The House of Representatives should pass the bailout bill when it reconvenes Thursday, putting the economy above politics and partisan ideology. Its failure to approve a financial rescue package earlier this week cannot stand.
Members of Congress heard a great deal of voter outrage over the proposed $700 billion bailout. They faced criticism either way, and they have no reason to trust the dissembler who occupies the White House and no iron-clad guarantee this plan, without more work on the credit market, will end the financial crisis. But they should have passed it anyway.
The threat of criticism is irrelevant; anyone who can't make hard decisions doesn't belong in Congress. While President Bush may justifiably have lost the trust of most Americans, including those in Congress, nobody has denied the nature of this crisis or claimed he is exaggerating the potential consequences of doing nothing.
And as to whether the $700 billion bailout will work, we won't know until Congress tries. Because the alarm was sounded so late, it will not be possible to know if any plan will work, restoring liquidity to the lending markets and confidence to everyone. Congress can do no more than make its best effort, but it must do so now to have any hope of slowing the slide and stabilizing the markets.
As a reminder to Congress -- and especially to Rep. Randy Kuhl, R-Hammondsport, the only Western New Yorker to vote against the plan on Monday -- here is just some of what is at stake on Main Street as well as Wall Street:
*Retirements: Pension money flows from investments, whether it is through a private company's plan or to a public employee whose pension plan is managed by the New York state comptroller. And when the state plan doesn't draw enough income from investments, taxpayer money is levied from local governments and property taxes might go up.
Jobs: As the economy weakens and companies' ability to borrow money becomes more difficult, employers will have a harder time producing new jobs, or even holding on to current ones.
*State finances: With 20 percent of state revenues produced by Wall Street, the state budget is starting to convulse. Gov. David A. Paterson already has pushed the Legislature to cut $1 billion out of the current year's budget and next year's. It may not be enough, even for this year, and a multibillion-dollar gap still awaits the new year.
*Property taxes: As the state contracts, school districts and local governments will be pressured to raise property taxes in the country's highest-taxed state. We can't afford it.
This is a crisis. It requires steady hands, not the hot heads that were on display Monday. The genius of our political system -- indeed, its lifeblood -- is the ability of serious people to compromise. Compromise is needed now. Congress needs to show that it is up to the job.