Friday, October 3, 2008

The Wrong Bailout

Wary of Public Outcry, Revised $800B Wall St. Bailout Stuffed with Earmarks to Sway Election-Year Incumbents

ROBERT JOHNSON: I think this bill, five weeks before an election, is illustrating for the American people, when there are two currencies of power—votes and money—that even at this time, when the power of votes is at its cyclical high, meaning just before the election, they are almost laughing at the American people, in the—by the nature and structure of this bill. This is a very sad result.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Robert Johnson, you mentioned Henry Paulson. The New York Times has an article today, a fascinating look at how this crisis unraveled, and they claim that back in 2004, it was Paulson himself, who, as head of Goldman Sachs at that time, had meetings with all the other major investment banks and the Securities and Exchange Commission and convinced the SEC to allow them to reduce the amount of money that they kept in reserves to back up any debt that they had, in essence, that he pushed the SEC to reduce regulation and allow them to take the risks that ended them up where they are today.

ROBERT JOHNSON: I read that story, as well, and while I can’t comment in the sense of having been there, it doesn’t surprise me. Investment bankers were trying to relieve constraints, diminish capital and give themselves the freedom to take more leverage, and that is a very significant part of why we’re in this mess today.

I do also want to underscore that I believe it was Secretary Paulson who made the call to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt, that led to the very, very violent restructuring of AIG with taxpayers’ money, which led to the crisis that led to this bailout bill. I believe, when people take the zoom lens out and look at the history of this bill, they will look at Henry Paulson as being the person who made the critical error that has sent us not only into a national, but a worldwide, credit freeze right now. He’s got a lot of work to do to earn his reputation back with the taxpayers’ $700 billion in the next chapter, and I am nowhere near as comfortable as Warren Buffett is about having him be the person to do that.


What I would like to see in this bill, I would like to have seen the money injected as capital infusion by buying preferred stock into the banks, so that the taxpayer would retain some rights, existing stockholders would be deluded. Existing stockholders, after all, are the owners of the companies that made this mess. Then, in the recovery, the Treasury could make back as much as, some estimate, $300 billion on that stock ownership, instead of having those existing stockholders make that money.

Secondly, and perhaps a place where we should have started, was the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation acknowledging the overhang of these—and unaffordability of all these mortgages and developing a restructuring, which, by the way, would raise the value of the securities, these mortgage-backed securities, that are toxic assets sitting in all the banks.

I do believe we need a bailout. As I said the other day when I was talking with Bruce Marks, I do not think this is a synthetic or fake crisis. We do need to inject what you might call life back into the organs of the economy. There was a story this morning. The Federal Reserve reports that bank lending to small businesses is being cut off very rapidly. And this does not portend well for the economic health of every region of the United States.

But homeowner relief, some significant regulatory reform, equity capital injections into the banks, which, by the way, because of the use of capital and the leverage of capital, you get ten to twelve times the impact on the credit flow in the economy as when you pay—when you overpay for toxic assets as the TARP facility would.

I think it was a very misconceived bill. Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, John Makin on the American Enterprise Institute, Alex Pollock, the American Enterprise Institute, Lucian Bebchuk at Harvard Law School and Olin Foundation—these are conservatives and liberals all standing around saying, “Why are you doing the wrong thing, Secretary Paulson?” And Congress went along.


Yes. It went up by roughly $150 billion for those kinds of special pork-related projects. Now, what you’re seeing is the Congress and the Senate are daring the American people to get mad and throw them out. As David Sirota said in his first book, Hostile Takeover, this isn’t about choosing between Rs and Ds; this is about a bipartisan money machine working against the population. They’re daring you. They’re daring you to turn out in five weeks and, in essence, support challengers against incumbents, because the incumbents are the ones responsible for doing this bill.



Democracy inaction or the beginning of some kind...?

My advice: vote every motherfucker that voted for this travesty - this great social and financial injustice - out on his ass!


There were and are dozens of ways to do this better and far more wisely.

And let's be very clear about one other thing. This really doesn't fix anything. It's just a money-grab. Who gives a shit if some investment firms go belly up? Who cares if foreign investors cry like bitches? This is very specifically about how to spend money for which we taxpayers work very hard. We were all just robbed - every person in the U.S. now owes a part of this handout worth a few grand and rising. Because that's the real problem: they didn't fix the underlying problems, those will still need to be fixed and escalate the price of this bailout.

I don't like to be alarmist, but this could be the final looting that is even possible. When you fall back from your current position, is there another to which you can fall back to the next time? Or is this it - the final belt-tightening before the end?