A TARP Counterfactual

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Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the House majority leader, gave a speech at the Center for American Progress on Tuesday arguing that the GOP’s determination to simply obstruct whatever President Obama tries to do is damaging democracy and the institution of Congress.  Much of Hoyer’s speech was devoted to listing examples of “times when the minority party has tied its success not to Congress’s failure, but to the shared work of governing—when it has helped to create legislation that still marks our lives” and “the great accomplishments of loyal oppositions that controlled Congress but were willing to work with, instead of block, a president of the other party.” One of those “great accomplishments” really stuck out to me:

[E]ven though Speaker Gingrich began his climb to leadership on the strength of obstructionism, at the end of his career in the House he had strong words for Republicans in what he called the “perfectionist caucus”: “my fine friends who are perfectionists, each in their own world where they are petty dictators could write a perfect bill.… But that is not the way life works in a free society.” I’ve tried to live by that principle myself: under President Bush, I worked long and hard on intelligence reform with my friend Roy Blunt. And when the global economy faced collapse, it was Democrats who provided the votes for a painful financial rescue that I believe averted disaster.

This brings to mind a fascinating counterfactual. If a Democratic president had been running the country when Lehman Brothers collapsed, and the Republicans had held the reins of power in Congress, would something like TARP have been possible?

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