October 3, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (HR 1424) aka the $700 billion bailout, was approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President. I should be relieved. My IRA and 401(k) are safe, at least for the next week or so. But somehow I feel like I just bought a boatload of cocaine for a mob of crack whores—and so did you.
The full text of HR 1424 is 451 pages long. But only about a quarter of that (112 pages) actually addresses the “Troubled Assets Relief Program” (TARP), i.e. the mortgage meltdown, and related provisions. Despite our “financial peril”, our economy “on a precipice”, the folks in Washington found time to add over three hundred pages of special tax breaks and other programs to a bill that will already burden the taxpayers to the tune of $700,000,000,000.
Why bother to openly debate a comprehensive national energy strategy when you can just tack a 148-page “Energy Improvement and Extension Act” onto the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. The bill has tax credits and/or allowances for everything from wind energy, insulation, and plug-in cars to oil refineries, coal, and tar sands.
What a generous people we are! Even in a crisis, we provide for the poor starving film industry and auto racing. And of course, whose heart doesn’t leap at the sight of children playing with their wooden arrows? Especially those who manufacture prosthetic eyeballs.
Wait! That’s not all.
To balance out this binge of spending and tax credits, there’s also all of nine pages of “spending reductions and appropriate revenue raisers for new tax relief” which primarily address taxes on deferred compensation.
Even if our economy is not completely broken, our system is. What were these Senators and Representatives thinking? Is the U.S. Congress so morally bereft that even a bill to address a worldwide economic crisis is just another opportunity to load up on pork?
Is the crisis really real? Could our economy be so close to collapse that lobbyists and Congressmen saw HR 1424 as their last chance to pick the carcass clean? Have we elected the sort of people who would rifle through the pockets of accident victims looking for cash and credit cards?
Maybe they’re so addicted to pork, they just can’t help themselves, like junkies who really intend to use that welfare check to pay the rent, really intend to buy food for the kids, but always end up in the shooting gallery.
Is this the best America has to offer?