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Stick 'em up, America!

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Once again, our president is badgering Congress to hurry up and approve his plan or something terrible will happen--this time, he's not threatening us with a mushroom cloud, this time it's a more ambiguous "distressing scenario". His solution was an unfettered, unaccountable bailout of Wall Street with $700 Billion dollars of taxpayer money.

During a televised address last Wednesday, Bush said that he understands "the frustration of responsible Americans.but given the situation we're facing, not passing the bill now will cost Americans much more later."

If Congress had passed this bill as it was, it would have will triggered a far more distressing scenario than the economic downturn that Bush and Cheney are holding over our heads. With less than four months left to his reign, the Bush administration is desperate to complete their agenda, which by many accounts is the transformation of our republic into a huge global corporation (i.e. fascism).

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Shame on you!

This situation is all to familiar--use a crisis to pressure Congress to agree to terms that under normal circumstances would seem preposterous. Mr. President, I believe you tried to use this expression in the past: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me! And shame on anyone who lets this ruse happen again!

How come no one is talking about the fact that twenty years ago, our current Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, was up to his neck in an eerily similar banking crisis--the Savings and Loan Scandal. Years of de-regulation, championed by McCain, led to the failure of hundreds of banks and a taxpayer bailout of $125 billion. Remember the Keating 5? McCain was one of five senators who accepted bribes from Charles Keating, chairman of the failing Lincoln Savings & Loan Association, in exchange for getting regulators who were investigating his operations to look the other way. Now McCain tells voters he wants to get tough on Wall Street and "end the old boys network".[1] Shame on the media and the Obama campaign for not reminding voters of this.

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Another outrageous power grab

There is an amusing email making the rounds, mimicking the ubiquitous Nigerian scam, where the "Minister of Treasury, Paulson" instructs the American people to "Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to" If approved in its original form, the bailout would amount to that, but worse; it would result in a consolidation of power to the Executive Branch. The original 4-page bailout plan blatantly stated:

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

What! Non-reviewable! How is this different than the words of a thief holding a gun to your head: "Hand over your money or something "distressing" is going to happen." As originally proposed, would have had no more control over what happened to that $700 billion handed to Paulson than we would have handing it to a robber.

The last time this administration held the gun to our heads, they pushed through the disastrous Iraq War, and before that, the Patriot Act--340 pages that were somehow written overnight, that traded away our Bill of Rights in order "to save us from the terrorists". This time, we would be signing away our purse strings. Remember the Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold makes the rules."

Without sufficient oversight, this bailout could be the last straw in the scarecrow this administration has built to terrify working class Americans into servitude while enriching the privileged class. George W. Bush will have succeeded in ushering in fascism before he leaves office -- if indeed he ever does.

Or a shift in the fascist shift

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On the other hand, it's possible that with this plan the Administration has played out their hand and they won't be walking away from the table with the pot after all. Their plans to attack Iran before the election seem to have been thwarted -- perhaps by higher-ups in the military who refused to be bullied into initiating another insane war. So another crisis had to be conjured up quickly--Voila! The Wall Street Crisis!

If you doubt this crisis and its extreme solution wasn't cunningly crafted beforehand, note this "slip" by White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto. He insisted, during a telephone briefing with reporters last Tuesday that the plan was not slapped together and had been drawn up as a contingency over previous months and weeks by administration officials. [2] So this crisis didn't come as a surprise after all -- even while George W. Bush was telling us that the economy is basically sound, people who know a lot more about economics were predicting the inevitable result of deregulation and unchecked greed. And now they want those of us who have to balance our checkbooks each month or live in the street, to foot the bill.

Finally, outrage has crossed party lines. Send our kids to war for lies and only a small percentage of American citizens object. Take away our civil liberties and there's barely a blip of protest. Even images of American soldiers torturing prisoners failed to ruffle the ire of the masses. But ordinary people have finally been pushed too far--they are losing their homes, losing their jobs and losing their illusion that life will continue to be okay for them no matter what the politicians do. With an election coming up in five weeks there could be a major political shake-up if Congress hands over this money without sufficient accountability.

This blatant corporate welfare flies in the face of the very bedrock of Republican rhetoric about personal responsibility, not expecting the government to take care of you, and letting the market adjust itself. As AFL-CIO's John Sweeney said, "One thing is certain. No one--no politician, no investment banker, no television commentator, no economist--should be able to say again with a straight face that here in the United States we just let markets do whatever markets do and everything works out for the best."

Even my opponent in the 2006 Congressional race, Rep. Darrell Issa, said that the "prospect of transferring trillions of dollars of risk and losses to taxpayers is appalling." Issa doesn't give a damn about the human beings living in his district, but he knows that he's not going to get his conservative base to re-elect him if he just throws their core values to the wind.[3]

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress seem to be looking for ways to manipulate this exorbitant hand-out so some of it falls to their hurting constituents. But they seem to be missing the point--we don't have $700 billion dollars! We are already passing a debt on to our great-grandchildren that boggles the mind. Democrats have to get real about this issue and stop acting like kids let loose in a candy store--you have to pay for that candy! You want money for universal healthcare? Stop spending billions every day on the war in Iraq. See this bailout for what it is--a ploy to take every last dime away from working people, for generations to come. Instead of looking for what Congress can get in exchange for doing this deal, maybe we should just say, "No deal!"

I don't claim to have any expertise in economics. But I'm a quick study and I'm a wiz at math. Congress needs to take a deep breath and demand a careful analysis of what would happen if we do this, or something else, or nothing at all. I'm certain there are brilliant economists who could prepare a nice simple chart that all of us could understand, based on real logic, that calculates best and worse case scenarios for multiple plans, including the "do nothing" option.

The President demanded that Congress give him the go ahead on this crazy deal a week ago. The sky hasn't fallen this past week while saner heads in Congress deliberated. And I would guess that the economy won't crash and burn if we wait a month to make this decision. Our legislators are anxious to get back home to campaign for the November election. They know that every day they spend in Washington is a precious day lost in campaigning. The con artists who conjured up this scheme know it too, and past experience has proven that their best bet to getting this bailout passed is to pressure legislators to make another hasty decision.

My advice to Congress: Let's learn from those past mistakes--you can't make wise decisions with a gun to your head. Let's get the facts, weigh our options and make a wise choice for a change. Do that, and you won't have to worry about campaigning, your constituents will sweep you back into office, showering you with gratitude and respect.


[1] Video: John McCain and the Keating 5: Third Term

[2] Roll Call: September 23, 2008, 10:42 a.m. b y Keith Koffler

[3] Issa opposes bailout plan

North County Times, September 23, 2008


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Jeeni Criscenzo is an entrepreneur, peace activist and author. She was 2006 Democratic candidate for Congress - 49th District. In 2003 she traveled around the country in an RV, writing her daily blog: CPR4Democracy. She is also a founder of (more...)

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