Our big day (did democracy win?)
Some interesting and reflective essays have been written in the wake of the congressional rejection of the government bailout plan; all musing on the 'historical meaning' of the pressure we put on congress, and the fact that they actually listened to us.
Did democracy actually win yesterday? Only time will tell. I'm sure the lobbyists are in full swing.
Here are a few slices of the victory pie:
Celebrating The Bailout Bill's Failure--And Looking Ahead
Whether you favor the $700 billion bailout or not, the House vote today should make you cheer--loudly.
Because the majority vote against it shows that Washington is not entirely in the service of the political donor class, by which I mean Wall Street and the corporations who rely on it for their financing. These campaign donors, a narrow slice of America, have lobbied and donated their way into a system that stacks the economic rules in their favor. But faced with as many as 200 telephone calls against the bailout for every one in favor, a lot of House members decided to listen to their constituents today instead of their campaign donors.
The GOP members voted overwhelmingly against the bill, while two-thirds of the Democrats favored it. Right now you can be sure that cajoling and arm twisting is underway in an effort to persuade 16 GOP members (or perhaps a dozen Republicans and a few Democrats) to vote the public largesse for Wall Street.
None of this is to say that we need, or do not need, some government intervention in the markets. Rather it is to say that the administration has failed to make its case, instead assuming that just as with the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, it could stampede Congress into thoughtless action and terrify the public into going along.
Also, do not get stampeded by the awful, ill-informed, and heavily one-sided coverage on cable TV, which I have been monitoring. Several friends have emailed me in a panic asking if they should sell their holdings. Politicians and cable news deserve a lot of blame for fostering fear.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a measure of just 30 companies out of millions, closed down just under seven percent. Back in 1987 the Dow fell 22 points in a single day, and it was not the end of Western Civilization or even investing.
The stock markets may fall more. They also may rise. After all, Goldman Sachs shares were in a free fall just before the Bush administration declared a crisis, and even with today's 12.5 per cent drop, they are trading at more than $30 per share higher than at the low point eleven days ago.
Questions abound: Do we believe in markets, which can be volatile--or only in managed markets biased by government policy to the upside? Or do we believe in corporate socialism?
Michael Scherer, writing in Time Magazine about the 'popular revolt:'
A Failure Of Leadership
There was a lack of trust, a loss of confidence, a popular revolt.
Nearly every major political leader in America supported the bailout bill. The President of the United States. The Vice President. The Treasury Secretary. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Democratic and Republican nominees for president. The Democratic and Republican leadership of the House and the Senate. All of them said the same thing. Vote yes.
But the leaders anointed by the U.S. Constitution to most reflect the will of the people voted no. This is a remarkable event, the culmination of a historic sense of betrayal that the American people have long felt for their representatives in Washington D.C. Roughly 28 percent of the Americans approve of President Bush. Roughly 18 percent of Americans approve of Congress. These numbers have been like that for years.
Now those bad feelings have manifested themselves in the starkest of terms. Not enough of the American people believed their leaders. And so the politicians that were most exposed ran for cover. With an election on the horizon, 95 House Democrats and 133 House Republicans opposed the bill. Now, there is significant potential for grave effects on the nation.
By George (no pun intended) I think we got their attention. At least for a day.