Had all responsible actors followed the principles of Catholic Social Teaching
Folks, among the myriads that have been written about the recent vote in Congress that failed to approve the $700 billion bailout of the nation's financial system, I believe that this article by Howard Fineman of Newsweek, entitled, Ain’t Democracy Grand? explained it best:
- A new generation of Republicans, coming of age since the advent of Ronald Reagan, refused to accept this vast expansion of federal power in the markets. The new GOP is in many ways a populist one, and not amenable to the wishes of Wall Street, and not eager to give more power to Washington.
- President George W. Bush has zero credibility, even—if not especially—with his own party. He used it up in selling the war on terror. He tried to sell this measure, and the more he worked on it, the more damage he did to its prospects of passage.
- There was a mismatch between the purpose of the plan, which is to get credit flowing again, and the language and numbers of the proposal: a $700 billion "bailout" of Wall Street. Voters never were convinced that they would get any money back, and they didn't like the idea of helping a herd of rich people. As a result, the measure—to the extent anyone understood it—was wildly unpopular with the most vocal of voters.
- Democrats had their own objections—a lack of tough measures against the big boys—and in any case were not about to be the only party to vote in favor of an unpopular measure.
- The measure drew only weak support from the presidential candidates, who have their own criteria. Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama was an eager participant in the sales job.
- The rush-job nature of the entire process did not help. Call it the Iraq effect. It seemed to Democrats and Republicans alike that a colossal measure was being crammed down their throats.
- Good old-fashioned partisanship. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an accusatory speech at the last minute that did not help; Republican leaders such as Newt Gingrich poured his own gasoline on the fire, by lashing out against the Bush administration's plan as biased "entirely in favor of the big banks and Wall Street."
I want to add that no one has satisfactorily explained to me yet where the $700 billion price tag came from, nor why I, stuck in a long-term, fixed-interest mortgage, having never missed a payment thank God, and a tax-payer, have to pay over $12,000 to protect the bad choices that buyers, lenders, and Congress have made for the last 10 years. I think it is unfair and bunch of hooey. If the measure was to be bipartisan, I can't understand why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ended the debate by blaming the Republican President and Congress, when President Clinton shares in the responsibility for this debacle when he forced financial institutions to lend subprime loans so that people who otherwise would not have qualified for a loan got one. So much for "bipartisanship".
I am also weary of the no-strings-attached nature of this bill, of the powers it grants the Secretary of the Treasury, and can't help but to think that the golden retirements and other bonuses owed fat-cat executives would then be underwritten by us, the middle class taxpayers.
And please, someone tell McCain and Obama to stop promising "tax relief" for the middle class. There's not going to be any tax relief for anyone at our level of spending. It's all more lies. I am fed up with the lack of common sense and moral judgment demonstrated by all actors in this debacle.
But, what does the Church has to say about this, if anything. In fact, we have a lot to say about it, principled guidance that, if it had been followed, we would not find ourselves where we are today.
Relevant guidelines from the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church
338. Businesses should be characterized by their capacity to serve the common good of society through the production of useful goods and services. In seeking to produce goods and services according to plans aimed at efficiency and at satisfying the interests of the different parties involved, businesses create wealth for all of society, not just for the owners but also for the other subjects involved in their activity. Besides this typically economic function, businesses also perform a social function, creating opportunities for meeting, cooperating and the enhancement of the abilities of the people involved. In a business undertaking, therefore, the economic dimension is the condition for attaining not only economic goals, but also social and moral goals, which are all pursued together.
A business' objective must be met in economic terms and according to economic criteria, but the authentic values that bring about the concrete development of the person and society must not be neglected. In this personalistic and community vision, “a business cannot be considered only as a ‘society of capital goods'; it is also a ‘society of persons' in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company's activities or take part in such activities through their labour”.
339. All those involved in a business venture must be mindful that the community in which they work represents a good for everyone and not a structure that permits the satisfaction of someone's merely personal interests. This awareness alone makes it possible to build an economy that is truly at the service of mankind and to create programmes of real cooperation among the different partners in labour...
349. The Church's social doctrine, while recognizing the market as an irreplaceable instrument for regulating the inner workings of the economic system, points out the need for it to be firmly rooted in its ethical objectives, which ensure and at the same time suitably circumscribe the space within which it can operate autonomously. The idea that the market alone can be entrusted with the task of supplying every category of goods cannot be shared, because such an idea is based on a reductionist vision of the person and society. Faced with the concrete “risk of an ‘idolatry' of the market”, the Church's social doctrine underlines its limits, which are easily seen in its proven inability to satisfy important human needs, which require goods that “by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities”, goods that cannot be bought and sold according to the rule of the “exchange of equivalents” and the logic of contracts, which are typical of the market.
353. It is necessary for the market and the State to act in concert, one with the other, and to complement each other mutually. In fact, the free market can have a beneficial influence on the general public only when the State is organized in such a manner that it defines and gives direction to economic development, promoting the observation of fair and transparent rules,
and making direct interventions — only for the length of time strictly necessary  — when the market is not able to obtain the desired efficiency and when it is a question of putting the principle of redistribution into effect. There exist certain sectors in which the market, making use of the mechanisms at its disposal, is not able to guarantee an equitable distribution of the goods and services that are essential for the human growth of citizens. In such cases the complementarities of State and market are needed more than ever.
354. The State can encourage citizens and businesses to promote the common good by enacting an economic policy that fosters the participation of all citizens in the activities of production. Respect of the principle of subsidiarity must prompt public authorities to seek conditions that encourage the development of individual capacities of initiative, autonomy and personal responsibility in citizens, avoiding any interference which would unduly condition business forces.
With a view to the common good, it is necessary to pursue always and with untiring determination the goal of a proper equilibrium between private freedom and public action, understood both as direct intervention in economic matters and as activity supportive of economic development. In any case, public intervention must be carried out with equity, rationality and effectiveness, and without replacing the action of individuals, which would be contrary to their right to the free exercise of economic initiative. In such cases, the State becomes detrimental to society: a direct intervention that is too extensive ends up depriving citizens of responsibility and creates excessive growth in public agencies guided more by bureaucratic logic than by the goal of satisfying the needs of the person.
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church