Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bush throws a 'Hail Mary'

Most Presidents, ten days before the end of their administration, would be busy packing, signing letters of reference for their staff, soliciting donors for their Presidential libraries, figuring out who they want to pardon,...

That's what most outgoing Presidents would be doing.

But then George W. Bush is one of a kind (thank God for that.)

In just his last ten days in office, he's looking to spend another third of a trillion dollars.

Specifically, he's asking Congress for the other half of the $700 billion TARP bailout fund. Recall that when the bill was passed, it was carefully divided into two halves-- half for Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to pass around, and half that would be appropriated after the new administration took office. Bush and Paulson have exhausted their half.

Congressional Democrats were notified Friday afternoon by the White House that they could get a request soon for the second half of the allocated bailout funds. Once Congress receives the request for the money, both chambers can try to block the release of the money if they do so within an expedited time frame....

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed unhappiness with the way Treasury used the first $350 billion to capitalize banks. Specifically, they object to how Treasury made investments with few strings attached and no process for tracking how the banks are using the money.

They also are unhappy that none of the $350 billion allocated to date has been used to prevent foreclosures.

No, instead of using them to help ordinary Americans, banks and other corporations that received Federal bailout funds with no strings attached used them for, among other things, a posh party thrown for AIG executives at a resort in California and the swallowing up of smaller but solvent banks by larger ones, a taxpayer-funded orgy of a short and nostalgic return to the era of 'mergers and acquisitions.' That's what banks used to do when they had money, and nobody bothered to make sure they wouldn't spend Federal funds to do the same thing again.

In fact, virtually the only part of the first half that was given with any real strings attached was the final $14 billion, given as a loan to the auto industry.

So now, Bush is claiming that he needs the other $350 billion. But he's not saying anything about who he plans to give it to, or why they need it. If there is another imminent financial crisis about to happen, then I want to know what my $1,000 share of that debt is being spent on. Not so some bank can buy some other bank, or so insurance executives can go to a spa and get me to pay for their pedicure. If the roof is about to cave in, and it can't wait for ten days, then I want to know why and how much it is going to cost. If absolutely necessary then release exactly what is needed and send it directly to the recipient-- with a clearly stated itemization of how it will be spent. But that's all. Don't hand Bush another $350 billion. The way he spends money, it will all be gone even faster than he will be.

Who is he looking to pay off, anyway?

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