Monday, April 26, 2010

Why No Debate?



Misgovernance: Barely a month after the 2,600-page health care bill became law, Congress has teed up another landmark piece of legislation: a 1,600-page financial overhaul. So what's the big hurry?

As with the health care measure, no one seems to know exactly what's in this massive new bill. And what we have seen leaves a lot to be desired.

Legislation that radically changes the way we conduct our daily lives is usually subject to long deliberation and thorough debate before a decision is reached. But not in this Congress.

The financial reform that Sen. Chris Dodd has put forward contains little if any input from opposition Republicans. With their 59-41 majority in the Senate, Dodd and his Democrat colleagues are convinced they no longer need to compromise.

In his speech on financial reform last Thursday in New York, President Obama made his case and invited Americans to "debate" it. But that very day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to the surprise of nearly everyone, announced there could be a vote on Dodd's bill as early as Monday.

Has a U.S. government ever been so transparently insincere? Not content to let the opposition respond, the Democrats are moving forward with a plan that will not end bailouts, will not fix what ails Wall Street and will in no way guarantee there won't be another meltdown.

But don't take our word for it. Claims such as "this is not a bailout bill" ring hollow even on the left. Adam Davidson, a reporter for the reliably liberal National Public Radio's Planet Money blog, did what he called "an informal survey of economists and regulatory experts on the right and left."

The result? "We couldn't find any who fully endorse the reforms backed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress." That's how bad this legislation is. For example:

• It makes bailouts a routine part of America's financial markets, putting smaller, entrepreneurial financial houses at a serious competitive disadvantage to bigger firms such as Goldman Sachs that give millions to Democratic candidates.

• Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which triggered the housing meltdown in 2005 with an unparalleled surge in mortgage lending, go untouched. And taxpayers are still on the hook for a $400 billion bailout of the two largest mortgage banking companies on Earth.

• Sweeping new powers are given to the Fed to regulate not just banks, but all financial companies, across the board. As Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute wrote:

"The Fed, never having regulated a hedge fund or an insurance company, is now supposed to set capital levels, liquidity requirements and permissible activities for each type of business and for each individual institution." Good luck with that, Ben Bernanke.

What we know about the bill is bad enough. But it's what we don't know that really has us worried. As with health care reform, we wonder what we'll find on further inspection — the shocking political favors, taxes and loopholes that will make our system more complex and less accountable. If Reid gets his way, due diligence is out the window.

Is this the new style of governance the Democrats want? Is this the "change" they promised — the passage of radical, life-altering legislation in unseemly haste with little input from average Americans?

We certainly hope not. Americans deserve more from their government — including a chance to scrutinize and debate major legislation that would radically alter the way we do business in this country.

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