Big checks with few balances

The second-half of the bailout is headed the same way as the first.

Looking around Washington, itâÄôs not hard to find critics of TARP, aka the âÄúbailout,âÄù and itâÄôs equally easy to see why: The first-half of the cash was handed out with the same judiciousness demonstrated by grocery store clerks offering free samples. In addition to prudence, the bill also skimped on the spirit of democracy, as it included a bizarre rule that required the approval of only one chamber of Congress. Consequently, all real debate on the matter was ended when the Senate quietly approved the second-half of the TARP cash on Thursday the 15th. Citizens should take comfort, however, as Congress registered its dissatisfaction with the situation in a symbolic vote against releasing the funds last Thursday. Even though the release of TARP funds shows a willingness to continue with a program whose oversight panel recently said it âÄú[did] not know what banks are doing with the taxpayer money they have receivedâÄù and nurses a âÄúconcern that Treasury does not have a coherent overall strategy.âÄù Samuel Johnson once wrote, âÄúPatriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.âÄù Let it be said then, that symbolism is the last refuge of the incompetent, the powerless and the indifferent. It didnâÄôt bother congressmen to pass a bill that didnâÄôt require a plurality to approve, didnâÄôt keep them fighting for more oversight. Instead our legislators are given to symbolism, something that cannot save jobs, halt foreclosures or loosen up credit. They could only be troubled to save face, taking a stand on principle long after principle was in need of an ally. Ultimately, this means that any major reforms will have to come from the executive branch, something that has been assured by the director of the White House National Economic Council Larry Summers. But at this point, it may make more sense for Americans to come to grips with reality: Your government just let this one go.