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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Why many Democrats opposed the bailout

Unvarnished, a memo by one of the rebellious Democratic House members on why he opposed the bailout plan as written.

We know that the Bailout Bill allows million-dollar-a-month salaries to executives of bailed-out firms, and it allows hundreds of billions to be used to buy toxic assets currently held by foreign investors. But we are told: "don't worry, this $700 billion bill won't cost us anything. We will get it all back next decade through a revenue bill."

I. Section 134 of the Bailout Bill merely says that the President must submit a revenue bill to Congress in 2013 that recoups from the financial industry the taxpayers' net losses.

a. If the President has any revenue ideas he actually likes, he would submit them to us anyway.
b. If the President submits revenue ideas only because he is forced to by Section 134, he will send it to us with a note saying that he believes they are bad for the country, and reserves the right to veto.
c. The Bailout Bill does not automatically enact any revenue increases, nor protect a revenue bill from filibuster or veto.

II. Congress is unlikely to pass a tax increase bill of hundreds of billions of dollars in 2013.

a. Tax increase bills are anathema to many.
b. 41 Senators can block the plan. We're giving Wall Street enough money to hire 4100 lobbyists.
c. In recent years, Wall Street has easily defeated every attempt to close every loophole that they exploit, no matter how pernicious-even the abusive use of Cayman Island tax havens by hedge fund managers, who thereby pay zero tax.

III. Any tax on the financial industry would make the good banks pay a huge tax so we can recoup what we gave to the bad banks.

a. Section 134 says the tax will be on "the financial industry." It does not provide for a tax on just those firms that received bailout payments.
b. A bank that doesn't get a bailout payment still pays the tax.
c. Community banks and perhaps credit unions will also be subject to the tax, so we can recoup what we gave to Wall Street.

IV. It is impossible to draft a tax that hits only those firms that received bailout payments, and even more impossible to draft one that taxes each bank in proportion to how much money we lost on its toxic assets.

a. There are no provisions to even keep track of losses on each asset purchased as it is managed over the years. Assets purchased from several
banks will be pooled, managed, and sold together, and we can never know how much we lost on assets purchased from any one bank.
b. If three banks in the year 2013 have the same income and size and operations, they will all pay the same tax-even if one got no bailout payments, a second got a million dollars, and a third got a billion dollars.
c. Many bailed-out firms won't exist in 2013.

1. Some will go under.
2. Some bailed-out firms are only shell companies. Example: Assume the Bank of Shanghai has $30 billion in toxic assets. It will sell these to the tiny subsidiary it has incorporated in California. The subsidiary will then sell these to the Treasury in 2009, and will be dissolved long before 2013.
3. Many bailed-out firms will still be unprofitable in 2013.
4. Some bailed-out firms will move offshore before 2013.

d. The whole purpose of the bill is to improve the balance sheets of the bailed-out firms. If particular bailed-out firms owe us the money they receive, they would have to list this as a liability, and the bill would fail to improve their balance sheets.

In 2013 we will not pass a tax bill that imposes hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes on the financial services industry, including those banks that got no bailouts, community banks, and credit unions. A tax bill imposed only on those entities that got bailout payments is impossible to draft, and contrary to the purposes of the Bill.

If it were easy to pass a bill to recoup hundreds of billions of dollars through taxes to be imposed in 2013 and thereafter, then provisions imposing such taxes would be in today's bill.

Wall Street gets their money now, and we get it back never.

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