September 22, 2008 4:16 PM
The Bailout Opportunity
As Democrats chart a legislative strategy to deal with President Bush's absurd attempt to hand over $700 billion to his Wall Street donors, it strikes me that this is a unique opportunity that almost never comes along - one that would allow them to pass something truly transformative.
Right now, Wall Street is salivating at the idea of getting almost a trillion dollars from taxpayers. The White House is claiming that if those speculators don't get the money, the economy will go down the tubes. That means those two enormously powerful forces - Corporate America and the presidency - will be under insurmountable pressure to support and pass whatever Democrats attach to the bailout bill. Put another way, Democrats can use the shock doctrine environment the GOP and Big Money have created for progressive ends. Wall Street, looking at that $700 billion prize, could be forced by smart legislative leaders to devote its huge lobbying clout to passing that bailout with something big - say national health care - attached to it.
On C-SPAN this weekend, John McCain's top economic adviser, Kevin Hassett lashed out at the idea of Congress, for instance, adding a universal health care program to the bailout bill. He sorta laughed when he said it - as if it is such an obviously absurd idea. But really, is that more absurd than handing over almost a trillion dollars to financial speculators? In fact, what, exactly, is absurd about Democrats using the leverage they now have - and that the fearmongering GOP and Wall Street lobbyists have created - to actually use this crisis to do something big for the vast majority of the country? And please - don't cite the time constraint. Plans for big, complex, and important things like universal health care have been around for years. We don't suffer from a lack of really good, well thought out plans.
Sure, Democrats should insist on limits for executive pay and more progressive bankruptcy laws. But that's the absolute LEAST they should ask for - and if they only ask for that, we should all be outraged. Forget about nibbling around the edges here, folks. Democrats right now will never, ever be in a stronger position to pass something truly monumental - NEVER. They will not be in a stronger position with an Obama presidency, because the political pressure will have passed.
These crises - ie. these opportunities - come around once every 50 years, if that. Now is the time to strike with something truly bold. If Bush can leverage 9/11 for the Patriot Act and an unending war in Iraq, the absolute minimum Democrats can do is leverage the financial crisis of 9/14 for something equally as monumental (but progressive).
Now is the time. Can the Dems make good use of it?