As you are probably well aware by now, this country is screwed.
Now, I ain’t gon’ even lie to y’all: when it comes to economics, I suck. Plain and simple. So don’t be surprised to be on the receiving end of a blank stare if you ever asked me to make sense out of this financial mess. But even though I’m what they refer to in Latin as an Economous Ignoramus, I find solace in knowing that even the most talented economists usually can’t explain this mess. I’ve found quite a few blogs and websites that attempt to describe this financial meltdown in laymen terms. I’m still reviewing those sites to see how much of it actually makes sense. But from a political standpoint – where my interests especially lie – I’ve feel a little more equipped to provide commentary. Particularly, here are some of the non-financial things I’ve gather about this crisis so far:
-There is a direct and causal relationship between electability and crisis management.
The American political system was designed to bridge the decisions made by Congressional members and the interests of the constituency whom they serve. Members of the House (whose terms only last for two years) represent constituents from a smaller, more intimate electorate. As a result, House Representatives tend to be more responsive to issues and opinions more directly felt by citizens at the district level. Six-year termed members of the Senate – on the other hand – are called to be more discursive and insulated from the public. Combined, the House and the Senate represent the delicate balance between preserving the State’s individualism and the country’s interests. Personally, I hate this system. But that’s how it is and how it will remain. So I roll with the punches.
We’ve seen how this system can flop; particularly by using the counts from the Senate and the House to make up the dreaded Electoral College. But the divided vote on the bailout is another clear indication that this system needs considerable work. The dominating opposition to the bill is a clear reflection of the fact that many members of the House up for reelection (on both sides) did not want an affirmative vote for the bailout hovering above their heads. Even if they can cite more reasons why they would oppose the bailout (I’ve got my reasons too), they are simply unwilling to lose potential voters at the risk of a long term resolution to this nation’s financial crisis. With limited terms and far more direct connection with their constituency, members of the House will likely continue choosing future electability instead of opting for a practical but unpopular method of alleviating our financial problems.
-Republican unification is on the decline.
The bailout vote is but the latest of the in-housing feuding that has come to define the Republicans lately. The scandals leading to the loss of Republican control in Congress and McCain’s questionable decision for VP were only the tip of the iceberg. The bailout vote is further evidence that a clear dissension within the rank and file system of the GOP exists. Similar to how there was a major wedge between Democrats throughout the late 70’s and well into the Reagan administration (modeling the Clinton/Obama feud this year), Republicans find themselves sharply divided. When you have a large majority of Congressional Republicans directly opposing President Bush, you know there is trouble in water.
-Democratic candidates are also in trouble.
Perhaps one of the strangest turn of events with this bailout issue was how President Bush received more support from Congressional Democrats than from fellow Republicans. I’m curious to see how this surreal game of “Follow the Leader” will impact voters in November.
As it stands now, Democrats don’t control enough of Congress to make things happen without at least some of their Republican colleagues. Despite this, the overwhelmingly negative impression of the 110th Congress is much more of a referendum on the Dems than it is on the Republicans. Rep. Jim Boehner and the GOP spin machine has successfully made the failure of this Congress more about the Democrat ineptitude than about the Republicans’ unwillingness to compromise. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tried to deflect the blame back on Republicans. But seeing how the Dems are “controlling” Congress, the blame is likely to fall square on their shoulders. Is it far to the Democrats? Not necessarily. But voters don’t see that. All they see is a slow and inefficient Congress which just so happens to be led by Democrats. Just like in 2006, I predict those voters will make their frustrations known in the booth.
Keep in mind that there will be plenty of people running on down tickets this year (down tickets – for the uninitiated – are all the other folks on a ballot who are not the headliners). We will not simply enter a booth, select our choice for President, and call it a day. I mean, even in Michigan, there are 686 people running for something whose names are not McCain or Obama (most of them are state, county, and local positions. But you get the point…). While I think some of the senior members of Congress stand a better chance of getting re-elected as incumbents, some of the newer members may not fare as well. Truthfully, I expect to see enough changes in the Congressional Halls this November to make Trading Spaces jealous. What should have been a perfect opportunity for Democrats to win even more seats (enough to secure that ever elusive two-thirds majority), will now turn into another uphill battle. If Obama actually does manage to win the Presidency, it’s scary to think what kind of Congress he’ll have as his supporting cast.
-The blame must be shared.
The Bible says that it rains on the just as well as the unjust. But more to the point of this financial crisis, bad economies hurt the poor and rich alike. So you can imagine what I was thinking when I heard a certain Fox News contributor say this financial crisis was caused by minorities. It has been argued by some that banks were strong armed into lending to “minorities and risky people” who could not afford these loans. I’ll concede to that point to any extent. There were many minority homeowners with mortgages they simply could not afford. I get that. But unless those “risky people” are also made up of the 72% of white homeowners in 2007, this blame game is ridiculous. As usual, the GOP is trying to use minorities (many of whom are uneducated when it comes to these matters) as the whipping boy. But when you consider that the first bailout plan proposed left room for lower and middle class homeowners to get much needed relief, it should be expected that Republicans would do anything they could to thwart those efforts. Blaming the victim is a staple of the GOP.
-The average American’s fate is tied to fate of this bailout.
To me, this corporate bailout represents the ultimate in hypocrisy. When it comes to the average person, our society tends to look down on recipients of social welfare (deservedly so in many cases. I mean, people really do sponge off “the system”). But when corporations fall flat (corporations that, by the way, are vehemently opposed to governmental intervention), the Feds don’t even blink before they start offering their support. Nevertheless, we are stuck in a position where there really isn’t any other viable solution. We have fold away our scathing tongues of criticism and denunciation for a second to save Wall Street. Let’s face it: the folks on Main Street Saginaw Street can’t survive without helping the fat cat corporations on Wall Street. If these corporations are not bailed out, they won’t have money to loan out to the rest of us for homes, vehicles, student loans, etc. Jobs all around the country run the risk of getting cut. Whether we like it or not (I personally HATE IT!), we have to accept the reality that this a lousy situation we’re will only get worse should we pull away.
Well that’s my take on this whole mess. I have no idea how this will all play out financially. Lord knows we should be praying for a delivery from this. But from a policy standpoint, the writing on the wall is pretty clear. In one way or another, things look pretty bleak.