As the discussion over the horrific bailout plan unfolds – you know, the one that gives Henry Paulson the powers of a Caesar – it is becoming clear that the biggest risk to our nation’s future is the usual political formulations that have crippled the Democratic Party these last eight years, and turned Nancy Pelosi’s speakership into one of the most ineffective of the modern era.
Specifically, the problem is the ongoing ability of the Blue Dogs – and one Charles Schumer, Senator from New York – to frustrate anything that is not pro-corporate and ultimately pro-Bush. They have succeeded in neutering the Democratic Congress that was elected in 2006, and if they aren’t stopped this week, they may succeed in crippling an Obama Administration before it can even get started.
Schumer is emerging as Paulson’s key water carrier in the Congress. On Fox News Sunday Schumer gave cover to conservative arguments about not attaching strings to the bailout:
Schumer…said that legislators would not imperil the proposal by adding too many extras. “We will not Christmas-tree this bill,” he said Sunday on Fox. “The times are too urgent.”
A stimulus package, he added, “doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the bailout.”
“Christmas tree” is conservative framing designed to equate any efforts at accountability, reregulation and economic recovery as a kind of pork. Schumer shows his true colors in repeating this framing.
This is partly an attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has long been pushing a “second stimulus” package that would include infrastructure projects, aid to state budgets for Medicare (especially important for us in California), and other common-sense policies. Pelosi has started to suggest that the bailout should be linked to something like a second stimulus, if not the second stimulus itself:
She says the bailout should include provisions to help families facing foreclosure to stay in their homes, as well as create jobs, extend unemployment benefits and prevent CEOs of failed companies to leave with multimillion-dollar “golden parachutes.”
Schumer is here signaling his intention to prevent any of that from being attached to the bailout. But as the “second stimulus” and its affiliated concepts have not been able to break through the Republican working majority in the House (that is GOP + Blue Dogs), attaching it to a bailout seems the best chance of putting it into action.
Schumer is also undercutting Barack Obama, who today listed six conditions that must be met for him to support any bailout, conditions that are not unlike those Pelosi has been pushing.
It’s not hyperbole to say this is a crossroads moment for America, California, the Democratic Party, and for Nancy Pelosi’s speakership. It’s time for her to show the leadership she has not yet been willing to show in this Congress, and flatly refuse to support any bill that does not include meaningful stimulus and reforms. Sen. Bernie Sanders has a great list of ideas that should be the baseline.
And it’s time for we Californians to pressure our elected officials to support Pelosi and Obama, and to categorically reject the failed policies of Schumer, the Blue Dogs, and the Bush Administration. Now is the time to call your representatives and our senators – especially the unreliable Dianne Feinstein – and insist that they support Pelosi, Obama and Sanders and ensure that any bailout helps Main Street, not Wall Street, and punishes failure, instead of rewarding incompetence.