We are in the midst of perhaps the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Economists, both conservative and liberal, have unequivocally stated that governmental action is absolutely necessary to increase liquidity in hopes of averting, or more likely, shortening mal-effects of the looming recession. Instead of uniting to act in the best interest of the country, the House failed to pass the much needed bailout bill. After the failure to pass the bill, both sides then pointed the finger at the other.
House Republican Leader John Boehner said, "I do believe that we could have gotten there today, had it not been for this partisan speech that the Speaker gave on the floor of the House. I mean, we were -- we put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today, but the Speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members who we thought we could get to go south."
Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor followed Boehner, and brandished his own copy of Pelosi's speech when seconding his leader's analysis. "Right here is the reason I believe why this vote failed," Cantor said, "and this is Speaker Pelosi's speech that frankly struck the tone of partisanship that frankly was inappropriate in this discussion."Are you serious? Republicans failed to vote for the Bill because of a partisan speech?! Is this what our politics have devolved into? Our elected officials failed to act in the best interest of their country because of a speech.
Responding to the Republicans' claims of inappropriate partisanship, Rep. Barney Frank delivered a memorable response, accusing Republicans of "hurting the country" because someone "hurt their feelings." Frank continued, "We have come together on a bill to alleviate the crisis, and because somebody hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country? I mean, I would not have imputed that degree of pettiness and hypersensitivity. ... There were 12 Republican members who were ready to stand up for the economic interests of America, but not if anybody insulted them. I'll make an offer. Give me those 12 people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country."
Alas, it is not so simple. Democrats must share their share of the blame. Democrats are the majority party. If Pelosi had rallied her troops, she and her party could have passed the bill regardless of the Republicans who continue to worship at the alter of the free-market. Pelosi utterly failed to lead. She should have mustered the 12 needed votes ensure passage of the bill. In the end, Washington was leaderless. The majority party failed to rally its troops. Bush and the Republican minority likewise failed to act.
Our leaders failure to act lead to a huge loss in shareholder value. The Dow dropped 777 points. The S&P 500 Index plunged to its worst day since the week of the 1987 stock-market crash, wiping out more than $700 billion in the index's market value. The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index recorded a paper loss of $1 trillion across the market for the day, a first. To put that number in perspective, we have spent about a trillion dollars to date on the war in Iraq. That is right. In one day we lost the same amount of money that we have spent on the invassion since 2003.
In sum, we essentially spent a trillion dollars today, but still have no rescue plan. Following this bad news, Asian markets will certainly plunge tonight, followed by the European markets Tuesday morning -- and many of the latter suffered their worst losses ever Monday. The good news, Congress will get a second shot at this. Market may well rebound, hopefully soon. But what we need is leadership. Hopefully somebody will step up to the plate and deliver for American people.