Amid the political trench warfare of the last 24 hours, we've seen some semblance of order in the chaos - we've seen a coalescing effort to fight back against what Naomi Klein this week describes as "extraordinary politics" (ie. the method by which politicians ignore legislative rules and rush through unpopular "reforms" during a crisis).
When Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner today announced his plan to circumvent Congress and award another $1.5 trillion to his banking industry friends, he was met with resounding opposition across the political spectrum. On top of that, as Chris shows, both the House and Senate have started demanding far more transparency from the Federal Reserve - finally raising the prospect of challenging czarism and insisting on legislative oversight of that most secretive and undemocratic institution.
Now, after Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) embarrassed himself on MSNBC last night by not being able to answer basic questions about the Senate's stimulus "compromise," House Democrats have finally thrown down the gauntlet on the economic recovery package. According to the Hill newspaper, they are refusing to quickly ram through the Senate "centrists" substantively stupid plan to make the stimulus bill less economically stimulative by watering it down with tax cuts. These Democrats believe - and rightly, IMHO - that the conference committee should (re)strengthen the stimulus; that Senate Democrats will be able to force a few rational Republicans to support it on final passage; and that Obama will be forced to sign the better bill.
Check out the excerpt from the Hill - it's the "Make Him Do It" Dynamic in action:
House Democrats on Tuesday said they are prepared to negotiate past Presidents Day rather than cave to GOP Senate centrists on the details of the economic stimulus package.
Bucking warnings that the delicate Senate compromise passed Tuesday cannot be altered, leading House Democrats said it was not the House's job to bend to the will of the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass difficult legislation.
And in a sign of how serious they are about fighting for their version of the stimulus bill, House Democrats said they are ready to stay through the recess instead of delivering the bill to President Obama by Presidents Day -- blowing their self-imposed deadline set earlier this year.
I certainly agree that we need immediate and decisive to stabilize the banking industry through nationalization ASAP, and we need the stimulus bill passed ASAP as well. But we also must not allow the need for speed to justify horrific policy. We're talking about trillions of dollars here - there's not a lot of trillion-dollar bullets in our government's arsenal.
So while we can't afford to waste time, we also can't afford to pass bad policy and potentially waste billions of dollars - and right now, with the way things are going, we need to err on the side of a slightly slower pace, reject "extraordinary politics" in service of kleptocracy, and make sure all of gets done right.