It is the defining moment in Obama’s presidency and he hasn’t even won the election. The US Congress is poised to give Hank Paulson, a Bush appointee, 700 billion dollars and dictatorial powers free from judicial review or any constraints, to bail out the banking sector. Ordinary citizens, having gone bankrupt, lose their houses. Banks, having gone bankrupt, will be bailed out, and the same people who caused them to go bankrupt will be left in control of them, so they can run them into the ground yet again.

If Obama does not tell Reid and Pelosi to stop this bill, he will be reduced not just to clean-up duty for the Bush administration, which was always going to part of his job, but he will do that cleanup on Bush’s and Paulson’s terms. If Obama would prefer that ordinary Americans should also get some help, too bad. If Obama would prefer that bank CEOs who ran their companies into the ground should lose their jobs, too bad. If Obama thinks that reforming the financial system is necessary as a condition of bailing it out, too bad.

But even though Obama gets to decide none of those things, he will get to pay for the bailout and he will have to do so with his tax cut plans and his spending plans, because Bush and Paulson are spending that money, right now. Bush will have his third term, Obama will just get to call himself President.

In 1932 Hoover offered FDR a deal. FDR could take power early to deal with the crisis, if only he agreed to take care of it as Hoover wished. FDR said "no way". This is Obama’s FDR moment. He can let Bush and Paulson define what his presidency will be about, how the crisis will be dealt with, or he can stand up and say "no way."

It’s time to end the old ways of doing things, the Bush ways, and to bring in real change.

It’s Obama’s time.

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh

Ian Welsh was the Managing Editor of FireDogLake and the Agonist. His work has also appeared at Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout, as well as the now defunct Blogging of the President (BOPNews). In Canada his work has appeared in and BlogsCanada. He is also a social media strategy consultant and currently lives in Toronto.

His homeblog is at