We've seen what happens when Congress forgoes the time-tested process of deliberative and investigative hearings and simply takes a floor vote on a Bush Administration-backed measure. First there was the October 18, 2001 resolution for use of military force against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Because there were no hearings on that measure, its loose, deliberately ambiguous wording has been used ever since by the Bush/Cheney crew as authorization for their global so-called "War" on Terror, including the claim that the president has the dictatorial power ignore treaties, US law, and bills passed by the Congress. Shortly thereafter, there was the Patriot Act, a compendium of anti-Democratic measures that had failed to win passage in Congress over the years which were cobbled together in the dead of night by Bush/Cheney zealots and passed on a voice vote the next day by a Congress too cowed to hold hearings on the measure. Then, in October 2002, there was the second authorization for use of military force resolution, this time against Iraq, which has ended up miring the US in a disastrous five-year-long war without end that has killed 4500 Americans, chewed up 40,000 more, and killed in excess of one million innocent Iraqi civilians.
Had there been serious hearings on any of these three terrible measures, there is a chance none of them would have passed, or that at least, had they been passed, they would have been reworded to tie the administration's hands. The first AUMF could have limited military actions to attacking Al Qaeda. Period. The Patriot Act's constitutional overrides could have been exposed early, and challenged. And the administration's lies about the alleged threats posed by Iraq could have been challenged in public by other witnesses, plus a clear requirement could have been included that any attack on Iraq would need UN authorization.
Now Congress is being pressured to pass an equally horrific bill with no hearings. We know that 200 leading economists, including at least three Nobel Laureates, one of them former World Bank economist Joseph Stiglitz, are opposed to the bailout, saying throwing a trillion dollars at Wall Street won't work and will be a waste of taxpayer money or worse. We know that it fails to address the root problem--the housing and mortgage crisis. We know that it could be a crippling blow to the dollar. Yet without hearings to expose this giant scam, the only ones getting through to members of Congress are Wall Street lobbyists, their pockets stuffed with campaign cash.
Citizens can't even get past the Capitol switchboard, which is jammed with angry callers trying to get through to their representatives and senators.
The point that needs to be made is that there is no great urgency to pass a bill. The administration's claim that the bottom will fall out of the economy and that the country will be plunged into a depression if the bill isn't passed immediately is nonsense. The Great Depression took years to develop after the 1929 stock market crash.
The current market could collapse, and there'd be plenty of time to act to revive the national economy. Meanwhile, the credit crisis, which is serious, has been underway for months and months. It is not something that came up last week and needs to be resolved tomorrow (as if that were possible by the mere passing of a give-away bill). There is plenty of time to hold the kind of hearings that will let members of Congress, and the American public, learn about the causes of the crisis, of its impacts, and about what the various strategies are that might most effectively address it.
So the public demand should not be for passage of a "good" bailout bill. It should be for a halt to this rush to passage of any bill. The demand should be for "No Bill Without Hearings!"
So call Congress (202-225-3121, 202-224-3121 or 800-828-0498) and tell your representative and your two senators that you don't want them railroaded. Tell them you demand hearings before legislation. And tell them, again, that you will vote against anyone who votes for the current bailout for Wall Street. (Hint: If you can't get through, then call one of their local offices, which are listed in the blue pages of your phonebook, or go visit a local office.)
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on October 1, 2008.