The Power of No

by DAVE LINDORFF

Incredible! This time, when the People spoke, Congress listened.

At least 228 members of the House listened. They voted early this afternoon to reject the Bush Administration’s scaremongering, and the cowardly Democratic Congressional leadership’s attempt at ducking and covering by attaching some meaningless verbiage to what remains a case of legalized highway robbery. At least for the moment, the bailout scam is killed.

Earlier in the day, the Congressional switchboard was jammed. You could get through, but it took a dedicated finger on the redial button of your phone. Operators at the Capitol say it’s been that way for a week now, as Americans across the country have been flooding their Congressional delegations with phone calls (and emails) urging them to vote "No" on the Bush/Paulson Wall Street bailout.

That today was no exception, even after Democratic Party leaders (and both major party presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama) had bought into the plan following their adding of some window-dressing measures designed to make it look more palatable, showed that the public is not being fooled (calls were reportedly running better than 9:1 or more like 999:1 against a bailout, perhaps more like 99:1).

People see clearly that this proposal is a trillion-dollar giveaway to the very people who have been hollowing out and destroying the US economy for over a decade or more by convincing both parties to let them do whatever they want to get rich, free of any kind of significant oversight or regulation.

As Nobelist economist Joseph Stiglitz has written of this outrageous rip-off, there are four problems facing the financial system, and the bailout proposal only addresses one–getting the toxic mortgages off the banks’ books and onto taxpayers’ hands. Left unsolved is the gaping hole in banks’ balance sheets in the form of loans made to people and companies which cannot be repaid, which will mean they still won’t start lending money again. Left unaddressed too is the continuing collapse of housing prices, which will inevitably lead to more bank collapses even after the bailout. Finally, Stiglitz says there is the general loss of faith in the financial system–a major crisis which the bailout will also not solve.

Stiglitz doesn’t even address a fifth problem which is that this trillion-plus-dollar boondoggle (and when you add in the bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Bear Stearns, the multiple mega-bank failures and the pending auto-industry bailout, you’re already talking $1.5 trillion and counting), all of it with borrowed money, the stage is being set for a collapse in the US dollar, with consequences that will reverberate through the economy. Consider: if the dollar collapses, as many experts say is almost inevitable with this kind of huge addition to the national debt, oil prices (which are set in dollars) will soar to compensate, the price of all the other goods that Americans import–more than half of everything we use in daily life thanks to the decimation of American manufacturing–will rise dramatically, and ultimately, in an effort to stem the bleeding, interest rates will have to be raised, thus bringing what’s left of the economy to a grinding halt.

All of this is readily predictable–and indeed a group of over 200 prominent economists has written Congress joining Stiglitz in opposing the bailout plan–but that doesn’t matter to the proponents of the bailout in Washington. What they want is to get past Election Day, and the bailout may do that, unless the public gets really aroused.

The tsunami of calls and emails to Congress, and last week’s nationwide demonstrations against the bailout suggest that the public is waking up to this looming disaster and to the fact that they are being sold a bill of goods.

But it ain’t over yet. We can be sure there will be arm-twisting now to try and get 12 members of Congress to change their votes and win passage in the House (the Senate, where two-thirds of the members aren’t facing election for two or four years, will probably pass the bill easily). A continued expression of public outrage and of a promise of retaliation at the ballot box against those who vote for the bailout needs to be expressed.

If you haven’t made an effort to call your two senators and your representative to demand that they vote "No" on this bailout, do it now (the number is 202-225-3121 or 202-224-3121), and don’t give up when you get a busy signal. That’s a sign that you are not alone. Just keep hitting "redial" until you get through. At that point, get the operator, before switching you, to give you direct numbers for your three members of Congress, so you can bypass the main switchboard number after that. If you did call, call again and say you don’t want anyone changing their vote to become a bailout backer.

Unlike the 2002 rush to war against Iraq, we’ve shown that this latest bum’s rush can still be stopped. We did stop it.

To make your next call more impactful, make sure you tell each member of your congressional delegation that any yes vote on the bailout means you will vote against them next election. To read about this strategy, go to: ThrowThemAllOut.com .. .and then spread the word.

Keep the pressure on!

And don’t forget to contact the Obama campaign too. How embarrassing for candidates Obama and McCain, who both got suckered into backing the bailout, which it is now abundantly clear the American people recognize as a ripoff.

PS: Imagine if the same kind of pressure had been brought on Congress back in October 2002 when Bush was scare-mongering Congress into approving a war against Iraq. We’d have 4500 young Americans still alive, 40,000 other young Americans would still have their limbs and other body parts. A million-plus Iraqis would still be alive. And the country would have an extra $500 billion with which to deal with the current economic crisis.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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