I’m pleased to report that last week, Congress took swift, bipartisan, and decisive action to protect taxpayers. After it came to light that insurance companies who had taken billions in bailout funds had paid or intended to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in “retention” bonuses to the very executives who got us into this financial mess, the House put together a plan to block them.
I joined the majority of my colleagues and 85 Republicans in supporting the measure, which would essentially reclaim the bonuses by taxing them back for any institution that took more than $5 billion in federal bailout money. I believe it is long past time to stop rewarding failure on Wall Street at Main Street’s expense, and I hope that this small victory is the start of a new bipartisan call to replace appeasement with accountability.
Of course, executive bonuses are only the tip of the iceberg and should not distract us from the heart of the financial crisis, namely getting our housing market in order and restoring stability to our lending institutions. But I sincerely hope that this aggressive step forward will make companies and our government think twice before rushing into more bailouts, and that more attention will be given to protecting those taxpayer dollars that we do invest into these companies.
Two other bipartisan victories in the House last week have to do with rewarding service.
First, the service and sacrifice of our brave veterans was rewarded by protecting their healthcare. When President Obama said he was considering making veterans use private health insurance to pay for the treatment of combat-related injuries, immediately a bipartisan group of 68 of my colleagues joined across the aisle to urge the president to abandon his proposal. Just a few days after sending our letter, the White House announced it was dropping consideration of the proposal and that our veterans’ healthcare would be protected. Those immediate, positive results are what our brave veterans deserve from Washington.
Another way we are rewarding Americans for service is through programs that provide training, educational benefits, and sometimes stipends in return for civilian service in high-needs areas. Last week, the House passed by a vote of 321-105 the GIVE Act, a major expansion of programs to give all Americans the opportunity to serve their communities and country. As someone who came from the nonprofit sector into public service, I am a huge proponent of these programs. I was also proud to author an amendment which passed 339-93 to create a Reserve Corps that would enlist alumni of national service programs who elect to be at-the-ready in times of national emergency or other disasters.
Especially in times of national crisis, all Americans have answered the call to serve. Right now, with the very tough job market, these full-time service programs can be a great option, whether you’re a senior in high school or a senior citizen. Programs can train you how to be an educator, work in disaster relief, build green homes, or run an enterprise – all while providing you with a chance to serve your community and gain valuable benefits. I encourage you to visit www.americorps.gov or www.volunteer.gov to explore all the programs available to you.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; call 202.225.4711; or visit www.perriello.house.gov.
– Tom Perriello represents the Fifth District in the United States Congress.