Two years ago, Members of Congress were forced to take a very difficult vote on what the federal government’s response would be to the worst economic collapse in modern history.
As apprehensive as we were to bail out the same banks responsible for the crisis, we were advised by leading economists that without immediate and decisive action, the country would be brought to another ‘Depression.’ Ironically, it was the Republican administration of President George W. Bush and Congress that together laid the foundation for a $700 billion program (which the CBO now estimates cost $25 billion) to bail out the financial services industry. While many economists have since concluded that the program did in fact stabilize the economy, many Americans opposed what they considered a bailout of the very same institutions and individuals who caused the collapse of the housing market and economic meltdown.
In fact, this bailout was one of the motivating factors that sparked the Tea Party movement, and many Congressional Republicans who voted for it now passionately condemn the program.
Now, in taking a hard line on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the Republicans are doubling-down on old policies, essentially asking the American people to support a $900 billion compromise that includes unconscionable tax bonuses for the ultra-rich (even though tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is at its lowest in almost 60 years). Although the economic stabilization program served a critical purpose, an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will cost the United States billions of dollars in lost revenue; add to the deficit; further exacerbate existing racial wealth gaps and income disparities; and divert federal resources from other initiatives that could stimulate economic development and help put Americans back to work.