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Bankrupt in Every Sense

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We do not yet know the fate of the proposed bailout being debated before Congress. McCain's cynical and embarrassing attempt to ride into town to save the day aside, the financial crisis currently convulsing Washington, D.C. is not near resolution. The Administration is shocked, shocked, that the legislature would not rubber stamp an executive branch plan to spend $700 billion with no oversight. Under the proposed plan, Secretary Paulson would be granted extra-constitutional powers, effectively subverting the distinct role of the three branches of government envisioned by our Founding Fathers. The Congress would be relegated to minor spectator.

None of this is surprising, not the crisis or the response. Republicans pray at the altar of the free market, worship small government and view all forms of regulation as sinful. That dogmatic semi-religious approach to government has predictably led us to the edge of the abyss. The solution to the problems caused by Republican ideology is to disavow every principle of conservatism. Bush proposes to impose stiff regulations, subvert the market and grow the government at a pace unthinkable even one week ago.

From this we can learn an important lesson. Republican philosophy is dead. The very fact of the crisis, and the response to it, provides incontrovertible proof that the founding ideas supporting conservative thought are bankrupt in every sense.

Just a few days ago Bush was desperately clinging to his dying philosophy, noting that taxpayers should never bail out lenders who made bad loans. He claimed markets were working efficiently. He touted the strong fundamentals of the American economy. But the harsh bite of reality finally drew blood. After failures of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the pending implosion of AIG finally knocked out the last wobbling leg of conservative thought. The final vestige of conservative principles crumbled along with the insurance giant.

Actions in the last week illustrate that Republicans support privatizing gains on the way up and socializing losses on the way down. With Republican support, Wall Street executives have found the perfect niche. They risk our money, yet they pocket earnings while we shoulder the losses. That reality means that we now must fund corporate welfare on a staggering level. Republicans are not against welfare, they simply abhor any use of taxpayer dollars other than to enrich their friends. Where was the $700 billion when we talked about our crumbling infrastructure, health insurance crisis, mortgage foreclosures or support for biomedical research? Nobody can have lingering doubts about Republican priorities.

The financial crisis we face is a natural consequence of failed ideologies and bankrupt policies, but the problem is even more profound. The American people are experiencing the consequences of an Administration with no respect for our Constitution. Nobody should be surprised. The role envisioned for Secretary Paulson and subsequent submission of the Congress to a higher power are a natural extension of ideology that condones torture, illegal wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus, and manipulation of intelligence to start a war. All share the common genesis in complete disdain for the rule of law.

On November 4, the American people must make a choice, and rarely in our history has our selection mattered more. We have had eight years of failure, and the crisis upon us drives home that we cannot afford another four under the Party that has created the problems we now struggle to solve.