Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How to Bail Out the Taxpayers

by JAMES G. ABOUREZK

When Henry Paulson and George W. Bush crafted their “bailout” legislation, it was hardly surprising that the plan consisted of giving the money to the Wall Street criminals who caused the economy to crash, without external review by anyone.  By the time Congress got through with the legislation, again, it was hardly surprising that this august body put some restrictions on it, but in the end, it gave taxpayers’ money to the large banks, “to get it circulating.”

Getting it circulating is a good idea, but a great many people think that how they went about it is the wrong way.  The problem with the trickle down theory of economics is that the people at the top of the heap—the ones who started this disaster—rarely let enough money trickle out of their hands to make a difference.  Already, the big boys—Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and others have set aside several billions of dollars for bonuses for their top executives.  Burglars have guts, but these guys outdo the most brazen burglar.

There is a better way, a way that has been proposed by such public minded people as Ralph Nader, and others, including me.

The best way to circulate taxpayers’ money is to have the taxpayers themselves do it, through a massive public works program that would, at the same time, put a great many people to work, giving them enough earnings to allow them to trickle it upward to the small business people who are also hurt by the financial crash.

I would suggest that, to start with, America should spend the money on the design and construction of a national rail transportation system that would be equal to, or better than, those systems in Japan and in Europe.  Such a system would connect every single area within the United States–north and south, east and west.

If we recall our history, it was the government in the middle 19th century that subsidized the railroad system back then that actually built America as a nation.  Of course, we had to steal the land from the native Indians in order to do so, but when it was done, we had something that improved on the pony express and the stagecoaches to transport people.

I am proposing that, instead of giving the $700 billion to the banks, hoping they will circulate it, we build the rail system and keep it in government ownership—just like Europe and Japan.  Think of the number of people who will be put to work over the next 20 years while it is being built.  Think of how each dollar spent on such construction would multiply as it made its way through the economy.  Think also of how such a system would rescue our environment, using non-polluting sources of energy to power the trains.  Part of T. Boone Pickens’ dream could come true by transmitting nationwide the electricity created by wind turbines, and by solar.  There would be no more scams available by the oil companies repeating the mantra, “drill, baby, drill,” or, “let’s use clean coal.”   As well, T. Boone Pickens could use part of his profits to give money to another Swift Boat Committee whenever he sees the looming danger of electing a Democrat being elected President.

With such a rail system, it is safe to say that I, for one, would never fly on an airline again.  What used to be pleasant for me when I boarded a commercial airplane is now an unwelcome chore.  The seats are too small and too cramped.  The search procedures, which, although necessary, are much too intrusive.  In short, flying is no longer any fun.

Because it’s hard to hijack and to crash a train into a skyscraper, we need not be searched when we board.  And having the ability to get up from a comfortable train seat to stretch one’s legs without being glared at by a flight attendant is worth more than one can imagine.

The other problem is that we would have to overcome the lobbyists for the airline industry and the automobile manufacturers.  Maybe, when the auto manufacturers go to Congress, asking for money to make their cars more fuel efficient, Congress could add a condition prohibiting them from lobbying against a national train system.  The same requirement could be placed on the airline industry, which comes, hat in hand, on a periodic basis for money from the taxpayers.

I don’t think we would be subjected to too many cries of “socialism” with this proposal, or at least, not after John McCain and Sarah Palin are vanquished.  And those who, under normal circumstances would scream about socialism, let them speak directly to AIG, Merrill Lynch and other socialist-leaning capitalists.  The usual suspects who can be relied on to try to stop any positive program for the benefit of the public are slowly being silenced by the actual entry level socialism now being entertained by Wall Street and the big boy banks.

Once the Iraq war is brought to a close, the $10 billion per month spending can be used to put people to work on the public works projects that would renew our infrastructure, such as repairing failing bridges and as well, renewing the highways.  There are dozens of other public works projects that have waited too long to be worked on, so we will not be short of ideas on where to spend the money needed to revitalize the economy.  At least bonuses for Wall Street executives will have to come, not from taxpayers, but out of the pockets of their stockholders.

Once Dick Cheney is gone, we just may be able to stay out wars for the next 30 or 40 years.  We should then be able to pay for all of these projects without going into national bankruptcy.  Talk about retraining, plentiful jobs will be available in this new public sector for those who have been working in the arms industry, which will, without a war to fight, hopefully whither away.

The real question is this:  will our next president be able to bring the country around to this kind of thinking, or will he take the easy way out and, as Speaker Sam Rayburn used to, “go along to get along.”

We are hopeful that he will not.

JAMES G. ABOUREZK is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. Abourezk  can be reached at georgepatton@alyajames.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Abourezk is a former US senator from South Dakota. He is the author of: Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of an ex-Senator.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]