A commonsense approach to the bailout

Published 10:14 pm Friday, February 13, 2009

Normally, we receive our daily dose of bad news by turning on a television, plugging in an Internet connection, or walking to the end of the driveway to pick up a newspaper. Today, that news is delivered by a best friend who has lost his job and can’t sleep at night because he fears he will lose his home, or by one of our children graduating from college and quickly discovering there is no job market, or by someone at church who has received the life-transforming news of a major illness.

Across America today there are families who worry that this economic crisis burning across the globe could overwhelm them. Individuals expecting to retire see those hopes dashed in a moment. People working multiple jobs to keep their families afloat lose their jobs in an instant.

We need a bold plan of action, perhaps initially led by government, but not totally dependent upon it. It has to be innovative, but most of all it has to be an effective solution – not just effective rhetoric. And it will be measured by a single criterion – does it work?

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In order to work, it must have accountability and transparency, and it must pass the simple commonsense test.

The simple questions we can all ask are these:

1. Have you received your check from any of the bailouts yet? I can assure you many of the CEOs on Wall Street have.

2. Are you able to borrow more easily today than you were six months ago before all of these bailouts began?

3. Are you less worried about your future now than you were before the bailouts began?

4. If the government asked you if you would feel better about your economic situation by keeping $6,700 for your family, or sending it to the government and asking them to spend it however they would like, which one would make you feel better?

I am one of only 16 out of 435 Members of the House of Representatives to vote against every bailout and stimulus package in the last two years. I did so because the packages lacked those critical principles of accountability, transparency and effectiveness.

Unfortunately, even many of the original proponents of the programs admit that they have not worked and that they will not work. However, it is our grandchildren who will be paying for many of them, years after we are gone.

This week we voted on the biggest stimulus package yet. It is the most expensive single piece of legislation Congress has considered, and the total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government in 2007.

I voted against the $819 billion stimulus package because it, like all of the others, failed to meet those three principles of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. Here are some things you should know about the stimulus bill that came before Congress this week that your children and grandchildren will be paying for.

It spends an average of $222,972 for every job it creates, with the average salary for those jobs in Virginia being just over $35,000.

To impact our current recession, any spending must happen fast. However, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said only $26 billion of the spending approved in the package is capable of being spent in fiscal year 2009, hardly providing the amount economists say is necessary to have a meaningful impact on our economy.

The total cost of this package per family in Virginia’s Fourth District is nearly $6,700.

I will continue to work to develop a bipartisan solution for the families we all love. We must succeed, for the price of our failure is far too great.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-04) represents Suffolk in the U.S. House of Representatives. Contact him directly at 202-225-6365.