A Pox on Both Their Houses

Allow me to make a modest suggestion to the leadership of both parties in Congress: rather than trying to one-up each other in the blame game over the recent failure of the Bush-Paulson-Pelosi bailout bill, why don’t you try something new. Form all your congressmen and senators in a circle, give them rifles, and then commence firing. It would be just as effective as what you’re doing now, and the upside would be a lot better.

We seem to have reached a curious impasse in Congress in which nearly everyone, including the Secretary of the Treasury, the Fed Chairman, the White House, and nearly the entire Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress agrees that the bailout bill, though distasteful, is absolutely necessary for the long term health of the economy, and yet all these leaders have failed utterly to convince their rank-and-file members to support this bill. In the British parliamentary system, this would be the equivalent of the leadership of the Labour Party and the Conservative Party each receiving a vote of “no confidence” from their MP’s at the same time.

The Republican caucus is in an especially bad state of affairs, with only about 1/3 of House republicans willing to follow their leadership in support of the bailout bill. However, Republicans are not the ones in control of this process. The Democratic Party, under Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi, has been in charge of this legislation from the beginning. They are the ones who control all the relevant committees, and they substantially controlled the drafting process for the bill that just failed in the House. In light of the fact that the eventual bill that went before Congress was substantially a Democratic product, Speaker Pelosi’s inability to get more than 60% of her caucus to support this legislation was startling.

As bad as the performance of the Congressional leadership has been, the performance of the two major presidential candidates has been especially disturbing. Although John McCain made a point of returning to Washington, D.C. to help hammer out a bailout, he left the negotiation process in as much turmoil and bitter dissension as when he found it. For his part, Barack Obama has never even made a pretense of trying to help with the crisis. He has gone blithely along, reciting his canned phrases about hope and change as the American financial sector collapses around him. Neither man has even suggested doing the one thing that might actually help their colleagues in Washington broker a deal: a joint statement committing each man to voting for any compromise plan based essentially on the Paulson model.

Not that that will never happen. You know, on second thought, better rescind that firing squad idea. Some people you can never trust even with the simplest of jobs. See for yourself: