Bailout Bill Just Got Worse, But Congress May Approve It Without Reading It, Based on Misleading ClaimsSeptember 29, 2008 10:53 AM
The bailout bill has been larded up with additional welfare that will increase its cost, but the House will likely approve it today without even reading the bill, which had already expanded to more than 100 pages last night. Worse, some conservative lawmakers may vote for it based on the misleading claim that it contains no welfare for delinquent and defaulting borrowers who are now facing the consequences of years of living beyond their means.
The Associated Press, which didn't bother to read the bill before reporting on it, claimed today that "not in the bill" is "help for troubled homeowners." (See Martin Crutsinger, Associated Press, “Rescue Bill Includes More Oversight, Insurance Option," Washington Examiner, Sept. 29, 2008, at page 14). In reality, the bill includes provisions that allow some irresponsible borrowers to get not only their interest but also their principal reduced, and that expand a government program that helps defaulting borrowers cut their mortgage payments. But the Washington Examiner, which wisely opposed larding up the bailout bill, has today reluctantly come out in favor of the bailout as a necessary evil, after reporting on page 1 that the "$700B bill contains no" welfare for defaulting borrowers. (The Examiner earlier chronicled how government handouts and regulations helped spawn the mortgage crisis).
September 29, 2008 10:42 AM
Andy McCarthy on National Review's Corner points out,
The scheme "[a]llows the government to purchase troubled assets from pension plans, local governments, and small banks that serve low- and middle-income families."So in addition to rewarding irresponsible lenders and borrowers, we taxpayers are now to be "protected" by buying the toxic debt of states, cities and municipalities. It's one thing to throw a life-line to the credit industry; local governments, by contrast, have the ability to cut spending drastically or raise taxes if their inhabitants want government services.
Did Andy also notice Section 112 in Sunday's draft (emphasis mine) ?: "To the extent that such foreign financial authorities or banks hold troubled assets as a result of extending finances to financial institutions that have failed or defaulted on such financing, such assets qualify for purchase under Section 101."
Just wait until the voters catch these particulars. They'll take their revenge on whoever signs this saying, "Throw the bums out!"
September 29, 2008 9:54 AM
Here are excerpts from my story in today's American Spectator Online on how the $700 billion bailout could actually make things worse -- in terms of resulting inflation and even a further contraction in credit due to the government purchases' interaction with the mark-to-market accounting rules. To read the piece in its entirety, click here.
""The government has to do something to keep markets from falling and the economy from getting worse." How many times have you heard that mantra this past week from President Bush, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Democrat leaders, the news media, and even some ostensibly conservative periodicals?
But what if the bailout, as originally proposed and in its latest incarnation, would spend $700 billion of taxpayers' money and actually make the economy worse? Believe it or not, there is good evidence this may happen. The inflationary prospects of the bailout price tag may lead to spikes in oil and crop prices that could hit ordinary Americans in their cars and on their kitchen tables. And government purchases of financial assets could ironically further constrain credit through causing write-downs on even the balance sheets of financial firms not participating in the bailout by worsening the effects of mark-to-market accounting rules.
All last week, the stock market's plunging downward was pointed to as a sign that Washington must step up to the plate -- as quickly as possible. Yet ironically last Friday -- the day after the bailout talks broke down at the wild White House meeting with the presidential candidates -- the Dow Jones industrial average actually went up by 120 points! This doesn't mean that the market is opposed to the bailout, but it does show that the market volatility is probably as much due to the potential effects of a bailout as it is to a lack of one."
September 29, 2008 6:48 AM
Credit default swaps remain a large part of this financial crisis, with some analysts crediting the failures in the $58 trillion market as more important than mortgage-related ones. According to IBD, "Counterparty risk was at the heart of the problems that sent Bear Stearns, Lehman and AIG spinning helplessly down the drain. Investors not only worry about their counterparties, but their counterparties counterparties."
In several weeks, though, CME, formed from the merger of the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, will launch exchange-based trading for credit default swaps. A clearinghouse is also being planned by Clearing Corp., which is owned by 17 financial players including Goldmans and Citigroup and UBS. According to IBD,
Clearinghouses like those planned by CME Group and the Clearing Corp. address counterparty risks by centralizing the counterparty functions. Instead of a credit protection buyer negotiating individually with the seller, a clearinghouse would act as the counterparty to both buyer and seller. It would guarantee bond payment to the protection buyer. And it would collect payments for the insurance. The clearinghouse also would hold collateral for the contracts and set minimum standards...
Since credit default swaps are now negotiated over-the-counter, standards on such basics as collateral vary widely. "Everyone is different in their requirements," said Backshall.
And leverage reached outrageous levels. Many counterparties were leveraged 20-30 times, again heightening the risk of default.
September 26, 2008 11:50 AM
Here are a few treasures I found this morning:
Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online points out that some of the 20% of the profits (a floor) recovered from the bailout would go to voter-fraud-ACORN!!! (See Hans's post below and here and here and here on ACORN.) (A commenter notes that if most purchases lose money but one makes money, the taxpayers eat the losses while the slush fund gets the profits.)
John Paulson, not to be confused with the former Goldman CEO, suggests in today's WSJ that the government buy preferred stocks of failing companies, as they did with Chrysler, AIG, and Fannie and Freddie. “Invest the $700 billion of taxpayer money in senior preferred stock of the troubled financial institutions that pose systemic risks. Let's call this the "Preferred plan." In fact, it is the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac model -- which the Treasury Department has already endorsed and used in practice. It is also the approach Warren Buffett used for his investment in Goldman Sachs.” Clean and simple, but doesn't benefit the other Paulson's friends.
September 26, 2008 10:34 AM
The $700 billion bailout of the financial system just got worse, thanks to a rewrite by Senate banking committee chairman Chris Dodd. If the government loses money on all the "bad debt" it's buying, the taxpayers will pick up 100% of the tab. But if markets rebound, or the government makes money on any of its individual purchases, taxpayers won't keep the money. Instead, at least 20 percent of it will go into a housing slush fund that will benefit the left-wing group ACORN, which pressured lenders to make the risky sub-prime mortgage loans that spawned the mortgage crisis. (Even though housing subsidies and mandates caused the mortgage bubble in the first place).
ACORN practices widespread voter fraud to increase liberal turnout in elections, and is guilty of financial fraud and embezzlement, but it has avoided any punishment due to its links to liberal lawmakers like Senator Chris Dodd, Congressman Barney Frank, and Senator Charles Schumer. ACORN is engaged in massive fraud in battleground states like Florida. (Election rules are being shredded for partisan purposes in other battleground states like Virginia and Ohio).
Other welfare has been added to the bailout to appease liberal lawmakers -- the very lawmakers who blocked any reform of the government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which encouraged the risky lending that spawned the financial crisis (Fannie Mae engaged in extensive accounting fraud to benefit its crooked former executives. Yet they remain influential liberal powerbrokers).
September 25, 2008 3:40 PM
The cost of the $700 billion bailout bill, criticized as unconstitutional by legal scholars, is rising, as Congressional leaders demand new handouts for deadbeats (and left-wing groups) in exchange for passing it (ignoring cheaper solutions to the financial crisis). Now, in addition to welfare and affirmative action, there will be foreclosure "relief" at taxpayer expense. The government is going to use its role "as the biggest mortgage holder in town" to give special breaks to borrowers who are behind on their mortgage payments, rather than to stem the financial crisis.
"Democratic demands that Congress be given greater authority over the bailout and that the government be required to help homeowners renegotiate their mortgages so they have lower monthly payments already have been accepted in principle. Under the bailout bill, which will let the government buy huge amounts of toxic mortgage-related assets, 'we're now the biggest mortgage holder in town, and we can do serious foreclosure avoidance,' [liberal Congressman Barney] Frank said.'" (Moreover, irresponsible borrowers will be able to seek not only a reduction in their monthly mortgage payment, but also a cut in the amount they owe on their mortgage, getting part of it written off at taxpayer expense).
But the whole point of a mortgage is that lenders can foreclose and recover the value of the home if the borrower doesn't pay. Government limits on foreclosure will further undermine confidence in financial markets. And many of the borrowers who are behind on their mortgages now lived it up several years ago, taking out mortgages with low-introductory payments during the housing bubble (allowing them to finance lavish consumption, like buying fancy cars), in exchange for higher payments later on that they should have known they wouldn't be able to afford. They're going to be bailed out by taxpayers, including people with fixed-rate mortgages who paid more in mortgage payments than they did during the housing bubble, but have lower mortgage payments now (because their payments haven't risen). There's nothing fair about that. Most of the people who are defaulting now aren't victims -- in fact, some of them lied about their income to get mortgages on large houses that were bigger than they could afford in the long run (while people who bought homes using fixed-rate mortgages and a large downpayment ended up living in small houses that they could actually afford).
September 25, 2008 11:40 AM
Constitutional experts have concluded that that the $700 billion bailout bill is an unconstitutional delegation of power, in violation of constitutional separation-of-powers safeguards. I earlier reached the same conclusion in pronouncing the bill "dangerous, inflationary, unnecessary, and unconstitutional." One of the experts calling its constitutionality into question is Civil Rights Commissioner and Heritage Foundation scholar Todd Gaziano, a separation-of-powers expert who, as a Justice Department lawyer in the Clinton and Bush administrations, "developed the argument adopted by the Supreme Court in Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S. 163 (1993) to uphold the constitutionality of judges detailed to hear cases in the military court system." Gaziano and Andrew Grossman argue that the bill is likely unconstitutional because it lacks meaningful standards and bars judicial review.
September 25, 2008 2:40 AM
Those of us (and CEI is among the "us"!) who oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion bailout of Wall Street have been challenged to come up with an alternative to stop the credit contagion. The Republican Study Comittee, a caucus of pro-market members of the GOP Congress, has just answered this challenge. They have presented such an alternative that would be much more effective at stopping the contagion than the Paulson bailout, and it would not cost taxpayers a dime.
The RSC plan is chock-full of measures to remove barriers to economic growth and market-distorting subsidies. It would suspend capital gains taxes to put trillions of dollars of capital in the economy, and set Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which as CEI has documented were at the root of this crisis, on the road to full privatization.
Most importantly for the crisis at hand, the RSC plan would make regulatory agencies suspend the mark-to-market accounting rules that a range of experts agree are spreading the contagion by forcing solvent banks' to "write down" their assets, based on the last fire sale of a highly leveraged bank. As Gary Gorton, finance professor at Yale and member of the National Bureau of Economic Research has written, "With no liquidity and no market prices, the accounting practice of 'marking-to-market' became highly problematic and resulted in massive write-downs based on fire-sale prices and estimates."
September 24, 2008 3:47 PM
The proposed $700 billion bailout is "dangerous, inflationary, unnecessary, and unconstitutional," funds left-wing special-interest groups, ignores less costly ways of propping up financial markets, and fails to consider regulatory reforms that might reduce the need for a bailout. It's not clear why we should trust federal officials with $700 billion to buy up bad loans, without any clear standards or judicial oversight, given that governmental incompetence and government regulations (such as affordable housing mandates) helped spawn the mortgage crisis. Many economists oppose the proposed bailout.