The Bush White House is making one last contribution to the wealthy elite who have been running his administration - a $700 billion golden parachute.
In today's Washington Post, Dana Milbank writes in the Sketch:
Bush issued a statement yesterday warning lawmakers not to "insist on provisions that would undermine the effectiveness of the plan," and White House press secretary Dana Perino, asked about Democrats' plans to limit executive compensation, advised them to pass the legislation as Paulson proposed it, "the cleaner the better, and the quicker the better."
Chris Dodd almost bought this, thanks to the horror film presentation Paulson made in meeting with Congressional leaders over the weekend. At least Barney Frank was paying attention:
Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House banking committee, made his way into the House media gallery to face 75 reporters yesterday afternoon. The hard-hearted chairman hitched up his trousers, took his seat, and showed no remorse toward the CEOs who stood to lose so much.
"The Endangered Species Act apparently does not apply to financial institutions," he joked, cruelly.
He vowed, callously, that there will be "no golden parachutes while we are the owners" of Wall Street firms' bad debts.
"It's inconceivable that people would say the taxpayer should put some money at risk because of bad decisions made by people who would then continue to be rewarded without any restriction and, in fact, would be rewarded for their mistakes," the merciless chairman argued.
He then cynically turned Paulson's defense of the Wall Street executives upside down. "Let me defend CEOs against Hank Paulson's attack on them," Frank said with feigned sincerity. "Here is this absolutely essential program that's needed to keep the economy going, but there are CEOs who won't participate in it if a few of their many millions are going to get nicked? That's really what he's saying, that some CEOs put their ability to get unrestricted excessive compensation, including rewards for failure, over and above trying to cooperate and help the economy. If that's true, we're in worse shape than we think."
It was a brazen attempt to exploit the suffering of the CEOs, but it was irresistible to Frank's fellow Democrats.
"If you're taking a federal dollar to bail yourself out, you ought to get a federal salary," Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) said on the Senate floor.
"It is wrong to have executives who have created all kinds of problems and cost the taxpayer millions, if not billions, then walk away with golden parachutes,"