You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Congress’ tag.

So I’m waiting for someone to come up wth a convincing reason for me to care that not one House Republican voted for the economic stimulus bill this week.

Given the circumstances, it was practically a free vote and serves mostly as a Clinton-like refrain circa 1994: We’re still relevant. Take us seriously

The Senate is going to work its magic on the bill. It probably will look very little like the one that passed the House. So House members will have another chance to squawk — and another few weeks of doom-and-gloom economic news to condition them.

Barack Obama is  most likely not quaking in his boots over the power of the House GOP to stifle his agenda. They obviously can’t. It’s big of him to make nice, but I’m sure he or his advisers understand the politics driving House members. It’s the Senate they have to worry about.

They may even have anticipated a party-line “no.” I haven’ t heard anyone in the White House complaining (not that I have an ear anywhere near that hallowed ground).

How can we forget the many token “no”votes cast against the bank bailout? It died, then it came back to life so we could beat it up again over how ineffective it’s been. If you wanted to conjure up fresh proof that government spending doesn’t seem to work, you would have done the same.

Advertisements

So I’m in the bathroom of a convenience store in Gettysburg, Pa., when I notice the condom dispenser. Only it’s not labeled as such. The sign reads: “Health Care Convenience Center.” Alas, my camera phone was in the car so I can’t provide visual evidence.

Nonetheless, it’s good to see that people outside Washington and Manhattan have been polishing their euphemisms. Lord knows we’ll be seeing plenty today as the House takes up a financial bailout and vice presidential candidates clash in St. Louis

So maybe it’s doom after all for the US economy. At any rate, I was mentally tossing around various causal factors for the mess and I settled on one possible psychological motivation — and it has something to do with Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s probably no accident that financial excess followed the tragedy of 9/11. Imagine traders walking past the visible scar of that day and wondering why some died, some survived. They drowned themselves in a sea of speculative trading. They took risks that make sense only if you’re heedless of the consequences.

It’s the reaction you might have if your best friend died in some senseless, horrible accident that might have claimed you as well. But you went on living anyway. And drank — or gambled or sky-dived or high-speed raced — yourself into oblivion. Either looking for a reason why you survived — or, more aptly, trying to avoid looking. Financial types, known more for speculation than introspection, probably opted for the latter.

What’s also interesting is the flight to Greenwich you (or at least I) read about lately. That is, all the money now is being made by hedge funds in Greenwich. It’s the high-finance version of cocooning with the family in the suburbs.

I may be wrong, or not wholly right. But it makes just as much sense as ascribing it all to greed, pure and simple. Greed has been around for eons, yet it doesn’t cause financial panics every day. And it may not be the thing that drove every last soul on Wall Street. Greed is just the easiest and least controversial straw to grasp.

Here’s why I think Congress will pass a bailout sooner rather than later, despite all the hype surrounding it. The failure of an investment bank affects more than a few cuff-linked and tie-clipped CEOs. It also affects janitorial companies. When the office building goes dark, there go the hardworking, low-paid janitors, innocent in all likelihood of whatever financial chicanery turned off the lights in the first place.

This is the kind of real-world ripple effect that Congress is going to recognize. They can talk themselves blue in the face about creeping financial socialism, misplaced priorities and the moral hazard of letting “them” get away with it. But ultimately, they won’t be able to turn away from the potential for collateral damage. I just imagine that the final price tag will be a lot higher than $700 billion as lawmakers struggle to convince the American people that they arent’ giving away the store.

In the fast-moving blur that our financial sector has become,  I vaguely recall the argument that taxpayers (or Asian creditors) could someday turn a profit on the “distressed assets” they’ll be purchasing in a few week;

Still, I’m a bit skeptical. I should note that I haven’t heard this claim in the political posturing that has passed for Congressional debate the last few days. (I wonder how many pols are willing to put their principled free-market stands through the risk of a real-world test. Very few, which is why we’re more likely to end up with a package that includes tax rebates for you and me.) But we may hear it again, so it’s worth dissecting, however briefly. If there is a profit to be made from these assets, why don’t the companies keep them or why doesn’t some enterprising private-sector investor snatch them up?

I’ll be waiting for the answer.

It’s good to see that an eternity in office hasn’t dulled George W. Bush’s sharp, pointy finger. He can still redirect blame with the best of them.

I’ll just take issue with one clearly absurd statement: that somehow farm subsidies are to blame for rising food prices. Farm subsidies have been around for decades and food prices haven’t been rising (at least as sharply) for that long. So clearly the blame lies elsewhere. For a clue, Bush should read the conservative press on this one. Yes, ethanol is the culprit, and plenty of people saw it coming.

My memory may be faulty, but I remember a certain state of the union address where a certain George Bush called on Congress to expand the mandate for producing ethanol. Congress agreed.

Too bad Bush’s memory isn’t as sharp as his rhetoric.