Friday, December 5, 2008

Visionary Leadership

Congress at work:

Faced with staggering new unemployment figures, Democratic Congressional leaders said on Friday that they were ready to provide a short-term rescue plan for the cash-strapped American automakers, and expected to hold votes on the legislation during a special session next week.

Details of the rescue package were not immediately available but senior Congressional aides said that it would include billions of dollars in short-term loans to keep the automakers afloat at least until President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Ending a weeks-long stalemate between the Bush administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senior aides said that the money would likely come from $25 billion in federally subsidized loans intended for developing advanced fuel efficient cars.

Ms. Pelosi had resisted using that money, which was approved as part of an energy bill last year, and Democrats had called repeatedly on the Bush administration or the Federal Reserve to act unilaterally, using existing authority, to aid the auto companies.

On Friday, Ms. Pelosi said that she would allow that money to be used provided “there is a guarantee that those funds will be replenished in a matter of weeks” and that there was no delay in working toward higher fuel-efficiency.

Word of a breakthrough came as Congress wrapped up two days of hearings at which lawmakers grilled the chief executives of the companies, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, and experts warned that GM could collapse by the end of this month.

But it was the Labor Department’s report of 533,000 jobs lost in November that seemed to put a final halt to the hand-wringing on Capitol Hill and prompted the Democrats to announce that they would draw up legislation for votes next week.

Wait until after everything is fucked beyond recall, then do something. That was the pattern with Iraq, that's been the pattern with the housing crisis and the subsequent, broader meltdown: on every major issue these people are behind the curve, babbling about nonsense while the country goes down the drain. The Republicans have no governing philosophy, no will or desire to do anything besides obstruct progress and bomb weak countries, while the Democrats have lost all ability to take the sorts of risks necessary to govern.

Yes, part of this is that the public and their media pushers are ignorant about economics and always on the prowl for something to sneer at and attack, and an auto bailout would have been a perfect target for sneers and attacks. But what kind of leader wouldn't, staring straight in the face of a new Depression, decide to say, "Fuck it, we're going to act and deal with the public afterwards"?

This whole thing could almost certainly have been averted several months ago with an aggressive bailout of Lehman, and the creation of a rainy day fund of a few hundred billion. Instead, we are here, and the total cost will run well over a trillion when all is said and done, and even that might not be enough. This is a broken country, and even if the economy is put back together again, it will remain broken until our leaders are capable of leading.