Questions for Congress

By Barb Dudley of Portland, Oregon. Barb is the co-chair of the Working Families Party of Oregon. Previously, she contributed "Fusion voting moves forward in the special session".

We have a few questions to ask Congress while they contemplate the $700 Billion bailout of Wall Street. If they think this is how to help "Main Street", tell us this:

Where the hell was Congress when the pension plans for millions of American workers --autoworkers, steelworkers, airline workers --- needed a bailout?

Where was Congress when millions of American workers lost good manufacturing jobs, as investment banks and hedge funds pushed their capital overseas?

Where was Congress when health care costs drove millions of American families into bankruptcy?

Where was Congress when millions of college students needed a bailout on their student loans?

Where was Congress when millions of American families lost their homes through mortgage foreclosures?

And where the hell was Congress when the banking regulations that might have prevented this type of crisis were being shredded?

And now we're supposed to bankrupt our children's futures to bail out a bunch of Wall Street speculators?

NO WAY!

They figured out that we weren't buying that one, so now they're telling us we are all in this together – because our 401(k)s will tank, because our credit cards will dry up.

But remember, we're all in 401(k)s because Congress let our pension plans go south without any bailout.

And they very nearly put our Social Security accounts into that same Casino called the Stock Market.

And remember, we have to borrow money to go to college because they stopped funding higher education.

And remember, we live on credit cards because our jobs no longer pay a living wage, and because health care costs and housing costs are eating up every penny we earn.

And now Hank Paulson tells us we have to "get rid of all these illiquid assets that are clogging the system." I rather like that plumbing metaphor --- that's how I think of their bailout plan.

Imagine if we had a Congress where the majority really was focused on Main Street. What could we do with $700 billion?

We need to get back to basics – an economy built on work, not speculation.

We don't need to bail the sinking ship, or rearrange the deck chairs... We need to build something new.

To do it we need to elect people who have not been seduced by Wall Street contributions or the Wall Street agenda. But mostly we need to understand that elections don't produce saviors. We are the only ones who can turn this country around – not only by voting but by being very clear, 365 days a year – what kind of a country we want, and not settling for anything less.

Three out of five Oregon Members of Congress voted against this bailout on Monday... because they heard from us. They need to hear from us again, and again and again. Go home and make those calls, send those emails, and organize!

Comments

  • Slappy Mcdickleton (unverified)
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    You are so right!

    We could always start building a sustainable and "green" economy. Building actual products in the US to harness our wind, sun, water for green energy. Building products in the US that can be serviced in the US that help reduce the toll we are taking on our planet.

    Sounds like a good place to start to me.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    What a foolish, ignorant post.

    1. This is not a "bailout" of Wall Street speculators; rather of the the American, nay world, economy.

    2. The "value" of $700 billion dollars is drawn from the strength of the overall economy. See what $700 billion Zimbabwean dollars will buy you now (versus 10 years prior).

    3. Speculation, and arbitrage, is a necessary and potent requirement of good economies.

  • Peter Bray (unverified)
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    We could always start building a sustainable and "green" economy. Building actual products in the US to harness our wind, sun, water for green energy. Building products in the US that can be serviced in the US that help reduce the toll we are taking on our planet.

    Comparative advantage.

  • (Show?)

    I heard Barb Dudley deliver this piece as a speech at Jobs with Justice's anti-bailout rally Wednesday evening outside of the Federal Building in Portland, where her remarks were received with rousing enthusiasm. I am so glad that she has been able to publish them as a guest column here, because I thought they were remarkably clear in putting into perspective the choices our elected officials collectively have been making in recent years and decades. That in turns helps us see where the "bailout" half-measures, the ones that don't address the underlying mortgage and foreclosure crisis to keep people in their homes, and probably will leave the taxpayers on the hook for a massive transfer of wealth to the wealthy, fit into that picture.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Fund Social Security at a level that is possible for retirees to live on.

    Isn't the purpose of SS to key seniors out of poverty, not to make up for their lack of retirement planning?

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    key = keep

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    The problem with this speech, Chris, is that it is a lot of rabble rousing filled with half truths and outright misleading statements.

    The kinds of things suggested above will take months or years, not weeks. This is just whistling while Rome burns.

    Where the hell was Congress when the pension plans for millions of American workers --autoworkers, steelworkers, airline workers --- needed a bailout?

    Misleading. Pensions are already federally guaranteed.

    What she really means is that many companies have decided to end pension programs--but that is very different from a bailout.

    Where was Congress when millions of American workers lost good manufacturing jobs, as investment banks and hedge funds pushed their capital overseas?

    Misleading. Congress passed NAFTA and CAFTA etc. on the belief that free trade creates more jobs than it reduces. Blaming this on hedge funds and investment banks is incorrect.

    Where was Congress when health care costs drove millions of American families into bankruptcy?

    Where was Congress when millions of college students needed a bailout on their student loans?

    She is just making things up here. What millions of families? What millions of college students?

    Where was Congress when millions of American families lost their homes through mortgage foreclosures?

    Hello?? They passed a bill just a few months ago.

    And where the hell was Congress when the banking regulations that might have prevented this type of crisis were being shredded?

    They were engaged in a decades long, bipartisan effort to relax regulations on business. Yes, stupid. But re-regulating will take a long time, time we don't have.

    Given the first set of claims, I'm deeply skeptical that fully funding Social Security, single payer health, completely free college (when were public universities completely free by the way?), and making government a business lender (what an odd notion) would cost less than 700 billion.

  • Admiral Naismith (unverified)
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    Hooray for Pete DeFazio! At least OUR representative sees through all the horse manure.

    This "Poison Paulsen" plan will do nothing for the economy. Its sole purpose is to empty the US treasury in anticipation of an Obama Administration. And too many Democrats are rolling over and letting them do it.

    I hope you'll all enjoy it when they tell you we can't have national health care or education funding because Goldman Sachs got all the money.

  • Scott in Damascus (unverified)
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    J.P Morgan bailed out WaMu. Wells Fargo bailed out Wachovia. Bill to the taxpayers? That would be zero.

    Oh and Peter, explain exactly how speculation is a necessary requirement of a good economy.

  • Joel H (unverified)
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    Count me in with the people who have never heard of public U.S. universities ever having been completely subsidized. Are you referring to Pell grants?

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    Paul asks "what millions of families" faced bankruptcy due to health care--

    A Harvard study pinned about half of personal bankruptcies on health-related events. The study cites 1.5 million bankruptcies in 2001, so figure 750K. Even if that number stayed the same throughout the Bush years (which it did not, of course), that would be about 5 million people by now, wouldn't it? That's not "made up."

    Bad day for the US to see this thing passed today. A ripoff of the consumer.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    paul g. wrote:

    Congress passed NAFTA and CAFTA etc. on the belief that free trade creates more jobs than it reduces.

    Congress's belief was enhanced by a lot of campaign contributions from folks itching for cheap labor in developing countries, just as their belief that deregulation of S&Ls and banks would be good for the economy was enhanced by those looking to make fortunes pushing paper.

    The economic observers I heed have warned against deregulation of S&Ls, warned against deregulation of banks, warned against NAFTA, CAFTA, and other broad trade treaties, just as they now counsel against the Paulson+ bailout. Those folks have been correct about all the major economic legislation efforts of the past 30 years. How about the economic observers you heed, paul g.? How have they done? Should we trust them now?

  • ORFTC (unverified)
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    More regarding NAFTA, CAFTA and China PNTR...

    The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign released an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute today that finds that nearly 1-in-5 Oregon jobs are vulnerable to offshoring -- particularly salaried, white-collar positions people once thought were safe from all this.

    Check it out at: http://www.citizenstrade.org/orftc-release100308.php

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    I especially agree with, "To do it we need to elect people who have not been seduced by Wall Street contributions or the Wall Street agenda."

    That's NOT Obama or McCain, folks, and it's time for all of you to answer the question: Is there ANYTHING these corporatists and militarists can do that will cause you to reject them?

    Shame on anyone who continues to support them.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Meanwhile the Governor of California has just announced that his state needs a federal bailout as well....

  • Barbara Dudley (unverified)
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    To answer some of Paul G's specific criticisms of my points:

    PG: "The kinds of things suggested above will take months or years, not weeks. This is just whistling while Rome burns."

    The measures I suggest might take time, although I would argue they could be done in days, or at least weeks, just as the New Deal measures were implemented when we faced the last Great Depression. Many of these measures could have been included in this past week's negotiations.

    PG: "Misleading. Pensions are already federally guaranteed."

    Yes, they were guaranteed under ERISA but when so many large unionized companies started declaring bankruptcy in the past few years, the system broke down. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 severely limited payouts by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation for workers whose employers declared bankruptcy or simply closed down.

    PG: "Congress passed NAFTA and CAFTA etc. on the belief that free trade creates more jobs than it reduces. Blaming this on hedge funds and investment banks is incorrect."

    Congress passed trade agreements which greased the skids for capital and jobs to flow overseas. The investors then did as expected and moved their capital to countries with the lowest wages.

    PG: "They (Congress) were engaged in a decades long, bipartisan effort to relax regulations on business. Yes, stupid. But re-regulating will take a long time, time we don't have."

    All Congress would have to do would be to re-enact Glass-Steagall Act, which was enacted in 1933 to prevent just this type of banking and credit crisis, and which Congress repealed in 1999. That would not take long at all...it could be done faster than you can say "bailout."

    PG: "I'm deeply skeptical that fully funding Social Security, single payer health, completely free college (when were public universities completely free by the way?), and making government a business lender (what an odd notion) would cost less than 700 billion."

    Public colleges were still virtually free when I went to school in the 1960s, as they had been since the 1850s. The whole point of land grant colleges (i.e. state colleges)was to make higher education available to all Americans.

    And as for government as a business lender, have you ever heard of the Small Business Administration, the Farm Service Agency, USDA Rural Development loans, the Energy Department's Renewable Energy Development loans? Federal and state governments make direct loans to businesses all the time.

    I highly recommend reading up on the history of the New Deal. We could benefit a lot from some of the same approaches to our current financial crisis. Congress made a big mistake today, but we will be revisiting this financial crisis for many months to come. Let's look for solutions that might actually put the economy on the right track.

  • RW (unverified)
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    Harry: Obama and McCain aside, what is your estimation of Edwards or Kucinich in this light?

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Rebecca: I would have worked for Kucinich, and I would have voted for Edwards while holding my nose.

  • RW (unverified)
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    Harry: thanks. Am trying to get a "fix" on who are the contrarians, who are the conservatives, who are etc.

    I am in accord with you to a degree.

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    Barbara I recommend Schlesinger's history of the New Deal to start. To claim that most of the New Deal was implemented in "days or weeks" shows how misleading you are being.

    A very small number of measures were passed immediately to handle the banking crisis. Much of the New Deal legislation was passed over a two year period, and by 1936, many of the programs had been ended.

    "Virtually free" is not free. I honestly don't know how long state colleges have not been free, but it sounds like most of my lifetime--nearly 50 years.

    There remains substantial disagreement over whether the repeal of Glass-Steagall created this crisis.

  • RW (unverified)
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    Dear Congress, since you are allowing us to be sold off to offshore interests, China included, and since we now see the morass beneath our feet quite plainly, I'd like to ask you how in the hell you intend to hold China, ever, to a standard of reasonable world citizenship (not "decent", not "good", not even "responsible", in honoring of the Palinization of leadership standards we now have come to accept) as a markets member?

    See the video here from The New Yorker online - http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/2008/10/06/081006_logging?xrail - China is key in the sub rosa market in Russian hardwoods, ending up as garbage products on WalMart's shelves....

    <h2>PLEASE explain to us if you think you can at least EVENTUALLY put back down the skirts of my nation, those skirts that you have so sleazily held up for decades, for all comers, for your own benefit, not ours?</h2>
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