The stump speeches resounded with pledges to reach across the aisle; do the right thing, not the politically expedient thing; and save Main Street by saving Wall Street. And, in the end on Monday, September 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228 to 205 to nix the bill that would have spotted $700 billion to shore up the credit market.
The arguments sway on either side. What happens when seven tenths of a trillion dollars doesn’t do the trick? We’re out to the tune of $2,250 for every man, woman, and child in the country and still going down the tubes. On the other side, some are saying that investment is the equivalent of one year of a 3 percent recession. Do you want to yank that bad tooth out all at once, or suffer a year-long (maybe longer) wave of layoffs, foreclosures, and probably inflation? (Remember when $100 a barrel for oil was outrageous? Well, now it’s a reason for celebration … all in less than a year.)
Anyway, with a fairly balanced tug of war—with resistance to the bill coming from both parties, and reasoning varying from belief that the federal government should take a laissez faire attitude toward the private sector to a fear of giving the Bush Administration too much power in administering that huge coffer of money—it seemed like a slight majority of representatives in the House were looking beyond the American people to November 4. Perhaps this is a natural reaction, given the widespread nervousness about so many things, and so many seats at risk this election cycle. But is it right?
And wait. Only a few days later, a slightly different bill faced a wholly changed attitude. Many who were against were now for, and vice versa. The difference? Try a record plummet in the stock market, tied almost to the minute to the news that the credit-market-support (aka, Wall Street-bailout) legislation failed to pass. The public sentiment swayed, and, lo and behold, so did the outlook on Capitol Hill. Are we to reward leadership at the polls, or followership?
In the meantime, the advice from the majority of the pundits and economists: Bear the pain, it will pass, eventually. Above all, don’t panic. If you’re five years or more from retirement, don’t even look at your portfolio right now. (And, yet, with the first wave of Boomers only two years from 65, that advice may seem a little thin. There are a lot of people who thought they were ready to retire and are now facing a more-than-persuasive argument from their 401k accounts that they are not.)
Do you know how your congressional representative voted on the 29th? Here, take a look.
The bottom line: it doesn’t matter if your congressional representative’s actions make you happy, sad, or even mad, it is incumbent on you to educate yourself on his or her record. (Use the AIA congressional issues tool for more details on that.)
Don’t forget that every one of them is up for re-election. Your vote matters. Be sure to exercise your right; your responsibility.