|September 29, 2008|
|Stipulations for My Share in the $700B Wall Street Bailout|
|By Jon Gingerich|
|As Congress prepares to adopt Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsonís proposed $700 billion taxpayer-backed bailout of the nationís financial giants, I canít help but feel a little ripped off.|
If you do the math, $700 billion figures out to about $2,300 for every man, woman and child currently living in the U.S. Thatís a lot of money. But hey, maybe itís time to lend a helping hand. I mean, our infrastructure is in tip-top shape, the job market is stellar, threats of terrorism are virtually nonexistent, our standing in the international community is golden and every U.S. citizen has healthcare. God bless America.
I donít like having my money misspent, and by God thereís a lot I could do with $2,300. Lord knows there are millions of Americans who could use it more than I could. The idea is so patently offensive: that people whose homes were recently repossessed as result of predatory lending practices must now fork over their tax dollars to the very institutions that preyed on them simply because the distribution of wealth is so uneven in this country our entire Jenga tower of an economy risks toppling over if we donít come to the rescue of the wealthiest few who mismanaged their Monopoly money just like they did before the dot.com bust. A note to all employees of the U.S. financial industry: please donít have the gall to bitch about welfare ever again.
So hereís the deal. If Iím going to hand over $2,300 of my hard-earned dollars to save Americaís financial institutions, I demand the five following stipulations:
1: As lenders to U.S. financial institutions, the taxpayerís $2,300 donation now effectively makes us shareholders in the companies that request federal assistance. As such, the federal government now controls ó or rather, us by proxy ó an equity stake in these companies. Future investment decisions made by these institutions should be put to vote either through popular polls or via an arm of Congress until those funds have been repaid in full. Welcome to democracy in the free market.
2. The executives of financial institutions that seek government assistance cannot personally profit from funds allotted in the taxpayerís bailout. Like a fat kid whoís been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, pay packages for executives whose firms seek assistance from taxpayers should be cut off until basic, healthy economic sustenance is attained. Until all debts have been repaid, no dessert for you. Executives of firms that apply for Federal relief must cancel all stock options and agree to strict supervision by the Federal government accompanying future investments. Donít like trimming the fat? Pay your employees less. It works for Wal-Mart.
3. Congress must do something to abate the current housing crisis in America. Purchasing bad securities from investment banks does absolutely nothing to remedy the U.S. housing crisis or aid the millions of homeowners who were duped into subprime loans Ė it just means the government now owns all the bad mortgages. Moreover, the institutions who relied on corrupt tactics are now the ones who profit the most from this bailout, as these are the first lenders lining up to unload their bad securities. Congress should take this opportunity to enact tougher Federal lending and real estate laws to stop predatory lending practices in the future and to give Americans more legal footing in the home-buying process. A temporary moratorium on foreclosures for Americans who fell into bankruptcy as a result of predatory lending would be a good idea. Oh, and hereís a humdinger of an idea: if the government is going to own all the bad mortgages, maybe it could allow homeowners to repay the loans at lower, refinanced rates.
4. Future dialogue between Wall Street financial institutions and mortgage lenders must be heavy regulated by the U.S. government. The entire reason why we got into this mess started when foreign investors began putting money into mortgage-backed securities packaged by investment banks as a result of a boisterous housing market. Lack of regulation in this arena created insatiable demand, which caused financial intuitions in New York to routinely pressure mortgage lenders to give loans to anyone with a pulse. No more banker bullying. New regulations should be enacted on who Wall Street can talk to and what they can say.
5. An agreed interest rate should be applied to any monies given to U.S. financial institutions. When repaid to the government, this interest should be reinvested in Federal services and in the real economy (healthcare, education and other community services). Given that nearly half of the mortgages given to minority borrowers at the height of the housing crisis were subprime loans, Congress can take a large portion of this interest and invest in public housing and renters-rights initiatives in heavily populated minority-housing areas in the U.S.
Any of these stipulations are slated to take effect immediately, when pigs take flight.
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