Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Congress Spends Billions Without A Coherent Plan

It has been pretty obvious to the Stock Market every time he appears. Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson usually holds a press conference in the middle of the trading day. Soon after he starts speaking, the Dow Jones Industrial Average will begin a steep descent.

The market knows that the Treasury Secretary is a man with 700 billion dollars of taxpayer money that does not have a real economic plan. The Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was originally rushed through Congress as money that was going to save the economy from disaster by buying distressed mortgages from consumers.

However, the TARP plan now seems to have evolved into a huge bailout of selected firms in the financial services industry. Of course, TARP was passed with extensive Congressional oversight but half of the taxpayer's money has already been spent and much of the oversight provisions have not been enacted.

The only ongoing review of the TARP program is headed by Elizabeth Warren. She is the the chairwomen of a new Congressional panel that was set up to monitor the bailout. Recently, (New York Times) Ms. Warren was quoted as saying that "the government still does not seem to have a coherent strategy for easing the financial crisis, despite the billions it has already spent in that effort. The government instead seemed to be lurching from one tactic to the next without clarifying how each step fits into an overall plan."

Meanwhile, the Treasury has just bailed out Citigroup in the last week. It was a financial services company that was "too big to fail". The Citi was not sleeping well since it had billions of dollars of bad loans on its balance sheet and its stock price had reached the status of a penny stock.

The TARP was used to bailout Citi and now billions of those toxic loans will be the responsibility of the United States taxpayer to guarantee. In addition, Citi was given billions of taxpayer dollars to shore up the liquidity on its balance sheet.

Someone may ask what did Citi use all that new taxpayer cash for? Well, Inner City Press is reporting that Citi is sponsoring a Congressional junket to the Caribbean and spending over seven billion Euros to buy the highway business of Spanish construction firm, Sacyr Vallehermoso. Seems like the taxpayer's money could have been spent better, doesn't it?

This week the automakers are back in town requesting a bailout from the United States Congress. A few weeks ago the Big 3 flew in on private jets to attempt to get a piece of the TARP pie and were rejected. The reason given by Congress was that they didn't have a coherent business plan.

So, the automakers did not present a coherent business plan to obtain money from a 700 billion dollar government program that does not have a coherent plan. In the real world this would be considered absurd, but its just business as usual inside the beltway in Washington D.C.

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