January 16, 2009

Commentary:

The Bailout:

It’s Time to Percolate Up – Not Trickle Down!

By Congressman Bob Filner

Last fall, I voted against the $700 billion bailout bill because it relied on a failed economic theory: trickle down. I wanted to see a bill that would inject money into our economy by helping regular citizens keep their homes, keep their jobs, and let prosperity percolate up!

I also did not appreciate the way the bailout bill was shoved down our throats in Congress with excessive fear-mongering. My voice was not heard through the chaos and my ability to represent your best interests was handicapped.

However, since I was recently sworn in to my 9th term in Congress, the change is palpable in halls of the Capitol. With the Obama Administration on its way in, I am hopeful that the days of “business as usual” are over and Democrats can dust off some of our best ideas that have been shelved for too long under the Bush “Reign of Error.”

Already, Democrats have a plan to salvage the second half of the $700 billion bailout bill – $350 billion that has not been released for use yet – and change how the money will be spent and accounted for so that the people being bailed out are average taxpayers, not just the wealthy executives who got us into this mess.

We have the benefit of learning from how the first $350 billion was used while we change the rules for using the second half. Right now, the banks that already received bailout money are unable to explain to Congress how they used it! Also, not a cent was spent to prevent foreclosures and keep people in their homes. I can’t name a single person in my district who kept their home or job as a result of this bailout so far.

What good is that?

Fortunately, when Congress passed the bailout bill, it included a safety switch. Before the President’s Administration can have access to the second half of the bailout money, Congress must be notified and given a plan for how the money will be used. The law also stated that there will be a 15-day waiting period after Congress is informed. During that time, no money can be spent and any Member of the House or Senate can call for a vote to reject the proposal.

With less than 15 days to go before President Obama’s Inauguration, the Bush Administration is out of time!

But we’re not going to give Obama a blank check, either.

Congress is creating a new set of conditions and working on a new piece of legislation embodying those principles, which President Obama and his team will need to agree to follow. We are working with the Obama Administration to gather input and create a clear, common vision for how to get us out of our current economic crisis.

What conditions and principles am I talking about? We want to require a significant effort to reduce mortgage foreclosures before we allow any money to be spent on anything else! We want banks, if we give them any more funding, to be required to tell us what they will do with it, and not just use it to enable continued greed and irresponsibility!

We’re talking about fixing an economic system that is so broken, we can’t afford to prop it up any longer. We need to allow room for new ideas that incorporate responsibility and sustainability to move us forward. We want to increase lending so people can buy homes and cars, and so businesses can grow and prosper. This is the time for reality-checks and a renewed sense of responsibility at home, at work, and in government.

I am glad to be part of efforts in Congress to direct bailout money where it is needed most: to families. We’ve been trickled on long enough!

As always, I look forward to hearing your ideas. Please feel free to contact me through my Chula Vista Office at (619) 422-5963.

Congressman Bob FilnerRepresentative for California’s 51st Congressional District

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