The end is near
Never was there more disconnect between the party line and the direction the Capital Region’s congressional representatives voted toward the $700 billion parachute offered to Wall Street’s lending industry. By endorsing the buyout Monday, Republican Congressman John McHugh spat in the face of his party loyalists, who in turn clammed in the face of the increasingly lame duck president who brought up the notion in the first place. And if it sounds like a lot of phlegm sailing around in the Washington wind, that’s because there is.
On the other side of the isle, Democratic Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand bit her thumb at the buyout, claiming it wasn’t the taxpayers’ responsibility to provide golden parachutes for the executives that fomented the crisis. She was also among a contingent in congress that felt the buyout didn’t do enough to indemnify the taxpayers from taking a hit, while the barons of Wall Street continue to rake in top-dollar salaries.
“While I am fully aware of the seriousness of the financial problems in the market, I do not believe the bill Congress voted on today was the right approach,” she said in a prepared statement. “The bill has insufficient oversight and protections and does not address the root causes of the crisis or the poor economy.”
Oddly but not surprisingly, Gillibrand was joined by Sandy Treadwell, her challenger for the 20th Congressional District this fall. In a statement eerily reminiscent of something that would be belched out of a Democratic press office, Treadwell urged congress to go back to work and hammer out something that wouldn’t “burden working class and middle class families.”
“It is the job of Congress to craft a fair plan that will protect retirees, homeowners, and small businesses,” he stated in a news release. “Congress needs to do that job now, before it's too late.”
In contrast, Democratic Congressman Michael McNulty voted in the affirmative for the bailout, which faced immense public opposition despite its broad support among his party. Not surprisingly, McNulty didn’t release a statement about his vote. In fact, the only comment from the retiring McNulty came when several reporters tracked him down at the Albany International Airport Monday evening. And even then, he didn’t say much of anything substantive or unexpected from a guy who is a mere three months away from his 401K.
Meanwhile, McNulty’s prospective successor Paul Tonko decided against taking any stand toward the bill, despite a majority of house Democrats voting in favor of the bill. Jim Burhmaster, his long-shot Republican challenger, told the Daily Gazette he “probably” would have supported the measure to avert a looming financial disaster.
So let’s go to the video tape. Gillibrand sounds like a Republican, Treadwell sounds like a liberal and the Irish vote goes in favor of the Bush Administration’s buyout, while the Democratic favorite waiting to seize McNutly’s mantle refused to say anything at all. Sadly, this was all predictable days in advance of the vote. There are two sides here and two sides only: those running for election and those who aren’t.
Despite her incumbency, Gillibrand is facing a serious challenge from Treadwell, who is trying his hardest to galvanize the Republican base of the Hudson Valley. Had she voted in favor of the buyout, she would have given Treadwell the perfect bellowing yawp to assemble his troops en mass. Tonko refused to comment on the most important issue facing the nation in the past five years because he realizes the 21st District race is his to lose. Absent a campaign disaster –say supporting a publically unpopular bill –the heavily Democratic district is his to win. Likewise, Burhmaster’s milquetoast answer has to do with playing both sides of the political fence.
The loan maverick was McHugh, who is also facing a re-election bid this year. But when four out of every five of your voting contingent isn’t even aware there’s a party outside of the GOP, it’s a bit easier to be one of only 65 house Republicans to support the measure.
It’s unfortunate that the fog of politics has descended upon the debacle on Wall Street. And it’s a fog thick enough that the most average citizens are now wondering whether it would be prudent to stockpile canned goods, rice and duct tape. Some fear their bank cards might not work as they have reliably for so many years, while others are convinced the government might just consider seizing gold assets for the good of the nation.
In reality, there is a much-needed market correction that is occurring at the upper echelons of the United States economy and is cutting off large swaths of the already diminutive middle class. Those who have enjoyed the luxury of eating out five times a week, living in palatial suburban mansions and living in relative ease might just need to re-evaluate their arrangement in life. In other words, the do-nothing middle class might just need to be re-invented with a more working-class edge. Needless to say, this is bound to piss off a good number of people.
Politicians are nervous about this prospect. Many of them understand the beating heart of revolution is bore out discontent among the more cognizant members of the bourgeoisie. As American industrialism waned, this class was kept fat on a ceaseless line of credit and a veritable procession of ‘feel good, don’t worry about it’ ad campaigns. But now the party is over. The credit is maxed out and the brutish reality of nation that has become hopelessly service-oriented is crashing down all around.
In essence, the doom-and-gloom from Washington is a welcome breath of fresh air that is sullied only by the suckfish politicians as they scramble to protect the system that has so egregiously failed the country over the past two decades. Their pandering now is nothing short of expected, given the unavoidable failure of a political system rife with corruption and greed. Perhaps they’ll succeed in the end and rescue this ship from running aground. But if they don’t, there are plenty of us now sitting on the rocks who will welcome them with jagged edges as they fall into the tumult.