Trickle Down on the TARP

Trickle Down On The TARP

by digby

If intellectual consistency were a requirement in American political culture I would think this observation by Steve Benen could be a problem for the Republicans, but since it isn't it's just an amusing side note for political junkies. But it is amusing:

Early last year, as this clip helps make clear, the GOP saw the bailout of the auto industry as a policy that wouldn't, and quite literally couldn't, work. It was deemed wholly unacceptable for practical reasons (it would waste money and the industry would fail anyway) and for ideological reasons (it was "Marxism" in practice). Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) proclaimed Obama's actions "truly breathtaking" and said the government ownership roles at Chrysler and GM "should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise."

Now that this same policy has been deemed an unqualified success, most Republicans are biting their tongue, embarrassed about having been wrong once again. But some GOP officials are nevertheless still talking -- and taking partial credit for the policy they perceived as the end of American capitalism.

"The ideas [Republicans] laid out there were followed through," Corker told the Washington Post. "I take some pleasure out of helping make that contribution."

Keep in mind that the right is not capable of keeping all this straight so when they say they hated the TARP or the bailouts, they have conflated all the government measures to ease the recession without knowing what was what. At the time of the auto-bailouts, it was considered the most heinous socialist takeover since Hitlerstalin and the TARP was fine. Now they think the TARP was part of the "stimulus:"

We had stimulus one, stimulus two, and then the health care bill just threw it on it’s… that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The whole TARP thing. And we’ve spent like 25% and it was this grandiose save the day or whatever. And then people started to say, what? Where is the money, where is it going? Million dollar TARP money spent for some study on frogs, stupid stuff. SO people started to realize that we got conned, and yet we are losing jobs.

The Dems can point to the auto industry as proof of their policy working, but since the opposition to the bailouts is based on erroneous information, it won't make any difference.

As Howie points out in his post today, there is a way to make this work for Dems if they can find the brass to actually do it. He quotes from the recent Playboy article by an anonymous GOP operative working with the Tea Party:

...The mail you’ll see from me this fall won’t have much to say about gays or the unborn. We have new foils, such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Leveraging rage about a bailout for mega-millionaires and an $800 billion "stimulus" that has barely moved unemployment below double figures is a cinch compared with explaining why Bobby and Joey’s marriage is bad for America. Designing a thank-you note from an imaginary Wall Street executive to working-class taxpayers is so much more rewarding than most other messaging campaigns. With new variable-print technology, the postcard can be personalized and won’t look as though it was printed overnight at Kinko’s.

Dear [insert name],
I received my Troubled Asset Relief Program check from you and other taxpayers and wanted to personally thank you for your money. I will now be able to keep the third car and vacation home by [insert name of nearby vacation area].
I particularly want to thank [insert name of congressman] for ensuring billionaires like me do not have to worry about petty things like mortgage payments and retirement. [insert name of congressman] has been instrumental in making sure billionaires like me are protected.

Warm regards,
[name of Wall Street billionaire]

P.S. [insert name of our candidate] opposes runaway government spending. He will vote to protect taxpayers, not billionaires like me.

Now truthfully, I haven't seen much teabagger angst about millionaires making out like bandits, so I don't know how that particular play will work. Lately, they've all been talking about how bad it is that Obama's attacking capitalism, so I suspect their leaders beck and Limbaugh are turning them in the right direction. But Democrats should certainly be able to make something out of this in individual races:

...keep in mind, of course that most Republican senators, 34 of them to be precise (including several who are up for reelection in November like Richard Burr in North Carolina, Chuck Grassley in Iowa, John McCain in Arizona, John Thune in South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, Tom Coburn in Oklahoma, and Johnny Isakson in Georgia) voted for Bush's no-strings-attached Wall Street bailout (TARP). And, don't forget that over in the House, where the TARP bailout was originally defeated 205-228 and passed a week later because Tea Party heroes like Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Joe "You Lie" Wilson, Mary Fallin, Gary Miller, Dan Lungren, John Campbell and, most of all, Randian Paul Ryan were able to "persuade" 26 corrupt Republicans-- like Charlie Dent-- to switch their votes and get onboard the Wall Street gravy train. Obviously that doesn't matter to the people, like our author, who are pulling the teabaggers' strings.

TARP was a policy designed to bail out one particular company, Goldman Sachs. And it was done by a former head of Goldman Sachs, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Democrats and Republicans alike signed on for the thing in the midst of a crisis and a heated presidential campaign without doing their duty to ensure that it made sense or that there were adequate strings attached. But the right has successfully conflated this giveaway with the stimulus and the auto bailouts so that their followers now believe TARP was an Obama initiative rather than a GOP plan pushed through by a Republican White house and whipped in the House by "Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, Joe "You Lie" Wilson, Mary Fallin, Gary Miller, Dan Lungren, John Campbell and, most of all, Randian Paul Ryan." There is no point in trying to sort it out at this point.

So, in the coming election, here's an example of how you can make this work for Democrats in these individual races:

Yes, many Democrats will find it distasteful to be so hypocritical as to call out Republicans for a vote many Democrats took as well. But since "bail-outs" mean different things to different people, largely due to the constant stream of misinformation from rightwing media, there's no margin in adhering to a reality that doesn't exist. Democrats should go hard after the Republicans who voted for the TARP, in whatever way they can. It's a weapon for both sides and there's no reason why the Dems should lay theirs down when the Republicans are hammering them for hated bailouts they themselves supported --- and if the article quoted above is any example, taking credit for the popular bailouts that have succeeded.

This is going to be such a horrible election ...