By Robert Borosage
Campaign for America's Future
It's gut check time.
The attempt by Treasury Secretary Paulson to put a gun to the head of Congress and terrify them into forking over a $700 billion blank check to the Bush administration in 48 hours has failed. Now what?
Most Americans would just as soon the Masters of the Universe were allowed to sink in their own folly. They had the party; let them clean up the mess. But, looking at sinking housing values and shaken retirement accounts, most Americans know something has to get done.
Banks and investment houses carry weapons of financial mass destruction. Last week, they looked into the abyss. If nothing is done, the chances for a deep and long depression are very great. So stocks skied around the world when Paulson announced his support for a massive bailout of Wall Street. And stocks and the dollar plummeted, and oil and gold soared when it became clear on Monday that the Congress wouldn't simply salute and go along. Doing nothing is not an option.
Leaders from unions, consumer and citizen groups have weighed in, demanding strict conditions on any bailout. On Monday, Sen. Chris Dodd put forth a draft bill that called for an independent board to run the bailout, required that taxpayers get partial ownership in any firm bailed out, and mandated steps to forestall foreclosures and work out mortgages, helping to keep people in their homes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demands a kickstart for the real economy - extension of unemployment benefits, aid to states and localities, investment in green jobs and basic infrastructure. (But at only $50 billion, a relative pittance for the real economy compared to the sums demanded to rescue Wall Street). Rep. Barney Frank insists on limits on the compensation of executives of any firm that gets bailed out. Together, these conditions begin to make some sense out of a bad fix....(Click here for remainder).