Well, our big bailout didn’t pass (I have mixed feelings, but I damn well better be getting my student loans next semester), and a curious coalition of House Republicans and Democrats got together to kill the bill. You might call it a “left-right” coalition. It primarily consisted of conservative House Republicans to whom government intervention in the economy is a horrifying prospect, but also included a significant number of liberal House Democrats who thought it didn’t do enough for the ordinary average guy.
Or at least that’s what they would like you to believe. And to a large extent, it’s probably true, for now. But if Pelosi et al. want to pass a bailout package, I know how to do it: The other white meat.
That’s right, pork. There is no ideological obstacle in Congress that cannot be overcome with the proper application of money, particularly when it goes to a certain district. Hell, the House Democrats who opposed wanted more money for homeowners facing foreclosure- something I support- but they straight up said they want the money for “people in my district”. That, my friends, is pork, but at least it tastes good.
Republicans, on the other hand, want more military bases and defense manufacturing or some such shit, and then they’ll go along. At least those Republicans in competitive races this fall. The Republicans from non-competitive districts are usually conservative nutjobs who are truly insane, but will never lose a race (see: Steve King). You won’t get them, but you can get the ones in tight races, and that’s enough to pass.
You know, you kind of have to appreciate the irony of Congressional leaders and Bushies appealing for votes on the basis of “what’s good for the country” and then losing because they didn’t play good enough politics to win. I mean, these people politicize everything. I suppose this is what happens when Karl Rove leaves the White House; nobody seems to know how to keep a whip count anymore.
How, beyond keen observation, do I know that money, properly directed, is the key to everything? Because I worked on the farm bill, which is going to spend 350 billion or so over five years. (Almost exactly half of the bailout!) And on the House Democratic side of things, there wasn’t a Democratic vote that I recall that couldn’t be bought. The money might even go for good stuff. But the important thing was that enough money would always- always- get the Democrat in question to acquiesce to the absurd, wasteful, socially and environmentally destructive farm program payments the government hands out every year. The bailout currently before Congress may be corporate welfare, but don’t think that will prevent Democrats from voting for it. As long as they get their piece of the pie.
Republicans, to my lasting Democratic shame, were much more interested in ending idiotic farm program spending (or getting rid of it entirely). Perhaps not coincidentally, a leading opponent of the current bailout was also a leading proponent of farm program payment limits in the House- Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
And yes, there was a “left-right” coalition on the farm bill as well, though this consisted of interest groups, not actual politicians. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation (conservative crazies) and Environmental Defense (not crazy, but have been in DC too long) got together to fight for the Ron Kind bill (remember that?) and a general redo of farm programs (I won’t bore you with the details). Thankfully, the Center for Rural Affairs was not part of such foolishness. Obviously they failed in their goals, though I’m not so sure that bothers some of them. But the real question is why did they fail after two years of effort, whereas an impromptu coalition of politicians succeeded in derailing a bailout package two weeks old that supposedly could avert the wholesale collapses of our economy?
I’m not the expert, but I’ll hazard a guess. It just might have something to do with the hundreds of thousands of emails, phone calls and letters that Congress received, nearly all in opposition to this bill And they were the real deal, no half-assed organization action alert shit here. Oh no. People are pissed off, and they are writing their own letters- unprompted by anybody- which is incredibly rare. And somehow, that seems to have gotten through to a couple DC politicians. So maybe, just maybe, some of those left-right organizations in the farm bill world ought to get their asses out in the countryside and do some real organizing. Until then, all we’ll have is a couple of politicians in DC who care about sustainable ag/family farm issues- and all we’ll get is the crumbs for which they’ll sell their vote.