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Time for action, not politics, on economic crisis
Daily Herald Editorial Board
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Published: 9/30/2008 12:07 AM

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It would be easy to condemn the proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout if its only beneficiaries were the greedy tycoons and misguided fantasy-dwellers who built unrealistic expectations into the foundation of the American - and therefore the world - economy.

But those individuals are not the only ones who need the government's help in a time of crisis.

All Americans do. Monday's stunning 777-point drop in the stock market - as well as similar declines in Nasdaq and other markets around the world - was surely an unmistakable emphasis of that point.

The object now before Congress is for opponents - including area Republicans Peter Roskam, Judy Biggert and Don Manzullo - to provide an explanation both of why their vote was not a debilitating failure of leadership built on simple fear for their election lives and of what, specifically, they propose to do now.

This is not a time for critics to scowl over proposals brought before them, with one finger testing the political winds while the other hand remains poised to turn thumbs up or down. This is a time for participation and leadership.

Critics of the doomed bill call for "free-market incentives" to solve the present crisis, and we would be hard-pressed to argue against that point. But where are these "free-market incentives" and why weren't they included in the bipartisan compromise worked out among a set of lawmakers so diverse that even customary political enemies House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President George Bush found themselves promoting it?

To be sure, the question of leadership, or lack of it, runs through all the veinlike cracks of this economic debacle. It starts with the regulatory failures that led us to this point in the first place, but goes further into the political consensus-building and vote counting that brought a doomed issue before the House.

Some Republican opponents, according to Associated Press reports, blamed their negative votes on Speaker Pelosi's blatant and unfortunate politicking in presenting the rescue plan for a vote. If true, this development, as with so much emanating from Washington during this crisis, demonstrates the narrow-mindedness and shortsightedness of everyone on the playing field - Pelosi for her built-in inability to avoid partisanship on the threshold of a critical moment in history, the opponents for their willingness, as Rep. Barney Franks suggested, to let the entire country suffer for their hurt feelings.

As leaders now look to fashion a rescue approach that can protect what is left of the nest eggs of tens of millions of American families, no observations could be more clear than two points for politicians. They must act with the political courage that extends beyond the whims of the ballot box. They must set aside the drive to make partisan political points off whatever occurs.

And they must put up or shut up.

This is not a time for speeches. It is a time for action. The country needs it. And voters should demand it.