Bailout madness

Published 9:58 am Friday, April 3, 2009

Imagine a situation where a husband goes out one day and, in the midst of the current economic situation, decides to buy an expensive new boat. A few weeks later, the bill comes in the mail. His wife opens the bill, steaming as she realizes what he’s done and sees the monthly payment they will now have to make on top of all of their other monthly commitments. As her husband walks into the room, she throws the bill across the table demanding an explanation. Her husband looks down at the bill. Realizing he can’t make the payments and seeing how mad his wife is, he pounds his fist on the table and says angrily, “Honey, I am outraged over this bill that we have to pay!”

This situation seems like a scene we’d find ourselves watching on a Thursday evening sitcom. In reality, it is what we found ourselves watching on the news as members of Congress and members of the Administration pounded their fists and cried “outrage” over taxpayer-funded bonuses that went to AIG executives. In fact, the word “outrage” was used in almost every speech on this issue on the House floor this week.

As I watched those members express “outrage,” I couldn’t help but be irritated about their outrage. I am one of only 17 out of 435 members of Congress who voted against every single one of the so-called bailout and stimulus packages under both Presidents Bush and Obama. I did so for the very reason that there was no accountability over where the money would actually go. Without accountability and transparency, we will have waste, fraud, and abuse. In fact, there was not even time to read most of the bills before leadership rushed to pass them.

Over the past several months, those 17 of us have been calling for more legislative analysis and debate over the bailout bills, and trying to ask intelligent questions about them. At the same time, the members who expressed “outrage” were the ones ignoring the rules, rushing bills through by sidestepping the legislative process and trying to convince the American people that the world was going to come to an end if we didn’t immediately pass each bailout or stimulus package.

Americans have every right to be angry at Congress expressing outrage over a problem it created itself. If individual members of Congress would have just read the bills, they would have likely realized what most of the analysts have been telling us — that it would take thousands of government bureaucrats simply to monitor where the bailout money is actually going and how it is being spent.

Just as the husband couldn’t realistically expect his expression of outrage to cover for his own irresponsible purchase, members of Congress cannot expect their outrage to be some type of “Get Out of Political Hot Water Free” card. The American people deserve better. They deserve analysis and debate in Washington. Indeed, it is time that members of Congress start asking questions before rushing to pass bailout and stimulus legislation:

1. Where is the money actually going?

2. How do we know it is going to get where it is supposed to go?

3. Will it actually work once it arrives?

4. How will we pay it back?