Daily Archives: June 8, 2010

Profiles in Courage: Congressman Gresham Barrett Will Lose Today, But the Nation Can Thank Him by Gregory Hilton

State Rep. Nikki Haley (R-SC) has a huge lead in today’s gubernatorial primary, and she may win without a run-off. Congressman Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. André Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster are all scrambling for second place and the right to face Haley in a second round of balloting.
Most polls have Congressman Barrett in second place, but he is trailing Haley by as much as 20%. Fellow SC GOP Congressman Bob Inglis is also fighting for his political life and will almost certainly be forced into a run-off. The Greenville News endorsed Inglis and said he is “in political trouble for his vote in the fall of 2008 supporting the rescue of the country’s banking system.”
That is also true of Barrett. At every campaign appearance this year Barrett has had to defend his October 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Barrett and Inglis have been consistently booed in front of Tea Party crowds.
The first time TARP came up for a vote, Barrett did not support it. Then he saw the stock market immediately collapse by an unprecedented 1000 points and was told the entire American banking system was in danger of shutting down, and the result would be another great depression.
Barrett changed his mind and supported TARP on the second vote. The stock market eventually collapsed from 14,000 to 7,000 by the time President Obama took office.
Unlike Barrett, Congressman Inglis had other controverisal votes. He did not support Bush’s troop surge in Iraq and he voted for cap and trade.
Many primary voters are confusing TARP with the huge deficit created by Obama’s stimulus, the omnibus budget resolution and health care reform. Now that 18 months have passed, the TARP program can be reviewed.
The Bush Administration’s outlay of $350 billion in TARP funds will certainly break even, and it may result in a profit. All of the major financial institutions which received funds from the Bush administration have been able to meet the requirements established by the Treasury Department.
Over 90% of these funds have now been repaid with five percent interest, and the government earned $19 billion. All six of the biggest U.S. credit-card issuers have also returned their bailout money, and these initial TARP funds were repaid about a year after their distribution.
Citigroup was one of the hardest hit banks and received $45 billion in bailout money, more than any other financial institution. The Treasury paid $3.25 a share for its stake in the bank during the 2008 credit crisis. The good news for the taxpayers is that the shares increased steadily in value, and the government will receive a hefty profit of $9 billion.
This is a far different outlook than what was predicted during the final months of the 2008 campaign. At that time many politicians were predicting TARP would lose the entire $350 billion in its first installment.
Without TARP, many people with pension funds and annuities could have lost everything. TARP unfroze the credit markets in November and December of 2008, restored confidence in the banking sector and stopped any further runs on the dollar.
The critics of TARP said it was better to let the American banking system fail even if the nation would have had to endure a depression. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) says supporting TARP “was the correct and courageous thing to do,” and the legislation was also endorsed by the conservative magazine National Review. South Carolina GOP activist Stacy Slaybaugh Arena was at the Greenville TEA Party when Congressman Barrett was booed by over 4,000 people. She recalls:

Gresham was booed, heckled and mocked. I remember feeling bad for him. I remember thinking how brave it was for him to attend and to try and speak in the midst of all the criticism. He knew the TEA Party took issue with him before the event, but he still showed up.
Like a man, he took his lumps. I was embarrassed by those in the crowd that kept hollering over and over again for the Congressman to “GO HOME” while he tried to explain TARP and to reason with them. I have total respect for anyone who will stand up and support their viewpoint.

On TARP, Congressmen Barrett and Inglis did the right thing. It will end their political careers today, but the nation can be grateful. In endorsing Rep. Barrett, former Vice President Dick Cheney said:

I’m certain Gresham knew his vote in support of TARP wouldn’t be popular, but he did something far too novel in American politics today: He put the interests of his country ahead of his own. That’s why voters should not believe the false attacks from his opponents. When it was time to make decisions and show leadership, Gresham stepped up while they all stayed silent and ducked for cover. That may make for good politics today, but it certainly isn’t leadership.

June 21 Update
The tracking numbers are not good for Congressman Barrett and Nikki Haley will be the next Governor of South Carolina. She will do a fine job, but I will always consider Gresham Barrett a hero. He put our nation first when the economy collapsed in September of 2008, and his 8 years on Capitol Hill resulted in new nuclear power plants for the first time in 34 years. I hope his leadership will be recognized some day.
He says, “My record over the last several months has been distorted. I am not a liberal. I am not a moderate. Unfortunately, a lot of people have disagreed with my TARP vote and can’t get over it. There’s nothing I can do about that. It is what it is. I had to make a decision based on the information I had at the time. I did and I voted for it.” Gresham Barrett definitely made the right decision for the American economy, and the wrong decision for his political career.