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No bailout for billionaires

Photos by Joe Newman

In the words of Public Citizen Communications Director Angela Bradbery, pictured above, “It felt good to yell at the White House.” I wonder if President Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama and the other big wigs meeting inside the White House heard us standing outside in the drizzle. And if they heard us, did they care?

It seems the White House and Congressional leaders have reached a general agreement on the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. The Washington Post is reporting that the deal seems to include some of the provisions that Public Citizen, Consumer Watchdog and other public interest groups have pushed. This is from the WaPo article:

The agreement also includes a strong oversight board for the bailout program, a ban on golden parachutes and other excessive compensation for executives at participating firms and protections for taxpayers, including a provision that would require participating companies to give taxpayers equity in their firms. In addition, the package would provide relief for community banks that own now worthless stock in mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were taken over by the government.

There’s still a sense that this deal — the biggest blank check handed out in U.S. history — is coming together too quickly with too little public input. The amazing thing is how this bailout has angered and galvanized people from all sides of the political spectrum. So, while Congressional leaders talk about reaching some sort of bipartisan solution, there is a more significant bipartisan rumbling from Main Street against this billionaire’s relief act. This is from a New York Times article on constituent calls and emails to their members of Congress:

“I am hoping Congress can find the backbone to stand on their feet and not their knees before BIG BUSINESS,” one correspondent wrote to Representative Jim McDermott of Washington.

“I’d rather leave a better world to my children — NOT A BANKRUPT NATION. Whew! Pardon my shouting,” wrote another.

Mr. McDermott is a liberal Democrat, but his e-mail messages look a lot like the ones that Representative Candice S. Miller, a conservative Republican from Michigan, is receiving. “NO BAILOUT, I am a registered republican,” one constituent wrote. “I will vote and campaign hard against you if we have to subsidize the very people that have sold out MY COUNTRY.”

Meanwhile Arianna Huffington is calling for Barack Obama to take a stand and not follow the pack. She writes on the Huffington Post:

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: bipartisanship in service of bad legislation is not a good thing.

And, make no mistake, this bailout bill — at least if the details that are trickling out are accurate — is going to be very bad legislation indeed. And by that I mean very bad for the American people, whose interests are by no means identical to Wall Street’s.

If Barack Obama goes along with it in the name of post-partisan comity, he’s making a big mistake. Washington is not lacking political leaders willing to go along with the flow. It’s lacking political leaders willing to lead.

You can see more photos from the rally on our flickr stream.