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An uprising, then politics as usual


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The most notable thing about the House of Representatives’ “no” vote on the bailout bill a week ago wasn’t that Nancy Pelosi was a fool to lash out at the Republicans, or that the Republicans were childish to take it personally.

More striking by far was the decisive effect of public opinion. According to news reports, members of Congress were inundated by messages from constituents who were dead set against the plan put together by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and others, and endorsed by President George W. Bush.

Facing an economic situation depicted as near-catastrophic, ordinary citizens decided not to trust the judgment of their elected officials.

The House responded by rejecting the plan. You could label this as a lack of leadership, but we would suggest that it’s exactly how democracy is supposed to work.

The citizens’ motivation was quite basic. The average American saw the government’s plan as helping the fat cats and leaving everyone else to struggle on their own.

Admittedly, simple outrage is not much to brag about. A stubborn American spirit is much more valuable if you have a good idea to go with it. The average citizen isn’t qualified to sort out our convoluted financial situation.

But a few people outside government made suggestions worth considering.

And then Congress tried again. How? By adding pieces to the bill that have absolutely nothing to do with the current crisis.

The Senate threw in provisions dealing with tax breaks for education, funding for rural areas, group health coverage requirements, alternative energy tax breaks and tax relief for victims of natural disasters.

We had been told the original plan was necessary to prevent a collapse of the economy, a matter of such grave importance as to be beyond ordinary politics.

But perhaps we were misinformed.

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