The bailout of America's failed financial institutions is morphing into what could turn out to be the greatest heist of the 21st Century. Tennessee senator Bob Corker is one of a growing number of politicians on both sides of the political divide to step up and express his doubts and suspicions about a hastily assembled plan that involves disbursing huge amounts of money with virtually no oversight.
According to a draft of the bailout proposal, all decisions by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, "are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."
In other words, the very execs who tanked their companies are gonna get to share hundreds of billions between them with way less hassle than a penniless mom has to go through to score a $500 welfare check. PAR-TAY!!
Earlier today, President Bush -- who has been an invisible man throughout the lending crisis -- issued a statement cautioning Congress not to cap CEO compensation. The hugely unpopular chief executive, who spent a big chunk of his first term traveling around America trying to convince citizens that Social Security was in imminent danger and could only be saved by fusing it with Wall Street, said "We need these firms to participate in the program and sell us this debt."
Then, wading into the deep waters where the language of business and extortion become indistinguishable, the president said that "punitive measures would provide a disincentive for firms to participate, and that would make the program much less likely to succeed."
Yes, refusing to further reward the corporate CEOs who awarded themselves billions of dollars worth of bonuses while riding their respective companies down the crapper would provide a disincentive for firms that are about to collapse under the weight of their own greed to participate in a federal free money program!
And then the entire financial system will collapse, making all the plebes so sorry that they didn't inflate all those golden parachutes.
"CEO compensation and corporate governance in public companies are very important issues -- especially when receiving taxpayer support," Bush said. "But we need to be focused on fixing this problem in our markets right now."
The Bush administration has had a history of turning things that have to be done "right now" into vast profit opportunities for their cronies. Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, got a blank check when America had to invade Iraq "right now," before mushroom clouds started sprouting in the heartland. After Hurricane Katrina, $2.4 billion in cost-plus contracts had to be awarded "right now," guaranteeing tidy profits for various Bush-friendly companies. In 2003, the Social Security system had to be tied to the infallible market "right now," or it was doomed to fail.
Thank goodness the Bushies didn't get their way on that last one. Who could have predicted that the market would come begging for money from the government instead?
Well, other than anybody who was watching as lending practices spiraled out of control while Bush and his surrogates patriotically tied together the concepts owning a home and investing in private Social Security accounts under the banner of "The ownership society."
Daily Kos blogger Devilstower put it best: "When taxpayers are left holding the bag for $1 trillion this time around, it's hard to believe it's any sort of accident. This is enemy action. This is a bullet deliberately fired into the economy by men willing to exercise their ideology regardless of the cost to taxpayers. Men who have every expectation that they can plunder the system again and again, while the public picks up the tab."
Even Corker, the Republican from Chattanooga, has grown suspicious. In a press release circulated Monday afternoon, Corker was quoted as saying, "We need a better system than three guys -- [Henry] Paulson, [Ben] Bernanke, and New York Fed President Tim Geitner -- sitting around on Sunday afternoons deciding whether a company is going to be nationalized or whether its going to fail."
Corker didn't stop there. "I pressed Secretary Paulson on numbers of ways to add oversight and ensure our taxpayers are protected," he said. "But those suggestions were resisted. Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke want no prescriptive elements."
Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, went one step further when he told NPR that, "a lack of oversight and accountability" was how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place.
-- Chris Davis