How could Congress cast stones, knowing that much-needed regulatory bills had stalled because of their own bickering for the past four years?
It got curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would have said. When challenged with the fact that these execs received more in bonuses than salaries, they explained that their bonuses were based on "profitability." (Subprime loans were far more profitable to package than traditional 20%-down loans.) Yet the former CEOs blamed Wall Street greed and not their own bad judgment for the losses.
The next day, a different House committee was grilling Assistant Treasury Secretary Neel Kashkari about the disposition of the $700 billion TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program). The young, well-dressed former Wall Streeter tried desperately to respond to their furious accusations.
But he could not explain why the program had changed from its original intent of buying bad assets to investing in banks' equity. And he couldn't give a convincing demonstration that he knew what happened to the original $350 billion that has already been distributed to the banks.
Among the highlights: California Rep. Maxine Waters, demanding to know why they had given billions to Bank of America (BAC) but hadn't bothered to call the bank to ask why they'd pulled the line of credit from a Chicago window company denying earned benefits to laid-off employees.
Then there was Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, demanding to know why Treasury hadn't come up with an overall "master industrial policy" for the nation in the past 68 days since the rescue bill was passed.
Now TARP is likely to be involved in a bailout of the automakers. Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said firmly: "We'll be watching how they spend the money, and if they are not doing a good job, we'll take it back!"
That reminded me of a mother dealing with a kid having a tantrum by handing him a cookie, and telling him to stop crying or she'd take it back. News flash: Soon the cookie will be gone, and the kid will be crying again. Common sense is lost inside the Beltway.
There should be a sign on the door of Congress that reads: "Your Tax Dollars at Work" or "... at Play." But wait: We elected them! Where do we point the finger of blame?
Long ago I decided that the only thing worse than being caught in an economic mess is Congress deciding that they have the solution! And that's The Savage Truth.