Even as Treasury Secretary Geithner reforms the bailout program in ways that are obvious improvements over the Bush Administration’s approach, Congress still has a role to play with regard to the use of the tax money it has approved for this program. It has been more than four months since the program was originally approved, and there is a wealth of information that banks have not used the bailout money in the ways the program intended. There is a tremendous public outcry about how individuals and families continue to suffer; yet Congress has not responded. Congress should play its necessary oversight role and mandate, in statute, the obvious changes to the bailout program that need to be made.

In addition to the obvious need for better oversight and control of how tax dollars are being spent by recipients of the bailout money, Congress and the Treasury Department need a fuller understanding of the origins of this crisis. While the fallout from the financial collapse pales in comparison to the attacks of September 11 in terms of its human cost, it is certainly on the same order in terms of the financial ruin it has caused. Congress should give attention to investigating the causes of the financial meltdown as it has to the failure to prevent the attacks of September 11 or the government’s inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina.

Congress should pass legislation that sets forth its plan for use of the bailout money that includes transparency and accountability for the recipients of bailout money like those set forth in S. 195, the Taxpayer Protection Act, which would require a detailed monthly report to Congress about how emergency economic assistance is being used by recipients and would the government the right to audit any information that may be relevant to the assistance, including compliance with the financial terms and conditions.

The Taxpayer Protection Act would also create a Financial Market Investigation and Reform Commission, modeled on the 9/11 Commission, that would investigate the causes of the collapse of the financial system and credit crisis and report to the President and Congress its recommendations for the prevention of a similar financial debacle in the future.