November 14, 2008

$700 billion bailout becomes power grab

Just a few short weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. proposed a slim piece of legislation that would have given him virtually unfettered authority to spend up to $700 billion to get our economy moving again. Congress revolted and demanded tighter legislation, more oversight and better quantification of the plan. Rep. Barney Frank and the House Financial Service Committees sprang into action, and Congress approved a more tightly drawn plan that would empower the Treasury Department to buy "toxic assets" ("Bush signs financial rescue bill," Oct. 4).

Around the same time, the Treasury Department changed tax rules to make it easier for banks to merge, apparently without consulting Congress ("Quietly issued tax guidance gives big tax breaks to banks," Nov. 10).

Now, Secretary Paulson has abandoned the "toxic asset" plan and decided to spend the $700 billion to prop up banks ("Government shifts focus of bailout," Nov. 13). This represents a huge grab of power by the secretary and the executive branch. Apparently, the Treasury Department does not need the advice or consent of Congress, and our elected representatives, led by Mr. Frank, are powerless to exert control over the $700 billion they have placed in the secretary's hands.

All one can say is, "Heck of a job, Barney."

Mac Nachlas, Baltimore

Bush's cordial tour isn't praiseworthy

In Wednesday's Baltimore Sun, there was a "Sound off" quote on the Commentary page from Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University in which he extols the virtue of President George W. Bush's showing President-elect Barack Obama around the White House.

Thanks for the laugh. As the president puts together as many executive orders as he can to undermine many of the things that Mr. Obama was elected to protect, the best that can be said about Mr. Bush is that he is a good tour guide.

Howard Bernstein, Baltimore

After eight years of the most disastrous presidency in our history, isn't it interesting that President George W. Bush is being praised by some for attempting to salvage a modicum of his legacy by being cordial to President-elect Barack Obama during his White House visit? It would take more than a graceful exit to repair the damage done to the country and the office of president.

I wonder if Vice President Dick Cheney's reputation will be enhanced if he tidies up his office before leaving.

Arnold Paskoff, Baltimore

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