Monday, September 22, 2008

Hank Paulson to the US -- Grab Your Ankles

This is one of the worst bills to ever be proposed. Let's look at the primary problem:

If the Bush administration has its way, anyone harmed by the Treasury Department's handling of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout might have no remedy.

Draft legislation proposes sweeping powers for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to buy and sell mortgage-related securities however he sees fit. Aside from requiring periodic reports to Congress, the bill provides no oversight of the bailout's management -- and specifically bars any court or agency from reviewing it.

There is no mention of any accountability in this bill. Much like the problem that got us in this mess -- no oversight -- the exact same problem continues throughout the bailout.

Let's look at some other glaring problems:

Treasury will have authority to issue up to $700 billion of Treasury securities to finance the purchase of troubled assets. The purchases are intended to be residential and commercial mortgage-related assets, which may include mortgage-backed securities and whole loans. The Secretary will have the discretion, in consultation with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, to purchase other assets, as deemed necessary to effectively stabilize financial markets

Like -- what other kinds of assets? How about a car owned by the president of the IMF? That's an asset, isn't it? This is way too broad an authority to anybody.

Reporting. Within three months of the first asset purchases under the program, and semi-annually thereafter, Treasury will provide the appropriate Congressional committees with regular updates on the program.

So -- twice a year we get to hear how out tax dollars are spent. That will probably mean it will be accompanied by some report. But that's it. That's just not enough.

To qualify for the program, assets must have been originated or issued on or before September 17, 2008. Participating financial institutions must have significant operations in the U.S., unless the Secretary makes a determination, in consultation with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, that broader eligibility is necessary to effectively stabilize financial markets.

Basically, the Treasury Secretary has the ability to determine anybody is eligible if be sees fit. It's hard to see Bernanke disagreeing on anything Paulson says.

The bottom line is this bill is replete with statements of "The Treasury Secretary's discretion". That's just not going to work when somebody wants $700 billion.

I would encourage you to please read what others have written. Every major econ blog has a post (usually two or more) on this very important bill.