Americans might have more faith in the $700 billion economic bailout, rescue or whatever it should be called, if it were clear that Congress thought it was a good enough bill to pass on its own merits without the usual pork barrel measures tacked on to attract additional votes.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
The legislation passed on Friday was portrayed as a necessary evil. No one liked the bill, but enough were convinced that it was necessary to avoid a major economic meltdown that would be far more painful for Americans in the long run.
The bill authorizes the Treasury to buy, hold and sell later - hopefully at a higher price - mortgages and other assets that are clogging financial balance sheets and limiting the availability of credit. To try to assuage taxpayers who are understandably angry about having to help finance this deal, lawmakers included some measures that will help keep families in their homes when possible, prevent so-called "golden parachute" payoffs to departing executives, and other protections.
But after the bailout bill failed once in the U.S. House, lawmakers went a little further afield to try to gain votes for the measure. By the time it passed the House on Friday, the bill included such unrelated provisions as tuition and child care tax credits, $18 billion in incentives to develop clean alternative energy and a requirement that health insurance plans that cover mental health care use the same co-payments and other standards for that care as are applied to physical care. And, of course, don't forget the reduction in Puerto Rico rum excise taxes and wool import duties and tax credits for training mine rescue teams, employment near Indian reservations and maintaining railroad tracks, among others.
Not only do these measures have little to do with the bailout plan, they actually diminish the revenue the federal government will have available to pay for the plan.
To average Americans, such pork makes no sense, but it clearly is the way things get done in Congress. Apparently, a bailout bill that some lawmaker(s) couldn't support on its own merits suddenly looks a lot better when it includes a tax credit for economic development in American Samoa.
Every American should fervently hope that the measure passed Friday will have an immediate calming effect on the stock market and a long-term positive impact on the economy. If it does, all the pork that made passage of the bill palatable to Congress may be worth it, but it still leaves a bad taste in our mouths.