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Skepticism in the Northwest

Color us among the skeptics of the Bush Administration Wall Street bailout proposal – but not just this site: Most of the Northwest, and not just one side of the political fence, either. If they were selling stock in skepticism, we’d buy.

Before going further, we should point out two excellent online posts that helped shape our thinking on this. One (becoming increasingly renowned even in mass media – Steve Duin in the Oregonian touted it today) was posted on the Daily Kos site, and called “Three Times is Enemy Action” – a review of how the financial markets got to this point. The second, lesser known, was written by New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, who has done some of the best writing about federal tax policy in recent years: His piece is aimed at journalists, chiding them for not doing basic homework on the financial situation and strong suggesting that the economic problems, while quite real, are not as imminent a crisis as many news reports have suggested. Both posts are highly, highly recommended.

The Northwest seems to be alert to the reasons for skepticism.

Oregon Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio has had some sharp quotes on the subject, and a well-crafted statement on his web site. He points out that for many months, through all kinds of negative events, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the economic was sound, but “Then Thursday night he has a closed door meeting with congressional leadership and he says, if we don’t do a bailout plan tomorrow, the economy is going to collapse. Wait a minute. This guy has been consistently wrong and out of touch or he’s been lying to Congress and the American people about how sound our fundamentals are. Now he wants us to trust him with the keys of the treasury and no restrictions on how he would spend the money in his next bailout. He is compromised in my opinion because of his relationship with Goldman Sachs and Wall Street not with Main Street America. My small banks are not clamoring for this. They are still making loans.”

Increasingly, Northwest Democrats seem to be positioning themselves along these lines. (Note the post below on Washington’s Jim McDermott.)

There’s a voice from the left. And on the right? In the Northwest (or elsewhere), you don’t go much further right in Congress than Idaho Republican Bill Sali. Here’s his take, according to a news report today: “says President Bush’s plan to rescue the nation’s financial industry ignores the deeper troubles facing the nation’s economy, lacks public support and gives too much authority to top administration officials in charge of the plan. Sali, a conservative Republican from western Idaho, acknowledges he has yet to formalize his own counterproposal or find another he can support instead. But Sali says his biggest problem with the Bush Administration’s $700 billion bailout proposal is its failure to deal with the nation’s ailing economy.”

Not everyone is on board with the DeFazios and Salis; Idaho’s other Republican representative, Mike Simpson, actually blasted Sali for not jumping on board the bailout train: “What’s his answer, to let the economy go down?” There is, of course, another course: Pause long enough to consider what actually will work and what won’t, what caused the current problems and find ways to fix them, rather than simply jump on cue.

Sali’s office said that response from constituents has been overwhelmingly critical of the bailout. It often happens that responses in congressional offices that responses tend to back positions of the incumbent, but in this case we’d suspect the popular view is very much as Sali’s office describes it: Highly skeptical of the bailout proposal as it now is structured.

On either side of the Cascades, either side of the partisan divide. Unity may be approaching.

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