Baran: Pandering Democrats, beware

I count myself as a fiercely partisan supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, and I am working hard this fall to make sure he and other Democrats are elected up and down the ballot. Yet his behavior in this past week has been very troubling. He, along with Sen. McCain, became national cheerleaders for the Paulson bailout plan, which may well be passed in the House of Representatives today. Rather than allowing for a major public debate on the best way to move forward in this genuine crisis, Sen. Obama opted to use his bully pulpit to scold Democrats who did not want to line up hehind a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.

In a bizarre move, he even questioned their patriotism — saying that those in the House who voted against the bill were “refusing to do what’s right for our country.” Could the same man who lambasted Republicans for questioning the patriotism of those who criticized the rush to war, now turn around and apply the same charge to those who don’t want to rush to bail out Wall Street? Does Obama dare to negate that the seriousness of the economic crisis we face deserves as serious of a discussion of alternatives? Even after Republicans have denied the reality of an imminent economic meltdown for months and months?

It is not as though there are no other solutions. Indeed, House progressives this week offered a very low-cost idea in the No BAILOUTS Act. The bill contains five sensible proposals that would restore liquidity and oversight to the markets. Despite support from the Service Employees International Union, it is extremely unlikely the bill will even be brought to the floor for a vote in the House. And while it was heartening to see this core of progressives vote “no” on the bailout and make an effort to pass an alternative, it was very disappointing to see other representatives from whom I normally look progressive leadership abandon our principles — among them, our own congresswoman here in New Haven, Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

We also must lay the blame of betrayal at the feet of the House and Senate Democratic leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid. They should have pushed for a more progressive bill and forced Bush to sign it. Instead, in order to gather more votes for the current plan, they moved to appease the right, making a bad bill even worse.

What can we expect from our Democratic leadership, then, in the next four years — if current poll trends bear out this November and Sen. Obama is indeed elected as president? Never mind the fact that they have now severely hamstrung themselves financially.

What are they going to do when more major crises in the financial system emerge? Scores of leading economists believe this bill will not address the underlying problems that we’re facing today. So when the next crisis emerges, who will Democrats serve, and what values will they uphold?

The events of these last few weeks have made the answer to that question all too clear. Mainstream Democrats respond like lightning when Wall Street comes knocking, but sit on their hands for months as homeowners around the country have cried out for relief. As the New York Times editorial board pointed out yesterday, six million people are expected to default on their mortgages this year and yet Congress has done nothing in this bailout plan to help them.

More than ever, progressives need to fight for our core principles, and insist that the underlying problem driving us into a depression – unprecedented and enormous income inequality – be addressed by Congress and President Obama.

When FDR took office, he understood the way to combat the nation’s woes was to bolster government support for ordinary working and unemployed people struggling to get by. Unlike the candidates of today, he sought to actually solve the economic problems plaguing the bottom of the social ladder, not hand over the government’s money to the ultra-wealthy. We need that kind of understanding at the heart of our government once again.

If progressives want to realize the kind of change our country and our economy needs, we’re going to have to do more ourselves to demand it in the next four years. And we have to get ready — because the next “crisis” is right around the corner.

Hugh Baran is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at hugh.baran@yale.edu.

Comments

  • Yale 2011

    Why are you voting for Obama? The third party exists.

  • Yale Grad Student

    I'm glad to see the "progressives" outing their positions, which are so close to the tenets of the Communist Manifesto. It's just a shame that most Americans are too ignorant to see that the base of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama are closet Communists.

    Barack is going to win because of the "economy" . . . meaning that Americans have truly learned that the Democratic Party is the party of "Bread & Circuses" for a large portion of the population. The People will continue to vote for more programs that dole out "benefits" in exchange for the Democrats closing down on personal and economic freedom.

    If a Democrat says that we're really free, go to a township planning meeting and try to get approval to dispose of your own land the way you'd like to. Our government taxes our land, our income, tells us how many gallons we may flush with, and how we must develop our own land IF we receive permission to do so.

  • Sad Cubs Fan

    I'm with Mr. 2011, let's vote for Nader

  • Yale alumna 2008

    Obama's actions in the past two weeks have been troubling. We must elect Obama to the white house and strong majorities in the house and senate, but we also have to get ready to organize and push the democrats to fulfill the promises they have made. They aren't going to show any backbone unless we build strong social movements to hold them accountable.

  • Eli

    Enough of the FDR worship!

    One can oppose the bailout, by the way, and still favor the Fed using open-market operations to prevent a decline in the money stock and thereby to support the volume of bank credit. It was the steep decline in M2 [in a banking system made artificially fragile by government intervention] in 1929-33 that, as Friedman and Schwartz explained, helped turn the recession of 1929 into the opening phase of the Great Depression. It was not the decline in the number of banks. Socializing and losses and perpetuating bad investments by propping up insolvent institutions – the foolish mission of the Hoover-FDR Reconstruction Finance Corporation – did not help recovery. Almost certainly it hindered it.

    By the way, too much credit in the 1920s was a chief cause of the intitial downturn: it sowed the seeds for it by distorting interest rates and thereby fostering the malinvestments that came to grief.

  • student

    I agree. After Obama's absurd actions on the bailout plan, I'm now voting 3rd party. I have a very limited income and had been giving Obama hundreds of dollars. Now I'm giving thousands to the 3rd party.

    Obama, recall your position on the bailout now or you're going to lose a lot more votes! The bailout should be paid for by the rich -- not by average Americans who can't even afford to heat their homes, pay for education or provide health coverage for their families.

  • Alum

    Very strong column, and I couldn't agree more. One sentence in particular captures what is going on at the moment: "Mainstream Democrats respond like lightning when Wall Street comes knocking, but sit on their hands for months as homeowners around the country have cried out for relief."

    And "Yale grad student"… seriously? Is that the best taunt you have? That this reads like the Communist Manifesto? Have you ever even read a page of that? If you have, I'm not sure how you think what you're saying makes sense, so I'm just going to assume you're spewing discredited conservative talking points.

  • Eli 2008

    Vote Ron Paul!

  • Please make it stop…

    What do you people think voting third party is going to accomplish? Remember 2000? It didn't help anyone then, and it won't help anyone now. Don't squander your votes. Use them pragmatically.

  • Please…

    There is no benefit to any one vote- no election will ever be decided by one vote.

    So vote third party- your vote actually registers then,

  • Anonymous

    In all honesty, I'll be cheering for Menocal, or Urry. I know them both personally, and not only are they on the ball, but very much so in touch with student life. Yale would be very satisfied if either of them had the position.

  • Kevin Costner

    Didn't you see "Swing Vote?"

  • Yale Alum

    Good God yale is such a liberal place.