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David Sirota Headshot

From Democracy to Crazy-ocracy...And Back Again?

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Over the last few days, I've explored a number of explanations as to why Congress seems determined to pass a wildly unpopular Wall Street giveaway at a time of exploding budget deficits, and at a time when so many credible experts say the giveaway doesn't address our fundamental economic problems. Yesterday I took to CNN to analyze some of these explanations (video clip above).

Look, we know that forces of corruption are looking to profit off such a bailout, we know that fearmongering about a second Great Depression is supercharging the situation. We know that both parties have helped create this crisis - whether it was John McCain championing regressive economic policies, or Bill Clinton bragging in 1994 that "we have deregulated banking." We also know that the elite punditocracy - as it did in pushing the Iraq War - is reliably repeating, and refusing to question, what its ruling class sources are telling it.

As I will show in my newspaper column tomorrow, if the bill passes, it will represent the triumph of capitalism over our basic democratic ideals. But, for a moment, let's ponder one other possible explanation for why Congress is even considering this bill.

Is it possible America has become a Crazy-ocracy? That is, is it possible we aren't ruled by merely the stupid (an Idiocracy) or the corrupt (a Kleptocracy) - we are ruled by genuinely insane people?

I don't mean this as a flippant joke - I'm dead serious about this, as is former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill today.As Bloomberg News reports, O'Neill said the $700 billion Paulson plan is "crazy" with potentially "awful" consequences for the economy. "Doesn't this seem like lunacy to you?" he asked.

Well, yes - actually it does, and not just to me, but to many of the nation's leading economists, financial analysts, business journalists, and investors. Many of these people say this bailout could actually make this situation far worse, and many of them also have terrific, commonsense, and historically proven ideas about how to structure an economic rescue package (the newest one is from The Nation's William Greider). Indeed, most bailout proponents (like Paul Krugman) acknowledge this plan will likely be unsuccessful and that the public advocates for it haven't explained how it will work. Yet, many of those proponents - especially those in Congress - say they support it anyway because of the ultimate ideology of the truly psychotic: Namely, that somebody has to do something, no matter what that something is. They are pulling the classic move we saw during the lead-up to the Iraq War - officially supporting it, but also giving speeches of skepticism so they can cover their asses with "I told you so" haughtiness in the future (and please, don't even try to justify this bill as a respectable bargain - spending 5 percent of our entire economy - $700 billion - in exchange for a few small but admirable renewable energy tax credits is not a good deal...I've heard of thinking minimally, but that's thinking microscopically).

And yet, the political system seems totally immune - even hostile to - basic sanity. O'Neill and Joseph Stiglitz, both bailout critics, are top advisers to Barack Obama on this bailout issue, but the Democratic nominee keeps insisting that it is unpatriotic to oppose this bill. John McCain is even crazier - saying that the bill is going to "put us on the brink of economic disaster" right after he voted for it. And worst of all, both Obama and McCain are insisting that the bill just hasn't been sold properly as a "rescue" instead of a "bailout" - the implication being that public opposition is borne out of stupidity rather than sanity.

O'Neill says part of the problem is that those running the asylum in the media and in the halls of Congress have little direct contact with the sane world. "I honestly don't think they really understand it and they're so much in a bubble that it's impossible to penetrate it," he said.

So as the House prepares to vote Friday on this bailout, the public has to burst through that bubble. Republican Sen. Bob Bennett (R) - a bailout supporter - has already inadvertently given us our marching orders. On MSNBC this week, he said the determining factor in whether this bill passes the House will be phone calls to House members' offices. So it's time to sign this CAF anti-bailout petition and then get on the phone to your Member of Congress and tell them loud and clear: America is a Democracy, not a Crazy-ocracy, and that means rejecting this bailout bill once and for all.

Cross-posted from OL and CAF