Congress must act quickly on bailout

After last week’s unnerving ride on Wall Street we have one request of Congress this week: Work quickly to pass the emergency legislation needed to prop up the country’s ailing financial system.

By nearly every account, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told administration and congressional leaders last week that barring quick and substantial government intervention, the financial system was about to melt down, with the results being damage on the order of that suffered in the Great Depression.

Extraordinary times, and that is exactly what autumn 2008 is, require extraordinary measures.

We understand Democrats’ calls for greater oversight authority. Congress should eliminate the provision in the Bush-proposed legislation that says no decision under the bailout package can be challenged by anyone, not even a court. That goes way too far. Some accountability is required, although we understand the reasoning behind the provision. There’s no better way to stop government action than by lawsuit. (Just ask environmentalists who are masters at this tactic.)

We’re not at all worried about the lack of congressional oversight. Congress, if it has done anything, has proved that it is clueless when it comes to fixing major economic problems. For proof look no further than statements last week by the two senators who want to be president. Neither exhibited broad knowledge of the problem.

Too much congressional oversight will lead only to one thing: Grandstanding congressmen who hold hearings to score political points while doing nothing to solve problems.

The proposed legislation, at a cost of $700 billion, will be among the biggest drains on the treasury the government has ever seen. It will greatly hamstring the next president, regardless of who it is.

But it must be done and it must be done quickly with minimal partisanship.


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