Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SET UP THE GRANDSTANDS ON CAPITOL HILL

We've hearing a lot about "Stress Tests." Well, Timmy faces a congressionally-appointed panel today, and I fear that beyond the usual grandstanding, the questioning won't be too stressful. Yup, Geithner will testify before the Congressional Oversight Panel today, following the release of Inspector General Neil Barofsky's 250-page quarterly report to Congress in which he actually concludes that Geithner's idiotic private-public partnership favors private investors and creates "potential unfairness to the taxpayer."

The "Congressional Oversight Panel." Mandated under the TARP! Tough stuff, huh? Let's see, who are the members appointed by legislative luminaries Pelosi, Boehner, McConnell, and Reid:

Richard Neiman (Pelosi's Appointee) -- The Superintendant of Banks for the State of New York. A life-long . . . banker! Including a stint at . . . Citigroup.

Jeb Hensarling (Boehner's Appointee) -- Republican Congressman from Texas. Yee-haw. He'll step on those bankers . . . except that he served under Phil Gramm, architect (along with Rick Robert Rubin and Larry Summers among others) of the repeal of Glass-Steagal and other moves designed to allow the Insiders to take ownership of the country. He's also a member of both the House Budget and Financial Services Committees. The latter headed by Barney Frank, who's proven to be the banks biggest enabler through this debacle. In fairness, Hensarling led the effort to oppose the initial Paulson bailout.

Elizabeth Warren (Reid's Appointee) -- She's the chirperson of the committee, and I actually like plenty of what she's done through the years.

John Sununu (McConnell's Appointee) -- Former GOP Senator. Currently on the board of a Bank of New York subsidiary. BofNY received TARP funds. How is this not a conflict of interest? Oh that's right, it's Congress. No one cares if there are conflicts of interest.

Damon Silvers (Chosen by Pelosi & Reid after "consulation" with McConnell & Boehner) -- General Counsel for the AFL-CIO and member of the advisory boards of various accounting standards groups. You know, the ones who dig such a bang-up job over the last few years.

And there you have it, the crackerjack team in charge of making sure the TARP doesn't loot every cent of the U.S. Treasury. And I think the PPIP comes into play somewhere under their watch as well. Gee, we're in good hands, huh?

I mean, don't get me wrong, with this report in their hands, and public outrage stewing, there'll be lot's of speechifying and many superficially tough questions, but I strongly doubt anyone will dare ask Geithner why the hell he's doing what he is, or probing beneath the surface as to who he, Summers, and Obama are actually answering to.

(And don't expect a word about the Federal Reserve's role in any of this.)

Nonetheless, Barofsky joins the ranks of every respectable economist in pillorying the PPIP:

* creates "potential unfairness to the taxpayer"

* "The sheer size of the program ... is so large and the leverage being provided to the private equity participants so beneficial, that the taxpayer risk is many times that of the private parties, thereby potentially skewing the economic incentives"

* Treasury should set tough conflict of interest rules on public-private fund managers to prevent investment decisions that benefit them at taxpayer expense.

* Treasury should disclose the owners of all private equity stakes in a public-private fund.

* Fund managers should have "investor-screening" procedures to prevent asset purchase transactions from being used for money laundering.

* Treasury not allow the use of Federal Reserve loans "unless significant mitigating measures are included to address these dangers."

In other words, Congress, through it's "Oversight Board," has the gun and it has the ammo. Yet I doubt it fires. We'll see.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"...along with Rick Rubin..."

I believe that it's Robert Rubin. The Rick Rubin I know about is a record producer. I make this mistake all the time.

I agree with your general point: a bunch of congressmen will scream and yell, but that'll merely serve to obfuscate and confuse. Conflicted TV talking heads will call them "populist" and "socialist" but the reality will be that even the yellers and screamers are in Wall St.'s pocket.

Applesaucer

7:39 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Yup.

(And thanks for the correction. The correct Rubin is in place.)

7:43 AM  
Blogger Smitty said...

and I actually like plenty of what she's done through the years.Woa! Mikey LIKES something in all this mess? ;)

In all seriousness, I agree that really, we'll all hear a bunch of "tough" questions, the Congressional delegates will get to yell and act all mad on tv for a little while, and then? Nothing. The constituency gets to see their Congressman get all red-faced angry, and then we're supposed to just go away after that.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Weaseldog said...

Congress already gave these guys complete power of the purse and immunity from civil and legal prosecution.

Congress has no power to change the deal, unless they grow a pair. As congress is nothing but a Raggedy Ann Doll, this is impossible.

10:11 AM  

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