Monday, December 15, 2008

Thank Hank

Nope, there's no caption: it's the latest in The New Yorker caption contest. I've entered a few times, never got any notice. Were I to enter this one, it'd probably be something like, "So, do you think Hank is stupid, or nuts, or does he just really like us bankers?" But I don't think they're into political humor.

With some reservations, I bought the idea of the Wall Street bailout when it first rolled out. I'd known little or nothing about Hank Paulson, but he seemed a serious person. Wealthy from Wall Street, but serious. His original three-page plan, which boiled down to "give me the money and then go away," seemed presumptuous; but I had no reason then to assume he was a ripoff artist. Now, I simply don't know. He's still a smart guy. So hopeless naivete doesn't explain it.

How can it be that no one knows what has happened to all of the bailout money? How can it be that of that which is known, much went to bonuses and to stockholder dividends? Congress, as I understood it, acted to add oversight to the original proposal. What happened? Clearly, they blew it somehow. But I'm still left to wonder: was the transfer of all that money the final act of naked deception by the White House? They've done much, over the last eight years, to suggest that they view the government merely as a cash cow for themselves and their pals. Is it really that? Or is it the final vestiges of their discredited belief in free markets? Could they simply not fathom that, given billions in unstringed money, banks would have a party at our expense? It's not as if contrary data in other areas has ever opened their eyes.

By their well-documented incompetence, or by their hardly-concealed ideological blindness, the Bush administration has once again pulled one over on us. They can't go away fast enough. The question is, have they taken us past the point of no return? Will the fixes required be enough; or will they, like desperation chemotherapy, finally kill the patient?

[P.S.: For an enlightening, depressing, scary, infuriating interview by Bill Moyers with someone who knows much more than I, watch this.]

[Update: for those who blame the whole mess on Congress, there's this.]



  1. Picture caption:

    "I hope somebody stops Tom Daschle. Socialized medicine is a communist idea that leads to a communist result."

  2. "I guess we all had the same idea for the Secret Santa gift exchange this year."

    In today's NYT, the new fashion is to use generic brown bags to hide upscale designer purchases. Out with Tiffany blue and Hermes orange, I think the story lede was. The sacrifices they do make - oh, the humanity!

  3. What, no post on the shock and awe two-shoe salute Bush received in Iraq?

  4. Hmmm. I don't see how you can blame the hated Bush administration when this was pretty much engineered by Nancy P:

    In fact, the Republicans voted against it the first time around and Pelosi was furious with them. How about spreading the blame around a little bit sid?

  5. This cartoonist has trumped the New Yorker IMO:

    --Sam Spade

  6. Ted: ask, and ye shall receive. Look above.

  7. "How can it be that no one knows what has happened to all of the bailout money?"

    Well ... They practised very, *very* hard with all that Iraq-money. Practice makes perfect - I guess it's true!

  8. Sam: good one!

    Anonymous 9:35: Yours is a bit of revisionism. Recall that it was Paulson and Bush who first proposed the bailout, with no strings whatsoever. I admit I was among those persuaded that something was necessary, and among those that agreed it had to be pinned down more, which is what happened, supposedly. I don't think Pelosi is responsible for the fact that the feds are now refusing to release information about who got what and how it's been used. And it's the Republicans (specifically Jim Bunning, so it seems) who've tried to block the appointment of an overseer. I blame the hoodwinker more than the hoodwinkee; but I don't disagree that there must have been a way to have implemented it with more strings. Except then probably the R's would have kiboshed it!

  9. This makes me angry, our government spending funds with total lack of oversight. I heard on the radio the original law from the bailout package lacked stipulations on who the receiving banks could lend money to based on credit worthiness. The exact problem that caused this. I have a feeling our identity as a financial superpower is getting ready to expire because of our idiot policy makers who continue to devalue the dollar with their every decision.

  10. "was the transfer of all that money the final act of naked deception by the White House?"


  11. I wish the Congress could just vote against this. if only they weren't all evil Republicans. If only Democrats had a majority in both houses so they could stop this!

    Where are the Democrats we need to have a majority???

  12. The point, dear reader, is not that there's a bailout. It's that it's been run deceptively and incompetently (whoda thunk it?) by the White House. The controls put in place by Congress --such as they are -- have been IGNORED. Get it?

  13. I agree with this educator, but IMO she did not
    add to the overall discussion. A simple 3 minute
    search of "did liberals cause the subprime
    crisis" will tell you that most of the subprime
    loans were made by institutions that were
    beyond the reach of CRA. Independent
    mortgage companies, not covered by
    CRA, made subprime loans at more than
    twice the rate of Banks and thrifts.

    Another piece of subprime Kudlow
    republican propaganda ready for foreclosure.


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