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How much longer will we be bailing out?

What’s the point of bailing out a leaky boat if you just fill it up with more water in the end?

That’s a question we pose this week in the wake of Congress’ passage the of the $700 billion bailout bill aimed at salvaging failing financial institutions and stabilizing the economy. As many Americans look beyond the headlines to the details, it’s quickly apparent that the devil is in those details.

Take, for instance, the tax break for the Oregon firm that makes children’s wooden arrows; or the Alaskan fishermen affected by the 1989 Valdez disaster who gain $223 million in tax breaks; or the $128 million in tax relief for manufacturers of car racing tracks (NASCAR, anyone?); or even the $10 million in tax breaks to small television and film producers.

What exactly do these have to do with stabilizing our struggling economy? Little, except providing the “pork” and special interest issues that sway votes in Congress.

And that’s more than just a shame … it’s a darn shame.

At a time when America needed it’s elected officials to step up and lead – in this case to provide a financial incentive package designed to stop the shrinking of credit markets and salvage a mortgage crisis created, in large part, by lack of oversight years ago – our Congress decided instead to play politics. First members of the House of Representatives defeated the bill, many saying they just didn’t want to risk the backlash among voters if they supported the measure. Five days later, with the addition of some major “pork” and only a few tweaks in specifics, House members passed the same bill. Talk about political grandstanding.

We need – we deserve – elected officials who are capable of putting aside their special interests and greed for the greater good. Congress failed this time. And our leadership failed years ago, when politicians put pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen credit standards and offer mortgages to millions of Americans who could not meet qualification standards, all in name of achieving the American dream.

Now, unless we can create a fundamental shift in paradigms, we’re never going to stop bailing out this boat.