Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Note to Congress: Don't release the leftover TARP funds ...

According to press reports, President Bush, on behalf of President-elect Obama, is asking the Congress to release the leftover TARP monies in an effort to try and shore up the economy in a week before he leaves office: ["U.S. Seeks Rest of Bailout Cash"].
The subhead of this WSJ article pretty much says it all - and gives good reason why the funds should not be released: "Call to Deploy Remaining $350 Billion Comes as Citi, Rivals Face Steep Losses."
Well, with all due respect, who cares? Who cares if Citi goes under? They have been ripping the human race off for years with their 19 percent interest credit cards and lobbying to pass a draconian bankruptcy law and other horrific things perpetrated on the American people. So what if they are losing money and their stock careens? The TARP money isn't about propping up Citi's stock or any other stock. It was supposed to be about fixing the mortgage mess, stabilizing the economy, and getting banks to lend money again.
Well guess what? It didn't work out that way, did it? Where is the money to be lent out to folks to start businesses, create jobs, and buy homes now that homes are affordable again? Where did all the money go? It disappeared into the rathole and we're all sinking into it. Billions - yes, billions - went to salaries and bonuses to the same crooks, thieves, and liars who created this mess. 'Well, we had to keep these people happy so they wouldn't leave our companies in a lurch,' they said. Say what? Some of these people should be in jail for what they did, not given billions in salaries and bonuses. The Associated Press made some phone calls a few weeks ago attempting to find out who got the money and how it was lent out and guess what? No one would answer the questions. Where are you Congress? Where is your oversight of our monetary policy? I know there was a holiday and all but give me a break.
We all said this would happen and it did. And now, they want more? No. N-O-No!

Please Congress: Put on the brakes. Don't release the remaining TARP funds. And don't release them after Bush leaves and Obama is inaugurated. Do the right thing: Investigate and audit where the previous $350 billion went and then re-implement the plan to truly stabilize the economy.

Or, instead of releasing the TARP funds, how about we try something completely different?

I've been meaning to write about this since October and totally spaced it until now. Back on Oct. 3, 2008, Thomas Peterffy, the CEO of Interactive Brokers Group, placed a full page ad in the WSJ stating, quite correctly, that the bailout proposal would not directly help homeowners or assist in fixing the foreclosure crisis. Instead, he proposed an alternative which, in hindsight, seemed like a good idea: Direct mortgage assistance to all homeowners.
Peterffy wrote:
"If the Treasury were to pay the first $250 of every American's primary residential mortgage each month for five years, the value of all mortgage-backed securities would rise immediately. The housing market would stabilize and the banking system with it."
Peterffy noted that there were about 40 million outstanding mortgages making the cost of the package about $10 billion per month. He called the expense "reasonable" when considering the fact that the taxpayers were already on the hook for hundreds of billions of mortgages via Freddie, Fannie, AIG, and BearStearns.
In bullet points, he noted that the plan would be easy to implement, progressive, and easy to oversee, since lobbying and pressure groups would be powerless to wreck the plan. In closing, the ad noted that Interactive "does not hold any mortgage-backed securities or credit default swaps," essentially stating that the company would probably not benefit directly from the plan.
This seemed like a pretty good idea at the time and, with the economy in a tailspin and people losing everything, maybe it is time to rethink this idea.
If there is $350 billion in TARP money left, implementing Peterffy's plan would assist in stabilizing things for at least three years [$10 billion x 12: $120 billion x 3 = $360 billion]. Sure, some people who get the subsidy are not having financial problems. But you know what? I bet they pay taxes or have paid taxes and I bet they could use the $3,000 to stabilize their lives. You could also base it on people applying for it like a tax credit. Those people who need it could apply for it and those people who don't, won't.

Look, nothing is perfect in this world. While this might not work, it sure is a heck of a lot better than giving more money to Citi or anyone else who wrecked this economy. This idea would directly benefit the people who need the most help - homeowners who are losing everything. It would also assist those people who are in a position to get a mortgage now.

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