Here’s what I don’t understand about either the politics or the policy of the bailout failure. If the situation is as dire as Kevin Drum says then where’s corporate America? That swathe of American business that isn’t in the finance and housing sectors. ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Google, Chevron, etc. I mean this as a genuine question, not as an “aha! one lonely blogger has used his powers to prove that there’s no crisis.” But, seriously, where?
A lot of the underlying discussion here seems to take the view that it’s just super difficult to get House Republicans to cast unpopular votes. But it’s not difficult at all! Whenever the House takes up the subject of a minimum wage increase, the majority of House Republicans buck public opinion and vote “no.” In part, that’s a vote of conscience, and in part it’s because there are business lobbies that scream bloody murder about the looming demise of the US economy whenever such a vote is on the table. So where are those lobbies now? Suppose the House were debating the Employee Free Choice Act. We’d be hearing, I think, from the Chamber of Commerce. And from the National Federation of Independent Businesses. And just to keep things bipartisan, not only do conservative legislators regularly cast unpopular votes on behalf of business lobbies, progressive legislators sometimes cast such votes too and also sometimes cast unpopular votes on behalf of union lobbies. And surely if the economy goes into a steep recession that’s no better for Big Labor than it is for Big Business.
But especially on the right, normally when there’s an issue that’s perceived to be important to American business, corporate America makes its views known and conservative legislators, when asked to jump, say “how high?” I mean, when was the last time House conservatives bucked the interests of large oil companies? And wouldn’t a steep recession be much worse for large oil companies than an offshore drilling moratorium? It’s very difficult to get congress to act when the heavy hitters don’t want to put any skin in the game. I think that is in many ways the big story here. Meanwhile, the failure of this sort of effective lobbying scheme to materialize just feeds left-wing suspicions about the bailout deal — it looks and feels very funny to be saying this bailout serves interests beyond Wall Street when political leaders can’t produce concrete non-Wall Street interests clamoring for it. None of Arizona’s members of congress (four Democrats and four Republicans) voted for the bill, for example. But surely if large Arizona employers like US Airlines, Honeywell, Intel, and Raytheon were on the phones with these guys saying their businesses were going to tank unless they voted “yes” some minds would change.