The Oklahoman Editorial: The bailout: Plan needs transparency, accountability

The Oklahoman Editorial

The bailout: Plan needs transparency, accountability

WITH Washington poised to spend $700 billion, and probably more, bailing out the nation's financial sector, policymakers would be wise to first make sure the American people are on board with the plan.

The situation looks urgent enough that there should be a clean, focused strategy - free of add-ons that lawmakers typically append to must-pass legislation. More critical is that the real concerns and outrage of taxpayers are addressed.

Washington can start by considering the plan with more care than is humanly possible in less than a week - the White House's stated time frame. While we appreciate the need for serious action, the ramifications of spending $700 billion are too great to simply rush something into the marketplace.

That doesn't mean foolish, partisan delay fighting over related issues. It means carefully building a sound plan.

It might mean keeping Congress at work past Friday. Americans being told the country faces a crisis have every right to expect lawmakers and President Bush to work into early October, if necessary, to get the plan right - even if it means less political campaigning. We doubt it'll be missed.

Another thing Washington can do is build transparency and accountability into the plan. The credit crisis developed largely out of the public's eye; the rescue must be understandable and visible to those funding it.

Likewise, there must be meaningful oversight of the government's actions. With all due respect to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, whose efforts have been remarkable, you can't spend this much of the taxpayers' money without someone looking over your shoulder.

On Monday, Rasmussen Reports pegged public support for the bailout at 28 percent, with 37 percent opposed and another 35 percent undecided. Those numbers must change dramatically for the plan to go forward. That will happen only if Washington truly respects and represents those with the greatest stake in this deadly serious game: the taxpayers.