I’m reluctant to get partisan, but …

I’m reluctant to take a partisan position on the failure of the economic bailout. But there is one aspect of the Republicans’ performance yesterday that is indefensible.

First, I don’t know enough about economics to evaluate this particular plan:  whether it was really necessary, whether this was the right solution to the crisis.

Second, the pain doesn’t fall out along partisan lines. Voters could shrug and say, It was a lot of fat cats on Wall Street who took a bath yesterday, but that would be naive. The Dow Jones lost $1.2 trillion dollars in a single day. Everyone is going to feel the pain of that loss. Particularly Americans who are approaching retirement, if their retirement savings are invested in the stock market.

Third:  from the beginning, I haven’t liked the way the politics were playing out. Voters need to be especially sceptical of government in times of crisis. It’s too easy for the President to say, There’s a crisis; you’ll have to give us a blank cheque; just trust us. And that’s exactly what President Bush did. Not only did he ask for $700 billion dollars in taxpayers’ money:  he also wanted the treasury secretary to have absolute discretion over the spending of that money. No review of any decision; no accountability. Voters (and Democrats) were quite right to reject such an obvious power grab.

The original plan had been revised, but it isn’t clear to me whether yesterday’s plan adequately protected taxpayers. So maybe there were good reasons for House Republicans and many Democrats to vote Nay.

But I have one criticism to level at the Republicans. I think the excuse they offered for their No vote was indefensible.

Nancy Pelosi made a speech that was sharply critical of the Republicans. She said, essentially, what Barack Obama had said during the debate. The economic crisis didn’t arise overnight; the last eight years of Republican government created the conditions for it.

When the vote failed, and the bailout didn’t happen, Republicans blamed Pelosi. They whined, She made a partisan speech, and some of our members were offended enough to vote against the deal.

Grow up. The House isn’t a kindergarten sandbox.

There were two legitimate explanations for opposing the bill. First, maybe you decided it wasn’t good for the country. Second, maybe voters in your district were overwhelmingly opposed to it. No one can fault you for standing up for your country or for voters.

But to whine, “Nancy Pelosi said a bad thing” — that just doesn’t cut it. It’s mockworthy, as Representative Barney Frank immediately recognized.

p.s. I’m also not much impressed by John McCain’s statement yesterday. In two consecutive sentences he said (I paraphrase), “The failure of the bailout is the fault of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, who acted in a partisan fashion”; then, “Now is not the time to fix the blame, now is the time to fix the problem.”

The first sentence fixes the blame on Barack Obama. The second sentence says this isn’t the time to fix the blame.

You would never contradict your own values, would you, John?


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