[media id=7009] (h/t Heather) Rachel Maddow shows how ridiculously easy the Feds have made it for financial institutions to apply for relief, so much
December 23, 2008

(h/t Heather)

Rachel Maddow shows how ridiculously easy the Feds have made it for financial institutions to apply for relief, so much so that she's tempted to create "The Rachel Maddow Show Bank Holding Company" to get in on the action.

It also shows the rank hypocrisy of Republicans now screaming that the bailout of the auto industry must come with strings attached, since they felt no similar compunction while handing over trillions of taxpayer dollars to financial institutions. Further, the financial institutions feel no compunction to be accountable for how they've used the money, nor how they compensate their employees and executives.

Transcripts below the fold

But first, I here by announce the formation of the “first national bank” of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. We are turning this television show into a bank, maybe a bank holding company.

And you will be happy to hear that we are in really, really sorry shape as a bank. We are an awful bank. We are a terrible bank. We are totally on the verge of tanking as a bank. So, therefore, we will need to fill out an application for federal assistance for the “first national bank” of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.

Then, I think, step two, probably we‘ll just go ahead with plans for the big holiday party. No need to delay. No need to hold back.

See, the application for free money from the government if you‘re a bank, it‘s quite literally two pages long. I thought that was a joke until I went online and I downloaded it. If you google TARP application, it just comes right up first thing and here it is. All two pages. The first page consists entirely of lines where they ask you to fill in the name and address of the bank and a primary and secondary contact person. That‘s half the application done right there.

The second half of the application? Well, let‘s do it, right? Ask for the registration number for the company up there at the top, and then the next three lines are essentially questions about how much government money you want. This next line is, essentially, how is your balance sheet. Then there‘s a “yes or no” question about whether you have gone online and read the small print at the Treasury Department‘s Web site. Yes, right, like people read that stuff, like checking that little box when you download software. Yes, sure, I read all these conditions.

The next line is, essentially, anything else we should know? And then, down at the bottom, this is—actually, this is a really tough one. Down at the bottom, they say state the type of company you are. Oh, proving.

Then, there‘s a line for the date—that‘s a hard one—and a line for the boss‘ signature. And actually, you don‘t even need to provide the boss‘ signature if you don‘t want to. It says boss‘ signature or the signature of a designee. You know, just for hoots, when we do the “first national bank” of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW application, I‘m going to say that Bilbo Baggins was our CEO‘s designee and just sign that name just to see if they even notice.

That‘s it actually. That‘s the whole two pages. That is the full application process for a piece of the $700 billion worth of our money that the government is doling out.

Have you ever applied for a loan for anything? House, car, small business, anything? Have you ever applied for public assistance, unemployment, food stamps welfare? If you haven‘t, I can tell you this, the application asks for more of a commitment than name, address, how much do you want, anything else we should know, love, Bilbo Baggins.

For regular humans—that‘s not what getting a loan is like. It‘s certainly not what getting welfare is like, which is why I‘m going to try to turn myself into a bank holding company. Then maybe we all should.

You know, since they didn‘t have to disclose much to get the money, the “Associated Press” followed up with some of the banks that received federal bailout money, to ask them what they did with their money. They asked four pretty darn simple questions to 21 banks that received bailout federal bailout money. Number one, how much has been spent? Number two, what was it spent on? Number three, how much is being held in savings? And number four, what‘s the plan for the rest?

Seems like a reasonable list of questions, right? I mean, we gave them the money, shouldn‘t we, at least, get to know how they are spending it? Not if you ask them. Some of the nation‘s largest banks told the “Associated Press,” they haven‘t been tracking exactly how they‘re using the money and some just flat out refuse to discuss it at all.

A spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in bailout cash, told the “Associated Press,” quote, “We have lent some of it. We‘ve not lent some of it. We‘ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here‘s how we are doing it.‘ We have not disclosed that to the public, we are declining to.”

Oh, you‘re declining to. Yes, try that with your bank.

The “Associated Press” says not one bank provided even the most basic accounting for the funds. Some were more evasive than others. On the one end of the spectrum, the most disclosive, maybe, was Wisconsin-based Marshall $ Ilsley Corporation. They said, quote, “The $1.75 billion in bailout money” that they received “allowed them to temporarily stop foreclosing on homes.”

Great, tangible results. Thank you. I‘d love some specifics, but, hey, you‘re showing the right attitude.

On the way, way, way, way other end of the spectrum, we find the Bank of New York Mellon, which received about $3 billon bailout. Their spokesman, Kevin Heine, said, quote, “Said he wouldn‘t share spending specifics,” and added, quote, “I would just prefer if you wouldn‘t say that we‘re not going to discuss those details.”

We‘re not going to tell you anything and we‘re telling you, you‘re not allowed to report that we‘re not going to tell you anything.

Now, you can see why we should all become banks. It‘s such a deal, right? It‘s certainly a better deal than being a car company. Chrysler and G.M. were just told, “Here, you can have $13 billion from your government but you better deliver us a shiny, new business plan which we, the people, believe will revolutionize your industry within three months, your executives better take pay cuts, you better get rid of those corporate jets, and failure on any of these counts will mean that you owe us the $13 billion back immediately.”

The banks on the other hand? Ha! The insurance giant, AIG, which, so far, has received about $150 billion of bailout money, your money, they are still be proud owner of seven corporate jets—seven. JPMorgan which we bailed out to the tune of $25 billion—four jets. Bank of America, $15 billion of our dollars—nine corporate jets.

The issue here is not just the double standard that exists between the banks and the auto companies. It‘s the jaw-dropping, knee-buckling lack of transparency that‘s being offered by the banks and that‘s being demanded, not by the government.

Many Americans were scared into grudgingly accepting that we needed to do something and maybe even something really expensive to prevent the collapse of our financial sector and our economy. We hate the idea of having to do it. But many of us and a majority of Congress were scared into believing that it was necessary. And now, frankly, as things keep getting worse, it seems like the government may have to take a lot more expensive actions to try to stave off this economic collapse in coming days, weeks, months, and we hope not years.

So, there is a huge political peril here. The way this financial bailout is being handled, maybe means the end of public tolerance for politically unpalatable but maybe necessary government economic intervention. They are blowing it, politically.

The inability of the treasury to explain what it is they are doing with all this money, the plainly observable fact that the financial industry is spending a lot on things that have no relation to the health of the economy—private jets—and the raw disdain with which both the treasury and the banks are treating the true blue, totally understandable, fair and square, American demand that if we‘re giving you the money, we get to know how it‘s being used, if it‘s being used, and that it‘s not just being funneled down some gold-plated corporate rat hole.

That creates political peril and it really, really limits realistic government options for the Obama administration, at a time that, frankly, they‘re going to need all the economic options they can get.

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