The Bailout Bill was passed by the Senate last night, 74-25. Though it was an improvement from the original plan that the Bush Administration tried to ram through last week it’s still an extremely flawed bill. There is a need for an effective, just and equitable intervention, and that’s not what this bill represents. It rewards the worst actors in the financial industry while doing little to nothing for working people – people who are being asked nevertheless to pick up the tab for Wall Street’s recklessness. (And, yes, it’s true that taxpayers will get some stake in the companies now but there is no telling what, if any, return there will be on these toxic assets).
The action moves to the House now where a truly progressive bill could be crafted with key elements like: bankruptcy reforms and loan modifications to keep people in their homes; a surtax on the the wealthy as proposed tonight in an amendment offered by Senator Bernie Sanders (see below); re-regulation of Wall Street to curb the casino/bandit economy that got us into this mess; direct recapitalization of banks; and an economic stimulus package that includes extension of unemployment insurance and infrastructure investment that rebuilds our nation and creates jobs.
Of course, we are unlikely to see this kind of bill because it doesn’t have the needed votes – certainly not in the Senate and probably not in the House where the Blue Dog Dems would be needed. But at the very least, one wonders why Democratic leadership didn’t push harder for an economic stimulus for Main Street at a time when Wall Street and the Bush Administration are begging for taxpayer help? If they truly need $700 billion to save the global economy, would they really have thrown that away over – for example, a $60 billion stimulus package?
Although Senator Barack Obama spoke eloquently about the need for Congress to focus on Main Street – and his words made clear that he understands the pain people are feeling and what’s at stake in this Bush economy – he was willing to put off the fight for bankruptcy reforms, loan modifications, and a stimulus package. He said: “As soon as we pass this rescue plan, we need to move aggressively with the same sense of urgency to rescue families on Main Street who are struggling to pay their bills and keep their jobs. They’ve been in crisis a lot longer than Wall Street has. I’ve said it before and I say it again: We need to pass an economic stimulus package that will help ordinary Americans cope with rising food and gas prices, that can save 1 million jobs rebuilding our schools, and roads, and our infrastructure, and help states and cities avoid budget cuts and tax increases, a plan that would extend expiring unemployment benefits for those Americans who’ve lost their jobs and cannot find new ones…. We also must do more in this rescue package in order to help homeowners stay in their homes. I will continue to advocate bankruptcy reforms.”