The air crackles with anticipation. Fingers are crossed. It gets hard to breathe. Hope, for so long locked in a closet, begins pounding on the door.
And throwing fortune to the wind, many are already talking about Barack Obama's first 100 days. Will he move directly to the Apollo investment agenda, provide money for retrofitting buildings, renewable energy and generate jobs in the drive to reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Will he put forth a comprehensive health care plan, or begin by covering all children? Will workers finally be given the right to organize once more? How will he handle mortgage relief, or help cities burdened by poverty? Whom will he appoint?
But even as our minds, against all discipline, look beyond this day to the victory and the change, we better start paying attention to another 100 days–Bush's last months in office.
Bush and Cheney represent a failed conservative era–and they know it. It is moving into its last 100 days. And now there seems to be a flurry of activity–a swarm of lobbyists cobbling together regulations to forestall Obama's new era of accountability; a flood of contracts to reward friends and lock in commitments; a Treasury-run Wall Street bailout that is trying to get as much money out the door before Bush's days in office come to an end. Consider:
Treasury Secretary Paulson reversed himself on using the $700 billion Congress appropriated for the bailout to buy bad paper from the banks. Instead he pumped out $350 billion to the banks, drawing a special circle around nine banks–including Goldman Sachs the firm he previously headed–as clearly too big to fail. The money apparently had no conditions, even though the entire purpose was to get the banks to start lending once more to one another and to companies and individuals. Now it appears that banks plan to hoard the cash, to use it to help pay for mergers with other healthy (not weak) banks, or to pay out dividends and bonuses. And Paulson, instead of publicly rebuking them, has let it be known that mergers would be a good thing. Instead of getting the banking system working for small businesses and people again, our money is being used to consolidate the strength of a few megabanks.
Recent reports indicate that there has been a rapid increase in military outlays over the past months. Is the Pentagon being called on to help bolster the economy–and perhaps McCain–in these final weeks? Or, more likely, is the Pentagon pumping out money to reward its friends and lock in spending before the new sheriff gets to town?
The Washington Post reports that the White House is "working to enact an array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January." About 90 new rules are in the works, and at least nine are considered "economically significant" because they would impose costs or promote societal benefits that exceed $100 million annually. Many will make changes that the new administration will find hard to reverse for years to come. More emissions from power plants, more exemptions from environmental impact statements, permission to operate natural gas lines at higher levels of pressure -the changes could be the last calamities visited upon us by the Bush administration. The political folks at the FDA have now intervened in a Supreme Court case, claiming for the first time ever that consumers no longer can sue drug companies for harm or labeling once the company has FDA approval.
The Congress–the old one, not the new one just elected–comes back into special session right after the election. They have to finish passing budget measures for the year that started on October 1 and should vote on a major economic recovery plan to get the economy moving. But Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. John Conyers would be well advised to convene special hearings to try to curb what Bush has cooked up for his last 100 days. It is bad enough that the new president will inherit two wars and a recession that is deepening every day. He shouldn't have to deal with a new host of crippling regulations or corporate handouts that Bush forces through in his last 100 days. Let's not allow the new dawn that is possible be dimmed by clouds left over from the old era that has failed.