Monday, September 22, 2008

Seven Simple Reasons to Oppose the Bailout

The indispensible Martin Bosworth lays it out, in a quick seven-point elevator speech you can even explain to your deaf Aunt Millie:

I'm not going to waste time with a preface. Let's just get right into why this is a massively bad decision.

No oversight. The Bush administration is asking Congress to hand it a blank check for $700 billion without any controls or strings attached. This is the same corrupt regime that has wasted uncountable billions in Iraq through fraud, graft, corruption, and simple wasteful spending on unnecessary projects. The same regime that demanded vast new powers of surveillance with only the most minimal oversight to ensure that it is not abused. Do you really think Paulson is going to tell the truth in those reports to Congress, or that Congress will do anything about it if he lies?

Unchecked power. If this bill passes as written, it will make Henry Paulson the most powerful man in America, with incredible leverage to utilize trillions of dollars' worth of capital as he sees fit. As an unelected official not chosen by the people, do you trust him to look out for your interests?

Foreign bank bailouts. Henry Paulson is on record as saying that Americans are too stupid to care if he uses our money to prop up banks based outside of the United States (Seriously, go read this article--that's essentially what he says.) If that doesn't set my right-wing friends in firm opposition to this plan, I don't know what will.

No protections for homeowners or curbs on CEO pay. Paulson is actively resisting any attempt to add punitive or regulatory measures to the package, including foreclosure protections, additional economic stimulus packages, or stronger oversight of the financial markets to prevent something like this from happening again. This is a life raft to the very people who got us into this mess, mortgaging our financial futures to do so.

Rewarding irresponsibility. This is a clear message to Wall Street and the global markets that it's completely okay to engage in ever-more-complex and opaque financial tomfoolery, because the government will bail you out when it gets rough. No consequences, no responsibility, no real fear of the vicissitudes of capitalism. In a true free market, banks that overleveraged themselves with crappy loans and nonsensical derivatives would collapse. It would be painful and turbulent, but is that really worse than enabling them to keep on going with the same awful practices that have left thousands of people with homes worth less than what they paid for them, with 401ks barely performing at a value worth the investment, and a dollar that can't buy a fraction of what it used to? Again, tell your right-wing friends that this is as blatant an example of ignoring personal accountability as there ever has been.

Constraining our future. As I said yesterday, not only will this bailout deny us access to capital that we could have used for countless new projects and investments that we desperately need, but it will further constrain us from engaging in any sort of new infrastructure building or real innovation to put this country back on track. While Obama's administration may be able to push through legislation that amends or changes existing laws, the real big-ticket items–climate change mobilization, national health care, broadband investment–will not happen without capital to fund them. This is a political time bomb designed to sabotage any attempt Obama will make at real change by hamstringing him financially until the Republicans move to take back Congress in 2010. It's no coincidence that Paulson's package is on a two-year timeframe, after all.

It won't solve anything. Most of all, this bill is a Band-Aid on cancer. As this excellent article by Joshua Holland details, our financial structure and system is fundamentally sick, crippled, and retooled to act solely as a process to transfer money from the many to the few. Pumping more capital into it is like giving a blood transfusion to someone who's undergoing heart surgery and is being kept alive by machines–it'll help keep them alive, but it won't fix the problem at hand.

So there you have it. Pass these points around. Call your representatives, call the media, tell your friends and family. Let them know that this bailout needs to be opposed until we come back with a better plan that protects individual Americans and doesn't reward the wealthy for their mistakes. If you want a preview of a better plan, Ian Welsh has some thoughts on that front.
The article with all its many supporting links intact is here.

Take it and run with it, gang. Like the PATRIOT Act and the AUMF, this is a bill with implications our great-grandkids will be living with.