Thursday, October 2, 2008

Your Bailout Bill, Presented by the Other White Meat

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a version of the bailout bill that, instead of taking the bull by the horns, seized the pig by the ears. Amid what may be the greatest financial crisis of their lifetimes, Senators rolled up their sleeves ... and began stuffing the legislation with pork. Most egregious example seen so far: a tax exemption for certain kinds of wooden arrows designed for children.

Now, if the House can browbeat a few members into switching their “nay” votes, the $700 billion rescue of Wall Street will be complete. That something needed to be done quickly was becoming frighteningly apparent. The New York Times did a nice job of laying out, in plain language, how the financial system could come undone.

It's a shame though that legislators crafted such a poor bill. They could've driven a hard bargain. They could've said to Wall Street firms, “Hey, we’ll buy your bad assets, even pump in capital, but we want to own a chunk of your company in return, no exceptions.” That would've scared away hundreds of opportunists from seeking bailout funds. Instead look for chaos as this plan unfolds and firms both domestic and foreign make a grab for that big, fat $700 billion mound of money.