Over the past several weeks I've received an extraordinary number of calls from Central Washington residents about the $700 billion bailout. While the overwhelming majority of callers have been opposed to this bailout, local residents shared concerns about a wide variety of serious issues. These included the reckless actions of Wall Street, this use of taxpayer dollars, the proper role of the government, the stability of retirement accounts, the free flow of credit and others.
I reserved judgment on the bill until the final package was written and the actual text was made public. My decision to vote against the bailout wasn't made lightly. I considered long and hard how to vote. In the end, after reading the bill, I concluded it wasn't a plan I could support.
The plan lacks hard and fast protections to ensure taxpayers don't foot the $700 billion bill, when options for having Wall Street pay were available. It grants far broader powers over the markets to the Treasury Secretary than had first been discussed and that many are not aware of even today. The Secretary's purchase powers aren't limited to bad mortgage debt, but extend to "any other financial instrument" - such as bad credit card debt, bad auto loans, and even stocks and shares in companies.
I'm deeply concerned that this bailout sends a message to Wall Street and others that if they make poor decisions or take risky gambles that fail, the taxpayers will foot the bill and bail them out. Just last month, the auto industry came to Congress looking for help. I voted against it, but they got $25 billion courtesy of American taxpayers.
I recognize the very real economic difficulties that businesses and institutions are facing, and like many Americans, I'm angry about the reckless actions of Wall Street that created this situation.
I believe action by Congress was needed to act to ensure that credit doesn't freeze-up so commerce can continue to flow. Yet, in the stampede to pass a bill, there was never consideration of any approach other than giving $700 billion from the taxpayers to the Treasury Secretary to purchase whatever bad debt he deems necessary. That's not the right way to develop economic policy, especially with $700 billion in taxpayer money at stake.
The bailout is now law. While I voted no, I join all those Americans who supported and opposed this bill in hoping it lives up to the many claims and promises that its authors have made about it.
Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington residents.