Oct 6, 2008
Both Houses of Congress passed the 700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout, and rushed it on to Bush to sign, who did so immediately. After all, Wall Street was impatiently waiting for its money.
This did not come without a bit of problems for the politicians.
With a little over a month to go before the elections, and with every member of the House up for election, the politicians were under pressure coming from the voters. In the week before the first vote, they were deluged with letters, petitions, e-mail and phone calls from outraged and angry voters – running as high as 90% or more against the bailout.
The first time around, the House of Representatives voted against the bailout, 228 to 205. The majority of Democrats voted for it: 140 for and 95 against. But that wasn’t enough to make up for the massive Republican vote against: only 65 voted for, with 133 against.
Wall Street jumped into action – pushing stock indexes into free fall, warning Congress it had better reverse itself. The major business associations rushed into Congressional offices, as did all those lobbyists representing companies whose executives had contributed to election campaigns.
John McCain and Barack Obama, who had danced around the question in their first debate, now stepped up to the plate, declaring themselves strongly in favor of the bill.
It went back to the Senate, where it passed, with McCain and Obama both voting YES.
Back to the House, for a new vote – what many union members know as the “keep-voting-until-you-get-it-right” routine. This time it passed: 172 Democrats voted for, 63 voted against; 91 Republicans voted for, 108 voted against.
In other words, despite the popular discontent, the majority of Democrats both times voted for taxpayers’ money to be used to save the financial sharks, with all that will mean in terms of higher taxes, cuts in public services and social programs, as well as inflation and lowered purchasing power.
Obama even rushed to put people on notice that he won’t be able to implement all his programs immediately; they will have to be “phased in” – when “the situation” allows.
Some Republicans certainly used populist demagogy to justify their vote, denouncing those who would “throw good taxpayer money after Wall Street’s bad bets.”
But the working population obviously has nothing to hope for from the Republicans who voted against the plan. Just look at what they proposed. Standing for a renewal of “the free play of the market,” they wanted to relax accounting rules on financial businesses, to provide insurance against bad investments, and to grant state aid to business in the form of tax cuts and retroactive exemptions from earlier taxes.
The Republicans aimed their proposals essentially at small and medium size businessmen, who don’t want to pay more taxes and who strongly fear that small local banks where they deposit their savings won’t benefit from the same generous gifts as Wall Street’s big operators.
In order to win over Republican votes, the second bill included a whole series of tax cuts for small businesses and individual “entrepreneurs” – which worked to bring over enough votes to seal the deal.
In fact, the government didn’t wait on the vote to throw money into the grasping hands of one failing financial company after another. In the few months before the bailout, the government had already given away more than a trillion dollars to Wall Street.
But the fact the bail-out passed with both Democratic and Republican leaders, including Obama and McCain, pushing it through – despite the popular expression of strong opposition – shows fully that working people have no reason to hope for a change from the November elections.
We have to defend ourselves – and that will require more than phone calls, letters, faxes or e-mail. That will take a mobilization of our forces to fight for our interests.