October 3, 2008  ·  Lessig

A research assistant, Sina Kian, observes:

When Pres. Bush and Sec. Paulson proposed a bailout, it was three pages. When the House was done with it, it was over 100. When the Senate voted on it last night, it was over 400. I thought you’d be interested in reading about some of the earmarks that were slapped on. [McCain criticizing]

Particularly bizarre was the tax exemption for wooden arrows used by children. In any event, it’s sad to see a government so addicted to earmarks that it can’t even handle a crisis without involving them.

  • Scott

    So lets say part of this is due to lack of trust — senator q won’t vote on issue v unless he gets help on issue z. The caucus decides that its ok to give up on issue z to ensure issue v is passed. If its in the same bill their fates are intertwined, if not it depends on trust within the caucus and in some cases the overall body. At some point in the far past that trust was lost and these things got piled up in the same bill. Of course, those in on the deals would say that its much better this way than if things were figured separately, because it’d be much harder to have someone welch on the deal. I’m not quite sure if the omnibus vs single issue will change the behavior of government — electing those who are far more interested in federal government working on the big picture rather than garnishes for their district would be better. However — how do we convince voters that large-picture long-term work is better than short-term money grabs are in their best interest?

  • Jess Austin

    I hear that this was to get around the “revenue bills must start in the House” rule in the Constitution, and that this barrel-of-crap bill had already passed the House by wide margins. Therefore the Senate was allowed to add the bailout to the barrel-of-crap bill.

    I guess maybe that says something even worse about Congress, that the barrel-of-crap bill had already passed easily.

    The bailout will be known eventually as the Theft of ’08.

  • Rick

    Watched on CNN and Cspan all day….. whew.

    Maybe we can get Spielberg to make a sequel to “Saving Private Ryan.” How about “Saving John Q.”? If we substitute the US for France and this government for the Third Reich (not much of a stretch there) it all plays out pretty well.
    At the moment we’re at the scene on the bridge when the Captain (Hanks) realizes that Ryan isn’t gonna leave his buddies and the only way to save him is to attempt to hold the bridge. As he walks across the bridge the Sargeant (Sizemore) asks, “What are your orders, sir?” The Captain replies that the situation “….has taken a turn for the surreal.” That’s where we are.
    I’ve got you (Lessig) cast in the Barry Pepper role (the sniper). Sorry, but you’ll have to get blown out of the (ivory?) tower at the end. Be cool. It’s just a movie, right? Please, somebody tell me this is just a movie!

    Interestingly, immediately after the bill’s passage the dialog began (even from supporters) that they “hoped it would work”, that it would “take some time”, and “no one can be certain…” The market hardly reacted at all.
    On the whole I’m leaning toward W.F Buckley’s observation that we’d get better governance from the first 100 names in the phone book. The closest we’re going to get to that is to vote out every incumbent up for reelection, regardless of how they voted.

  • Zach

    I expect more from you than a recital of what you’ve read from either side of the media.

    This is not pork we’re talking about. This is out-and-out bribery, plain and simple. Every one of those earmarks were targeted to a house member who voted against the prior version of the bailout bill to incentivize him to vote for the new one.

    This is a disgrace. This is why I support your movement.

  • http://stuffthathappens.com/blog/ Eric Burke

    Actually, the wooden arrows isn’t really an “earmark”, as I understand it. These toys were mistakenly taxed along with true hunting equipment. This provision corrects the problem by removing the bogus tax. Perhaps we shouldn’t jump to conclusions just because something looks “bizarre” on the surface.

  • http://www.freedomspeaks.com Jason Kiesel

    Regarless of whether this particular instance was pork or not, there was plenty of other pork/earmarks in the legislation. This bailout could easily been satisfied with a sub 100 page contract. This is utterly ridiculous. It’s my opinion that our legislators think we are too stupid/lazy to go through all 400 pages. And to be honest, most of us are. We really need to keep our representatives accountable.

    Jason Kiesel
    Founder & CEO
    http://www.freedomspeaks.com

  • http://www.freedomspeaks.com Jason Kiesel

    Regardless of whether or not this instance was pork, there were PLENTY of others. This madness has got to stop! It’s utterly ridiculous.

    Jason Kiesel
    Founder & CEO
    http://www.freedomspeaks.com

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    Lessig: Spend a few dollars on a decent web host so that people like Jason above don’t have to post the same post twice.

    I am not sure the “pork” would not have happened it any case, but it might not have been necessary if people on both the far left (Lessig) and far right (Michael Savage) did not demagogue the bill as a handout/bailout/theft of $700 to the rich instead of an academic (beyond most abilities) analysis of the financial mess and options.

  • Kay

    @Eric Burke — A bailout bill tailored to the worst financial crisis in decades is an improper vehicle for addressing the concerns of the wooden arrow lobby. That impropriety exists even if the wooden arrow lobby has a good point. Indeed, perhaps a substantial number of earmarks do some “good,” but focusing on the merits of each earmark fundamentally misses the point.

    @Baba — I agreed with the fundamental principle behind the bill, but it’s important to note there was substantial (academic) dissent. Over 150 economists signed a petition against the bill. Whatever its benefits, we should be concerned about its effects: moral hazards, improper incentives, and fairness. When I say fairness, I mean that a nation with a median income of ~$50,000 subsidizing the (stupid) choices of the financial community, many of whom make well over $100,000.
    Also, It’s important that we not get into the Bush/Cheney-like business of denigrating dissent. We should keep our eye on the ball. Dissent is not at fault here. The fault lies within a broken way of doing business in Congress.

  • Paris Sinclair

    $3.3B for county payments for me, but thankfully my rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) voted no anyways.

    Luckily we get to keep the $3.3B though. :P