Editor’s note: This was submitted before the bailout plan was finalized and voted on.

Now is the time to contact your congressman and senators to put the brakes on the forthcoming Big Bang Bailout before it’s too late. Rushing into Treasury Secretary Paulson’s Big Bang Bailout Bill can only make it worse. With only a three-page summary from Paulson, Congress has been asked to sign on to spend $1 trillion-plus of taxpayer money to solve a problem for which nobody knows the precise cause.

All too often, well-intentioned legislation turns sour because nobody thought it out enough to identify its impacts. Any Big Bang Bailout Bill must be carefully scrutinized with a Test of Unintended Consequences or else it could produce an even worse disaster or simply throw our money away to reward the private sector exploiters who produced this financial crisis.

It’s going to be a bill that runs hundreds of pages and the Bush Administration is putting pressure on Congress to vote on it in just a few days. We’ll have another instance of congressmen voting on a bill few have read or even understand.

And we’ll have piecemeal legislation to solve a problem without fully understanding its causes (beyond greed and a lack of adequate, focused regulation)-so the legislation may not actually accomplish much besides getting the folks who produced the crisis off the hook and keeping them wealthy.

This is government at its worst. If the candidates for president really want to put “country first,” senators Obama and McCain should rise above politics and issue a joint statement to slow down, analyze the cause and draft legislation that addresses the causes of this crisis so it will not happen again, so the folks who produced this crisis are not rewarded, and so the average guy and gal actually benefit from it. It’s unlikely that will happen since Senator McCain has already called for passage of this bill that he could not have seen since it hadn’t even been written.

This potential train wreck of legislation must be slowed down before it crashes. Congress must allow enough time (at least two weeks, if not delaying it until after the election) to:

1) Fully understand the actual causes of this financial crisis

2) Fully understand the extent of the financial crisis-how much money is at stake?

3) Craft a solution that addresses the causes, a solution that is not a band-aid

4) Craft a solution that does not reward those who created the crisis-because if you don’t, they’ll just do it all over again knowing that Congress will give them a blank check whenever they screw up

5) Craft a solution that protects the “end users,” i.e. the public, which is caught in this financial crisis thanks to the irresponsible practices of the private sector that seeks this Big Bang Bailout.

6) And carefully apply the Test of Unintended Consequences to the legislation that emerges so the legislation doesn’t merely throw good money after bad and solves nothing.

It’s simply insane-and government at its most incompetent and irresponsible-to try to craft legislation in a weekend to solve problems that have been years in the making. We deserve better.

Write to your Congressfolk today to urge restraint and rationality.

Daniel Lauber, AICP, is a River Forest-based city planning consultant and attorney. He has served as president of the American Planning Association, 1985-86, and as president of the American Institute of Certified Planners, 1992-94, 2003-05.

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