and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
October #1

Failed bill helped fat cats at expense of the rest of us
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, October 1, 2008

The Establishment was hoping to rewrite the preamble to the Constitution:

"We the little people of the United States, having given up on the perfect union, establishment of justice ... and maybe even the common defense, not to mention general welfare and blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do hereby allow Big Government and Big Business to use us for their latest bailout and increase the national debt on said posterity by another trillion dollars, in order to hold onto the illusion of domestic tranquility for a little bit longer."

I have always objected to any citizens using the phrase "little people" to talk about themselves. This country was founded by and for The People of the United States who, by definition as voters, should be Big. But I have been feeling little. Things are out of control and I don't know what to do.

Jim Braude, whose coverage of the bailout on New England Cable News has been superior, captured the problem during his commentary after the first presidential debate. On the screen we saw a poll showing some percentage of voters opposed to the original bailout bill, a lesser percentage supporting it, and 12 percent categorized as "don't know." Jim muttered, "Actually 100 percent don't know," and he was right.

Like many little people I have followed the discussion in the media. I talk with those whose advice I've valued in the past. But as always, on subjects about which I have no expertise, I determine my opinion by noting which proponent or opponent is insulting my intelligence more.

Look, there's Congressman Barney Frank, leading the Democratic support for the bailout, blaming Bush, Republicans, and lack of regulation. But I've seen a YouTube video from 2004 that shows him arguing against Republican efforts to regulate Fannie Mae, insisting there is nothing wrong that needs more oversight.

We were told last week that the initial package, giving $700 billion and total control to one man, had to be passed immediately or the economy would fail. But the "little people" started calling their congressmen, who then sensed a need for amendments.

The "little people" were angry about golden parachutes for the executives of the bailed-out businesses, so the newer version put a limit on executive pay as if contracts can be nullified by this bill. Some Republicans preferred a loan to a bailout, so language was added allowing part of the bailout to be a loan, whatever that means. And look, they've added language that if the bailout makes money in the future, it will be given to the taxpayers.

How dumb do they think we are?

Here's a Wall Street Journal "Review and Outlook" editorial with a new idea: Use the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "to put public capital into the banks while protecting taxpayers... The FDIC has long had the power to handle failed banks. But in 1991, Congress passed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act (FDICIA) that limited the FDIC's ability to provide assistance to struggling but still solvent banks."

Hey, Wall Street: There was a reason to limit this risk-taking. The FDIC is the "little people's protection" for our little bank accounts in our own little banks. Why on earth would anyone want to risk the funds that insure up to $100,000 of our savings?

My partner, Chip Ford, made an educated guess: The "little people" clearly don't want to bail out the fat cats, as they are being asked to do with the bailout bill. But if the FDIC was involved, suddenly we fat cats and little people are in the same boat, and resistance to a bailout dies. Clever, huh?

Now I'm getting angry.

When I asked my friend, Anne, back home in Pennsylvania what she thought of the presidential debate, she said she wished that Ross Perot had been part of it. I do too; because neither of the candidates, and almost no one else, is talking about the basic problem as he did.

Robert E. Kelly, author of "The National Debt of the United States," has warned that our huge debt level "has become a national security issue. It stands as an immovable barrier between the problems that besiege the nation (energy independence, internal security, infrastructure, etc.) because it has put the nation in a situation where it can do nothing substantial about known problems without further weakening the dollar through expanding debt."

The current economic crisis could have been addressed with the new debt proposed last week, if the existing debt were under control. But the bailout plan required that our government borrow more.

Think about this: We were told by the Bush administration and both the Democratic and Republican leadership in the House that the greatest capitalist nation on earth needed another loan from communist China to keep itself solvent!

On Monday, rank-and-file congressmen in both parties voted against the bailout, some because of conviction, but most because they heard from "the little people." So it's back to the drawing board for a better solution.

I guess we the people aren't so little after all!

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.