.)
And now, at the end of the week, the same people who broke the economy in the first place, who fell asleep at the switch and allowed Osama bin Laden to strike our nation with impunity, who instigated and prosecuted a pointless war that has done nothing to make us any safer than we were before it was started, who have scrapped the very Constitution they all took an oath before God to "preserve, protect, and defend," these same people want us to hand them a blank check. Right now. Or else something really, really bad will happen to us and the terrrists will win.
I have two words for you, Mr. Bush. Fuck, and No.
We've had ample opportunity to see just how lousy the results were the last time we let you get away with this "ZOMG, the sky is falling down and unless you give me exactly what I want right this very instant I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue!" act. There's no fucking way we're going to let you get away with PATRIOT Act II--especially not when you're practically out the door.
And make no mistake, the bailout plan that the treasury secretary is floating around is very much in the mold of the imperial presidency as engineered by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, and implemented in the aforementioned PATRIOT Act. Leaving aside all the other reasons why this is a
hugely monumentally galactically bad idea, here's the part where it gets really scary:
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.
To quote the folks at Naked Capitalism, this is a financial coup d'état. This is the Hedgemony trying to do to the economy what it has already tried to do to the nation's energy policy, to its legal system, and to the ability of the average citizen to find out exactly what his or her government is up to at any given moment. And that's just bullshit. Every time the Bush administration tries to hunker down behind closed doors and brush off inquiries about just what those kids are doing in there, Really Bad Shit has happened. Why, in the name of God, would we want to let them get away with this again?
Of course, the next Really Bad Idea in this bailout plan is the notion that we've somehow got $700 billion to spend. Hello?!?!? The budget deficit for next year was already being estimated at an eye-popping half a trillion dollars. And that was last week.
I remain skeptical either that the state of our economy demands a bailout on this scale, or that what's being proposed will actually work. I am adamantly opposed to the idea that we have to do this righthisveryinstantorelsereallyreallybadshitwillhappen. The Bush regime will be out the door in four months' time. Surely we can wait that long to come up with a reasonable, rational solution. I have to think that if we do wait, we're far more likely to come up with a plan that has a chance of actually working.
But if we're going to have to put up with some kind of a plan, and we're going to have to get moving on it rightnow, then I'm with Senator Obama. There can be, there will be, no blank check. We're not handing over absolute authority to anyone--let alone anyone appointed by a Republican president who is largely responsible (and whose party is almost exclusively responsible) for getting us into this mess in the first place.
The taxpayers (and our money) have got to be protected. Any bailout money that goes to Wall Street had better come back to Main Street--and not sometime in the next generation, either. It would be nice if it came back augmented by a reasonable rate of return on our investment, but I'm not holding my breath. It absolutely will not be used to provide more golden parachutes.
Something has to be done to keep homeowners in their homes. Buying up the bad mortgages doesn't do any good if all of those homes wind up in foreclosure.
Last, but certainly not least, Regulate, regulate, regulate, regulate! John McCain and his chief economic adviser Phil Gramm are largely responsible for the deregulation boom that undid precautions first enacted after the Great Depression. It was that relaxation that led to the mess we're in right now. We cannot continue to allow the unfettered greed of a few ultra-wealthy individuals to dominate our economic policy, to the detriment of ordinary citizens. If my tax dollars are good enough to pay for this bailout, then I have to make something off of it, too. Otherwise, we'll keep the $700 billion and let the "invisible hand" of the "free market" solve this problem for us--just like the Republicans always say it should.