Thursday, September 25, 2008

Congressional communications

[Don't get me wrong, I like Senator Obama and will probably vote for him since I don't have a lot of confidence in Senator McCain anymore.]
Have you ever written your senator or congressperson? It sure seems like they don't pay too much attention to what we send them. A friend of mine in Illinois forwarded me this thread between himself and his congressional delegation. Here is his communication in reverse order....

Dear Mr. Obama,
Thank you for your polite response to my earlier contact. I think, however, that you misunderstood my position. I do not merely oppose the originally proposed "bailout" package, I oppose any bailout package, stimulus package, or other transfer of public funds to private entities under any circumstances. As an reputed egalitarian you should also. No liberal should support the transfer of liability from the poor and future generations to the wealthy and predatory of the present.

Further, the Keynesian fallacy of a "economic stimulus" has long since been discredited. Keynes is joining Marx on the scrap pile of history and we would be wise to not have our nation join him there by further pursuing that self-serving system of planned economics. May I suggest, especially if you want to whip your economically illiterate opposition this fall, that you spend an hour or so with a primer on Austrian economics, perhaps Thomas Taylor's An Introduction to Austrian Economics, 98 pages (available at
Best regards, Stephen B.

Dear Stephen:
Thank you for writing to share your concerns on the current state of the U.S. economy and the government’s response to the ongoing stress on our financial markets, homeowners, and families.

From Wall Street to Main Street, the U.S. economy is in trouble. We have suffered 600,000 lost jobs since the beginning of this year, over a million families have lost their homes to foreclosure with millions more at risk, and many banks and other financial institutions are struggling to stay afloat. The bailout of investment bank Bear Stearns, the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Federal Reserve’s emergency intervention to save AIG, and the emergency Treasury action to shore up money market mutual funds demonstrate the seriousness of the situation we face.

In response to these concerns, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson have met with congressional leaders to request legislation that would authorize direct intervention in the economy. The plan would grant the Treasury Secretary $700 billion to purchase bad assets from financial institutions. By doing so, the Treasury would inject much needed liquidity into the market and work to rescue the economy from a worsening downturn.

While I agree that urgent and decisive action is necessary during this time of economic turmoil, I will not grant a blank check for billions of taxpayer dollars to the Treasury to bail out banks, with no oversight, accountability, guaranteed help for homeowners, or even assurances that the risky plan will work to the benefit of American workers and taxpayers.

Instead, we must insist upon a plan that includes relief for burdened homeowners, ensures restraints on exorbitant executive salaries, and ensures that the American people share in the upside as Wall Street recovers. It is also critical that the power to spend $700 billion is not left to the discretion of any one person but is instead under the rigorous oversight of an independent and bipartisan board.

Further, we need to move forward on a second emergency economic stimulus plan including tax rebates to help families cope with rising food and gas prices and investments in jobs and relief for state budgets.

In closing, be assured that as this process moves forward I will continue to work for a fast, fair and viable response to our nation’s economic crisis. Again, Stephen, thank you for sharing your comments and concerns with me. Please feel keep in touch on this, or other matters of importance to you.
Sincerely, Barack Obama
United States Senator

P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website:

My communications to Senator Obama (and Durbin) were submitted via a web form, so I don't have an exact copy of them. However, I did submit this almost-verbatim copy of that communication as a letter to the Chicago Tribune (which they haven't yet printed).

An Open Letter Regarding Financial "Bailouts"

Dear Senator Obama and Senator Durbin:

I tried several times today (9/25/08) to contact your Washington, DC offices via telephone, however your offices were apparently not accepting calls from constituents. I was attempting to contact you to encourage opposition to any further bailouts of the financial industry.

Bailouts are a moral hazard of the most dangerous kind, not only to the financial industry, but to the country as a whole. They set a horrible moral example for our young people and expose America to charges of hypocrisy as a free and capitalist nation where all men are created equal. That equality must include the equality to fail, for wealthy bankers just as for everyone else. It is immoral beyond measure to imagine that we should in any way tax the poor and the unborn to subsidize the wealthy and the incompetent.

Admittedly it may be hard times for a while, but these institutions, and the people responsible for them, must be held accountable for their mistakes. In the end, it will make our financial institutions more cautious and our nation stronger.
Best regards,
Stephen B.

This is a response that I received to a previous communication to Senator Obama, in which I stated that I was opposed to the bailout of Fannie and Freddie (and I think I mentioned also AIG). (I'm sorry, I can't find the original of that one.) Note that he explicitly states that he also opposes bailouts, although he does qualify it with "at this time," and he apparently is hunky dory with general handouts to citizens well-off enough to pay taxes.

Dear Stephen:
Thank you for contacting me to share your views on the government response to the housing crisis. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you know, the crisis in the housing market was a key factor in our current economic recession, with problems in subprime lending expanding across all mortgage markets and throughout the financial sector. We have already lost more than 600,000 jobs this year and there are concerns about rising unemployment and greater inflation. Most recently, the unprecedented action by the Federal Reserve to try to rescue our nation's largest insurer demonstrates how fragile our economy is, and how devastating the foreclosure crisis has become for our economy as a whole. Coming on the heels of the bailout of investment bank Bear Stearns, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this emergency intervention to save AIG leaves no doubt that our economy is in serious trouble.

In 2006 I raised alarm about warning signs in the housing market and have continued to fight to end unsustainable lending practices and expand affordable housing options. I introduced the STOP FRAUD Act to combat fraudulent and deceptive mortgage lending practices, fought for increased funding for the Community Development Block Grant program to provide assistance for homeowners and communities across Illinois, and sponsored the Homes for Heroes Act to combat homelessness among our nation’s veterans. I also urged Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson to intervene in early 2007 and immediately convene a homeownership preservation summit to fight foreclosures and increase oversight of the mortgage industry.

With over a million homes already in foreclosure and estimates of more than a million more to come, Congress recently passed H.R. 3221, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. Among other things, this bill will allow roughly 400,000 borrowers to refinance otherwise unaffordable loans. This is an important start, but we urgently need additional economic stimulus to help working families who are struggling. This is not a time to bail out failed financial executives or shareholders. Leadership in the months ahead will be critical to the long-term resilience of the American economy. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to stabilize our economy and get us back on a path of growth and shared prosperity.

I look forward to keeping in touch during this process.

Sincerely, Barack Obama
United States Senator