There’s nothing sustainable about the $700 billion Federal bailout plan for the decomposing financial sector of the US financial system. Americans know it, judging by the outpouring of objections sent to US legislators and reflected in national polls this past week.
According to various estimates by experts in the financial industry, the proposal to let the government buy bad assets from banks range from $500 billion to $1 trillion. Hank Paulson, Treasury Secretary, and Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman, are asking for $700 billion – for now.
Keep in mind that this is ON TOP OF the costs already incurred for various government actions this year, including, but not limited to:
* up to $85 billion for AIG
* up to $29 billion to fund JPMorgan’s takeover of Bear Stearns
* up to $200 billion each for nationalization of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac
* as much as $50 billion to insure money market funds
* up to $25 billion for special loans extended to GM and Ford
Let’s not forget the billions of dollars in expenses to help those in flooded or hurricane-destroyed areas – so recent that the costs aren’t even in for the damage done from Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike. There’s plenty of other federal funds flowing to counties throughout the US that were declared federal disaster areas in 2008 – like in Vernon County, Wisconsin, where we own a silviculture operation.
Of course, there’s the War in Iraq, too, though for whatever reasons, many people are choosing to not consider the financial costs in relation to our present financial meltdown. In 2003, President George W. Bush estimated the war would (only) cost $60 billion to $100 billion. According to William Beach, director of the Center for Data Analysis in a CNN interview about testimony he gave to Congress, “the Iraq war has already cost taxpayers $646 billion” for just the first five years.
Many Americans are asking why we’re bailing out (“saving”) the America that is all about greed, growth, super-sizing and empire building. While Congress should be discussing prison terms for CEOs, instead many are debating golden parachutes for already millionaire CEOs. We desperately need a Congress that’s acting as a check and balance for an Executive Branch that’s never been more secretive – and lately, particularly misdirected. We need a Congress that demands accountability, transparency, and oversight.
What about Congress and the Fed investing in an America that offers the kind of America we need for the 21st Century? An America where we purchase things (when we need them) from our neighbors, in our communities, and that are made without destroying the planet or exploiting people in how they’re designed? What about energy independence with renewable energy that does not contribute to climate change or harm ecological systems on which we depend? What about a food system that lessens its addiction to natural gas and oil (used for chemical-based agriculture)? How about a transportation system that reconnects communities by a more energy efficient railroad system and cities that showcase safe bike paths and zoning that encourages people to live closer to where they work (perhaps, even, in a home office). How about a healthcare system where people don’t get sick worrying about it?
Join me, like millions of Americans in the last few days, in letting your congresspeople know what YOU think. Obviously, they need help and need to listen to their constituents, not the lobbyists, experts (who have been so poorly advising them up to now), or corporations.
There’s a trust crisis, not a financial one.
How can we trust President Bush (when he’s been wrong so many times before) and Bernanke or Paulson – both of whom underestimated the credit collapse from the very start. What makes anyone convinced they have it right now? If they, with all their access to information, can’t figure it out, then we’re in serious trouble indeed (why make it worse by throwing $700 billion at it?). Expecting Congress to understand these issues in one week, let alone come up with a plan to address them, sounds suspiciously like the run up to and involvement in the Iraq War. Perhaps, we’ve learned not to repeat our haste. Even I remember learning that haste, makes waste. In a truly sustainable economy, there is no waste.
Perhaps this is the crisis of trust that will re-ignite PARTICIPATIVE democracy, not the kind where we head off to wage War in Iraq, write blank checks to pay for it and ask American taxpayers head to Disneyland (paying with credit cards and with money from home-equity loans).
A return to Main Street and Neighborhood Marketplaces
Perhaps this kind of crisis of trust will reinvigorate local, interdependent economies, decentralized and within communities across America. Perhaps more Americans will return to operate their own ecopreneurial companies that operate under triple bottom lines, sharing their surplus rather than hoarding it like the investment bankers did on Wall Street. Like my wife and I envisioned and shared in our book ECOpreneuring, these green businesses, in various and creative ways, all have guiding missions to make the world a better place. Many ecopreneurs operate their business in ways that create a sustainable life, not merely earn a living.
And the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that has made America great will, once again, be MADE IN AMERICA.