Economics of Contempt had this to say about House Republican Adam Putnam’s call for more oversight:
Sure, because all Paulson and Bernanke have had to do in the past few weeks is rescue Fannie and Freddie twice (including a nationalization the second time around), coordinate a frantic search for a buyer for Lehman, oversee Lehman’s bankruptcy, help save Merrill Lynch by strong-arming BofA into buying Merrill at the last minute, put together a bailout package for the largest insurance company in America (AIG), stop a potentially devastating run on money market accounts, and negotiate the largest government bailout in the U.S. since the Great Depression.
When, exactly, does Putnam think Paulson and Bernanke had all these opportunities to come chat with Congressmen?
On some level, I sympathize with Bernanke and Paulson. They were swamped, and briefing uninformed Congressional representatives must seem terribly tedious in the midst of a crisis. But my God – shouldn’t we make time for democratic oversight during an emergency? Isn’t that when accountability is most necessary? Or do we cede de facto authority to the Treasury Department whenever an economic meltdown looms?
Maybe House Republicans (and Democrats) are little more than petulant children, but there’s something to be said for making our economic response a bit more transparent and accountable. If nothing else, improving the process would help bring a lot of us on board who accept the necessity of some type of bailout, but otherwise feel like we were completely railroaded by the Administration.
Bernanke and Paulson would surely reply that the economic crisis is simply too complicated for effective oversight. We don’t have time for meetings, hearings, and testimony on Capitol Hill. But that raises a different set of questions. Has the complexity of our financial system rendered legislative accountability irrelevant? Is ceding de facto authority to the Treasury Department our only option during a crisis of this magnitude? What does that say about the need for democratic oversight in general?
UPDATE: Via Patrick Deneen, Representative Marcy Kaptur stands tall. I have to say that this segment perfectly encapsulates my own feelings on the need for greater legislative accountability: