Give Me Transparency on TARP and no more Debt
Posted on December 4, 2009
Certain Democrats and some pundits have some great plans for the unspent money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program, better known as TARP. Nancy Pelosi wants to spend it on another jobs bill. Jim Cramer, the CNBC television personality, floated the idea of spending it on roads and bridges.
Republicans think the rest of the money should go to pay off the debt, which seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. We are up to our eyeballs in crippling debt, and paying off some it makes real sense to me.
But I have a simple proposition for all of these politicians and pundits. Before we spend one more dime on TARP, can we figure out where the over 400 billion dollars went?
The Treasury Department says it can’t tell where the money went. Elizabeth Warren, who is in charge of oversight of TARP, has said that she can’t tell where the money has gone. The banks, who got the money, certainly don’t want anyone to know where it has gone.
As a taxpayer (whose taxes will likely go up substantially once the Democrats get their act together), I would like to know what the banks did with my money.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan TARP Transparency bill, co-authored by Carolyn Maloney and Peter King, passed the House of Representatives unanimously. This bill is long-overdue, and essential to the credibility of the government. The bill is simple, less than five pages. It essentially directs the Treasury Department to use the latest in computer programming to track where the TARP money has gone.
The Treasury Department fought against the bill, because, apparently, they don’t want to know where the TARP money has gone. But, from a taxpayer standpoint, that is simply unacceptable.
I don’t have to know about every transaction that a bank makes, but when these banks get huge amounts of taxpayer money to bail them out of their risky schemes, I want to know where the money is going, and whose nest is being feathered.
I am currently reading a fascinating book called Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, which details how the Treasury Department, made up of Wall Street insiders, worked to save Wall Street from its really stupid decisions. The book doesn’t really give me comfort that the rules are fair for the average taxpayer. As a matter of fact, it makes us all seem like a bunch on chumps.
The American people understand that we are all being played for suckers, and they are furious. That is why they are angry at Washington and angry at Wall Street.
In my view, the best and only disinfectant is transparency. Let’s see in real time how these Wall Street bankers are spending our money. The Maloney-King bill is exactly the right way to accomplish this call.
This bill is now in the Senate. It was co-authored by Senator Mark Warner and Senator Mel Martinez (who has since retired). We need to get this bill to the President’s desk and have him sign it, if we want to have any chance of bringing true transparency to the TARP process.
No more TARP spending until we can see where we have spent the other 400 billion dollars. Give Transparency and not more debt!