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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > The S&L Bailout II

Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) sits in an anteroom during a break in the House Banking Committee’s markup of the massive savings and loan scandal shaking his head. He can scarcely believe what is happening -­Democrats joining with Republicans on key votes to weaken the already weak Bush proposals for the bailout.

One of the votes, under the watchful eyes of highly paid savings and loan lobbyists sitting in the Committee room, watered down the capital requirements by allowing “good will” and other fantasies to be counted as part of this capital.

Nothing so gross and cowardly has squirmed through the Congress as this legislation in many a decade. Listen to what they are going to charge you whether as small taxpayers or small depositors. To bailout several hundred savings and loan associations, in trouble because of an epidemic of white collar crime and fraud say government investigators, the Bush regime and their Democratic and Republican allies are creating a scheme for the next thirty years that will sock it not to the culpable and most able to pay, but to the most innocent and least able to pay. The tab — over $500 per man, woman and child in principal and over $1500 in interest.

The utter depravity of the Congress as a sensitive and responsible institution is seen through the vistas of its best Senators and Representatives. Senator Paul Sarbanes, a veteran member of the Senate Banking Committee, is going to speak for this appalling legislation on the Senate floor. He says that while he abhors the whys and hows of this whole banking mess and the Congressional response, he has to support the bill he helped make a little better, or else it might be made worse on the Senate floor. Here is a man of thought, honesty and hard work and this is the best he can do. No clarion call to the public over the past few years to arouse the people to demand that those who made the party pay for it. No push so that corporate taxpayers pay for corporate scandals. No support for empowering consumers in financial consumer associations, as offered by Cong. Chuck Schumer in the House, to build institutional counterweights against future banking debacles and looting. Sarbanes, who is a shoo-in for re-election from Maryland and is as clean as they come politically, is bargaining for crumbs while the temple fails on the people.

But then, what of Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, from Maine. He takes the Senate Banking Committee bill, before it is even printed for the public to read, and announces that the Senate will debate and vote on this bill in just two days. The bill is expected to be over 550 pages and full of easy riding for the savings and loans. Consumer groups and other interested civic parties and persons won’t have a chance to even read the legislation before the Senate wraps it up and sends it to the House.

Out there around the country, a great many Americans know of the pending sell-out in Washington. They are gnashing their teeth in frustrated anger. The radio talk shows are reflecting their outrage and their feeling of powerlessness.

“What do you do,” said one elderly woman, “when both parties are conspiring against us to send us the bill for those criminals?” In the short run, what we all have to do, individually, is give them the recent Stop the Salary Grab treatment — telephone, telegram or write your Representative and Senators. This battle will not be over even if this notorious bill reaches George Bush’s desk by early June as he wants.

But in the longer run, citizens of all persuasions who share a common feeling that those bedfellows — greedy corporatists and the cowardly politicians they finance — are savaging our country politically and economically in multitudinous ways. It is time for a new political movement to rescue our society and nation from these predatory leaders who make the people pay for their crimes.