It’s the end of true free-market capitalism as we know it

Over the last two weeks, as Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman and Secretary of the Treasury respectively, paraded through Washington seeking to gain support for their proposed $700 billion financial bailout package, both Congress and the general public were apprehensive.

The package, created just days after the worst week in Wall Street history, was an unprecedented government-funded bailout of the distressed financial system and one that granted an obscene amount of power to “King Henry” – as dubbed by the media – who was given almost total oversight into economic regulation.

After weeks of consistent government intervention in the economy with the bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns and AIG, the move still shocked many in Washington who never imagined the nation could come to such a state, where the government would resort to asking taxpayers to bail out the financial sector and save the overstretched credit system.

The next step for the administration was persuading the nation that this was a necessary act by the Fed and that the crisis on Wall Street would affect Main Street. That, of course, implied what we all expected – a nationally televised speech from the president. Appearing grim and speaking with a dire tone, the president employed his usual unyielding rhetoric claiming that the package was a “necessary” move and that Congress needed to act quickly in its passage.

With record-low approval ratings and an American public weary of the failed policies of the last eight years, President Bush’s message lacked credibility even from those within his own party, as seen by the House’s rejection of the bill just days later. His effort had failed.

No longer did the same scare tactics that he used time after time, specifically in the case of the Iraq War and the passage of the Patriot Act, work. Both Democrats and Republicans in the House voted against the package with some labeling it as a “socialist” endeavor.

The public was in favor of the House’s move and outraged that their hard-earned tax dollars would be used to rescue banks and institutions unknown to many of them. Thus, many congressman facing reelection were unwilling to go against the feelings of so many of their fellow constituents.

The dejected administration scrambled to assemble a new bill with some “provisions” and presented it to Congress just days later. The bill, even more filled with lavish pork-barrel spending, was heralded by leading members of Congress and the media as “necessary for saving Main Street,” as if they had a clue as to what that statement actually entailed. The bill passed in both chambers and the American public was left with the check and the public remained outraged with no real solution evident in the near, uncertain future.

Well, such is the predicament we now find ourselves in. An unstable financial system and a divided Congress leaving many to ponder the question: What does this all mean to me?

As college students, it means that the importance of this upcoming election is undeniable. We are the voice of change. The media has underestimated the difference that the youth vote will be in this election because of the seemingly “unreliable” turnout of our demographic. Perhaps such may be true again but I have reason to believe that it won’t be the case.

With millions of young people registering to vote just over the past year and a renowned sense of uncertainty (such as an overwhelming debt and broken social security system) that awaits our generation, the youth are once again involved in the political scene.

Whatever may be the reason you vote on Nov. 4, I would just encourage you to do so realizing that the problems we face now are ones that will, undoubtedly, haunt our generation if we do not act now.

We can change our course. If we do not, who will?