vendredi 3 octobre 2008

Schoolhouse rock -- the bailout bill

Update: OK, so if the international financial markets are any indication of the success of the US Congress' bailout of the US financial king pins, maybe I wasn't so wrong to listen to the economists, good, bad and worse. My succinct opinion? Congress tried to save itself more than the international financial markets, but not for want of caring. That they did, but it's been too late for a $700 billion band-aid applied by Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and company for a long, long time. The horses have long been out of the barn, and the damage runs much deeper into the world's pockets, wallets and portfolios.

Here's a little video from the MSM's NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and for congress's poll numbers, click here are scroll down to the last video. Good for Biden, good for Obama, terrible for Palin, terrible for McCain, and Nancy Pelosi might need to think about career counseling for herself.

Want to know what's wrong with the United States?

Just watch this (if you feel ill before the end, please stop play):

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Chairman Financial Services Committee

attacked by another American pitbull, Fox's Bill O'Reilly
(I can't bring myself to say "news" after Fox)

I was watching it as my husband came through the door. He leaned over my shoulder, so riveted that he forgot to kiss me hello (and I even took the time for a shower today before rushing to the CHAOS room and the House debate on CNN).

"Who is that guy?" he asked. Lucky him; he's French and doesn't know Bill O'Reilly. I explained.

"C'est le plus grand connard de tous les temps, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, ou comme on aime bien le dire, Faux News. Tu vois bien qu'on sait parler trés bien en français aux States." [Does anyone needs a trans? Pdp (pas de problème): it's the biggest jerk ever, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, or as we like to say, Faux News. You see? We speak excellent French in the States.]

"He doesn't let that other guy --"

"Le député Barney Frank, la tête du comité des Services Financiers du congrès, celui qui est résponsable du projet de loi du bailout."

"Ah bon, il ne le laisse pas parler." I love France.

"Il est toujours comme ça. De plus, Frank est gai et tout le monde le sait depuis des années, mais O'connard vient de l'accuser de ne pas être assez un homme pour admettre son échec." [trans: He's always like that. What's more, Frank is gay and everyone has known it for years, and O'jerk just accused him of not being "man enough" to admit he failed.]

"Mais ça n'est pas néssesaire. C'est dégueulasse." Dégueulasse is slang for "disgusting". The rest, I think you can work out.


How a bill becomes a law

The bailout

So, yesterday I was against the bailout.

I determined to use my time with CHAOS to watch the House debate the bailout bill. I also watched Obama's speech in Abington, PA. He was on fire today. The debate last night did him a world of good (I'd love to see Palin have to debate him, ha!)

I was worried that they had not had the time to work out the things, chiefly that as was the case with the Bush proposition, the bill was basically giving the thief the keys to the safe deposit box.

If you read me yesterday, you know that I, like most people, tend to listen to the news after the vote and feel inadequate to judge whether harm or some good was done. So today, like some fellow sign watchers, including a Dutch guy who is more knowledgeable of US domestic and foreign politics and Capitol Hill than Sarah Palin -- no! wait, that is hardly paying the compliment he deserves. He really amazes me. He was the one who sent the link as he settled in to watch it himself. How could I not?

I wish the video was already up on YouTube. You'll have to rely on my descriptions and look for the video yourself later. You know me, I'll come back and post what I can find, and what I most want to find is Frank's comments after his bill passed the US House of Representatives, with half as many Republicans as Democrats supporting the bill.

I also apologize for not knowing who all the representatives were I watched speak.

So, here are the things I learned watching the House debate:

The first is the one that made me crow with delight. I just knew Jon back at X Capital Management would get his one day, and that day appears to be dawning. I can only hope his share values plummeted and left his off-shore accounts as empty as his party is of values and sense -- the bill now includes a provision to close a $25 billion loophole that permitted hedge-fund managers to shelter their income in places like the Caymans.

I am so very, very happy to hear that, Jon.

And, then, I learned that...

In September of 2008, 159,000 jobs were lost. Even if some were created, who cares? There was a huge net loss, the largest in 5 years. This brings us to a total of 760,000 jobs lost this year in comparison with a comparable period (whatever that means precisely) 8 years ago, when 8 million jobs were created.

This equals a net loss of 2.2 million jobs. I know, I should go look at that in other economic periods, whether the jobs created were sustainable, but y'know, it's still a lot of jobs lost without being able to talk about jobs created. They haven't been in more than 8 years. Downward employment cycle in this gardening, once-architect mother and wife's eyes. Unemployment is bad. Ask me about it, I've been through it as a single mother.

Another congressman told me that this bill reaches out to minorities and small businesses, thanks to Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL), who focused on this issue.

He told me that it is a plan to buy up bad loans and that taxpayers will be the first to profit if and when loan values rise again. He quoted uber-investor Warren Buffet, who said something like, "If they do it right, and I think they'll do it reasonably right, if we do that, we'll make a lot of money, we being the taxpayers of America." Being a skeptical sort of person, I wondered just how we would get the money we'll make on this gamble. He went on to ask for me.

"How?" He had my attention.

The financial community will be obligated to pay the taxpayers back. Good. An obligation. I like obligations when we are talking about my money going to someone for a risky business.

But, if that financial community doesn't get all better, then what? Will my money, and the money of all the rest of us it will take to get to $700 billion, be divided up between the sharks on Wall Street (I was specifically thinking of guys like my old friend Jon. I am reasonably certain that he is already ruined) to use to go off and sail around the Caymans, sipping Dom Perignon?

He had a reply to quell my concerns -- this bill will ensure restricted CEO compensation and eliminate golden parachutes; no huge salaries or free-rides payed for by the taxpayer. I am a friend to the rich, but not that good. This helps.

He also told me that home owners will receive renegotiated mortgages to prevent the potential flood of foreclosures. This is not only good for those homeowners who need the stability and peace of mind that comes from knowing they can remain in their homes, but for their communities, whose tax revenues have disappeared like wolves in Palin's Alaska.

The FDIC, he continued, was raised Monday to $250,000, which he admitted could be argued "on both sides of the question, but ought to stabilize local banks."

Like Silver State?

Then, he got to the addition of those "several tax cuts" -- sausage, with which he disagrees because "the senate chose to finance them with debt." I believe I am with him there, especially in light of Pelosi's promised mantra, "No deficit spending." He spoke of the "dangers of fiscal recklessness," saying "debt does indeed matter, a lesson the senate has chosen to ignore," adding that this situation requires compromise because "if we don't accept the things we do not like, we won't have the money for the things we do like."

With that said, he "[urged] all of us to pass and to vote for legislation," recognizing that not all of his colleagues in the House would feel that they could, saying "I respect their judgment. We have a difference of opinion."

On Monday, he told us, Americans were deeply divided, and their representative body, not surprisingly, was as well, but since Monday, "Americans have reflected on the consequences of inaction, and while not of universal thought [I think he meant opinion] we must pass this bill, we must rely on the people's house to act in a way that will protect their interests and their dreams."

He sounded sincere to my ears. I listened to others use their time, including
Representative John Baynor (R-OH), who told us that the bill "had been done in bipartisan way, members of both sides came together to build a product that they thought would help" the American and global markets find their footing on these dangerous high seas. "The consequences of not acting," he warned, "are overwhelming."

He spoke of doing this bill on behalf of Americans, and to do this bill "in the middle of an election is complicated enough." Representatives, Republicans most certainly, approached him, he said, asking how this will affect their re-election, and he told us that he looked at them and said, "You have to go home and defend it, and that's a lot easier to do if you just do what you think is right."

He's right.

The time for debate over, the remarks closed, it was for House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to speak.

Speaker Pelosi told us, with a smile of satisfaction -- and probably relief (gas?) to have arrived at this point -- , that the bill was "much improved, with an eye to the future." She, too, sought to reassure the American people that the legislation will "lead to reforms", and that it will "ferret out abuses," once President Obama occupies the White House.

No, she didn't say that last part about President Obama. She just thought it really, really loudly. You heard it, too, if you were listening today.

She told those of us listening that the urgency is clear, and she "calls for legislation to avoid "economic catastrophe," repeating "catastrophe", in case anyone didn't get it. She told us that governors from across the country, including her own (that would be Arnold Schwarzenegger, and how pleased indeed I am to be able to mention him in the pages of my blog, for surely he would never have come up, not ever, had he not become the (fairly and surprisingly decent) governor of California), Democratic and Republican to urge the House to take action, "We are addressing real pain felt by Mr. and Mrs. Jones of Main Street," she told us.

She, like many before her, told us about ourselves, the seniors watching their savings dwindle, their pensions evaporate, entrepreneurs turned away form credit, people who can't get a car loan, those selling cars who can't get one to purchase inventory, people wondering if the money they have worked to put in savings for college for their kids will still be there.

She told us about the jobs lost, too.

And, she said that the original bill Bush submitted was unacceptable. It asked to commit $700 billion "with few strings and no safeguards," and it was rejected in a bipartisan way and changes were demanded in a bipartisan way, too, such as:
  • protection for the taxpayer,
  • over-site and accountability,
  • make sure, as Treasury Secretary Paulsen talked about investment capital, that the bad paper bought will profit the American taxpayer. She mentioned Rep. Bachus' question why not just invest the capital directly in the companies -- here she made a mention of Tanner of Tennessee -- and if it doesn't pay for itself, if there is a shortfall, then the taxpayer will be paid back from fees imposed on the companies that benefit,
  • reformed CEO compensation and the elimination of the "golden parachute", "the party's over. If you drive your business into the ground, then you won't pick up your golden parachute and save yourself paid for by the taxpayer",
  • mortgage renegotiations, thanks to the efforts of Maxine Waters,
  • a benefit to middle income families in the form of a $1000 state and local property tax deduction for those who do not itemize,
  • the tax cut for clean and renewable energy to save jobs that "did not survive the senate, is now become part of the legislation -- it is paid for, it is paid for", and
  • thanks to the efforts of David Wellstone, son of Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, after 12 years the Wellstone Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 became law in this bill.
Where's the mention of wooden arrows and development credits for American Samoa? I Guess there are some things even the House Speaker is too embarrassed to mention.

Bundling of bills. Not my cup of tea. As Speaker Pelosi put it, the bailout bill "turned out to be the vehicle" (piggyback) for these bills that should have passed on their own but "couldn't make it though the senate, but now [do]."

"We were dealt a mighty bad hand," said Speaker Pelosi, "but this is that start to solve it," to protect the future of the American people.

"We have seen," she said, "things we never before thought we would see," and "we have broken new ground on how we deal with this crisis, but we will not leave it broken," she vowed.

There will be hearings held by Barney Frank and the members of the Financial Services Committee to determine the origins of the crisis, and "we must look ahead, protect America from unsavory lending practices... we must keep in mind our commitment to fiscal discipline, not increasing the deficit... will it work? We'll see what it does do, and if it doesn't, fees will be there to cover [the $700 billion]. We can't put out all this money, heap a mountain of debt on our children, unless there are protections. No new deficit spending must be our mantra... the economic security of our people.... it is important to vote, a difficult vote, but we must win it for the American people, the Mr. and Mrs. Jones of Main Street."

The bill passed, 263 - 171.

President Bush appeared on television, thanking Speaker Pelosi and both parties in the House, and pledged to sign the bill as soon as it arrives on his desk.

Tonight, I go to bed and think on it in my sleep.

Tomorrow, I do some more reading (link to H.R. 1424 eas at bottom), and I decide further whether I am right to be assuaged by the bill and all the sausage.

Yesterday, I said this was no reason to call out the NYFD. Today, a black woman representative, from California argued in impassioned and stern terms that she agreed with Senator Barack Obama; we must act. The house is on fire. You don't say, well, they were irresponsible, you help them put out the fire, and then you determine fault. This fire, she said, must be put out to calm the fears of Americans and the global financial markets, show them that the United States of America will tend to its problems, and then we'll hold the hearings and people accountable.


From a friend... " So if you want to read about the "extension of economic development credits for American Samoa," the "exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children," the "provisions related to film and television productions," etc., etc., you'll have to go to the GPO website GPO - Congressional Bills Main Page, search for "H. R. 1424" and download the eas version."


"But today I am still just a bill."

Free TV : Ustream
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