Are the Democrats getting smarter? Probably not, but the situation has transposed into one they understand: political posturing. And they’ve figured out the opponent’s plan.
Democratic leaders see the trap.
Reject the bill, and get blamed for whatever economic catastrophe may await. Pass the bill without strong GOP support, and get blamed for bailing out Wall Street fat cats at taxpayers’ expense.
That’s why House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) called on the president Tuesday to deliver a prime-time address laying out the case for the plan — an address aimed both at viewers back home and at Republican members at the Capitol.
“I caution the president that we cannot pass this package without his party’s support,” Clyburn said. “If it’s a crisis … and we all need to come together, then as leader of this nation, the president needs to take the lead and bring the country together behind his plan. He must make a case to congressional Republicans and to the American people that his $700 billion rescue package is the right solution.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was blunt: “This is a Republican proposal,” he said Tuesday, “and we need some Republican votes.”
They may not have grown spines, but at least the Democrats’ spidey sense is tingling. They have that old feeling of having been here before. Of course, the situation was clear to the audience long ago, and we’re all waiting for the Democrats to catch up. According to Politico,
…Gingrich (R-Ga.) is already trying to pitch the Paulson proposal as the “Obama-Bush plan,” and current Republican members — sensing the mood back home — are itching to send out press releases boasting about how they “voted against the Democrat Congress bailing out Wall Street.”
Then, of course, we have the reports of the beneficent McCain influence on the economic discusssions in Washington, presumably ensuring that whining is confined to the upper crust.
I continue to advance what I think Occam suggests: that the Rove machine, which is clearly running the McCain campaign at every level it cares about, has fallen back from the front line of defending the White House to the redoubt of the Senate filibuster and a compelling persecution narrative to keep up the spirits of the Base.
Of course the Base’s retreat is covered by Big Oil, whose spirits are already about as up as they can get. What our friends in the oil industry would like more than anything right now is invisibility. Which doesn’t seem likely as housing and Wall Street crumble, and lifestyles of the American middle class, dwindling like the Roman one before it, navigate the declining pre-eminence of the American empire.
For which people could have prepared, but didn’t. And they could have been helped and advised to, but they weren’t. Quite the contrary, in fact. They were and are relentlessly propagandized in the opposite direction: a trillion ads per American lifetime.
As the Sixties said, you create your own reality, and the Republicans surfed that wave for a couple of decades. In the end, though it pains a true hippie to say it, reality bites. Rove’s models, surely as least as sophisticated as, because vastly better funded than, those at FiveThirtyEight.com, must predict loss for McCain/Palin in nearly every realistic circumstance. Which leaves two problems: generating unrealistic circumstances, and preparing to rebuild after defeat.
Well, how about a financial 9/11? Maybe Americans can be scared into rallying around that flag. If so, the Republicans can complete the assault on the Constitution. And if not, at least people won’t be focused on Iraq. They might even be sufficiently distracted by the danger not to notice exactly who it is that’s running off with their wallets. They might even hand over some arbitrarily large number of dollars as a donative, a sacrifice to appease the wrath of the Gods of Capital.
But we can choose to move in the opposite direction. We can choose to express our displeasure, our dis-ease, with the proposed solutions that bail out the super-rich at the expense of the rest of us.
We can, for example, cosign the letter from Senator Bernie Sanders, I believe the only open socialist in Congress. The emphasis in the first paragraph is mine. If everyone in the country saw these numbers, the November election would see a historic turnout. I mean, I thought I had a fairly good concept of the distribution, but it’s changed drastically in just the past five years, starting, coincidentally, around the time we invaded Iraq. Where’s Harry Truman when he need him?
While the Administration has quickly rallied to help Wall Street, it has ignored the needs of the declining middle class. Since President Bush has been in office the wealthiest people in this country have made out like bandits and have not had it so good since the 1920s. The top one-tenth of one percent now earn more income than the bottom 50 percent of Americans and the top one percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Incredibly, the richest 400 people in our country saw their wealth increase by $670 billion during the Bush presidency.
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Any plan to clean up the mess on Wall Street must:
- Ensure that middle income and working families are not the ones who are paying for this bailout by
- Imposing a five-year, 10 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year for couples and over $500,000 for single taxpayers. That would raise more than $300 billion in revenue over five years;
- Ensuring that assets purchased from banks are realistically discounted so companies are not rewarded for their risky behavior and taxpayers can recover the amount they paid for them; and
- Requiring that taxpayers receive equity stakes in the bailed-out companies so that the taxpayers’ assumption of risk is rewarded when companies’ stock goes up.
Taken together these three provisions will substantially reduce the likelihood that this bailout will end up on the backs of average American taxpayers.
- Include a major economic recovery package which puts Americans to work at decent wages. Among many other areas, we can create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and moving our country from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Further, we must protect our must vulnerable families from the very difficult times they are experiencing.
- Repeal the disastrous de-regulatory legislation that facilitated this crisis. End the danger posed by companies that are “too big to fail,” that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy. If a company is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need to determine which companies fall in this category and then break them up.