A daunting litany of ills imperils U.S. banks, from toxic assets to rising loan defaults. After the irritating spectacle that played out in Washington yesterday, we can add a new threat: the Congressional Oversight Panel tracking TARP.
This became all too clear when the COP—as in, Bad Cop—summoned Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for an update on the Troubled Assets Relief Plan. Moments after the session began, the real purpose became clear: Grandstanding enemies of the banks and Big Business were there to deliver a fingerwagging lecture to Geithner, interrupting him at will and telling him how to do his job.
The onstage dressing-down began with the panel’s chairwoman, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor who for years has crusaded against banks for charging high interest rates on credit cards. Smug and clearly enjoying her Warholian 15 minutes of fame, she appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” last week, trading yucks with host Jon Stewart, the erudite, uber-liberal Wall Street basher.
Yesterday, she opened the hearing by declaring: “People are angry because they are paying for programs ... that have no apparent benefit for their families or the economy as a whole, but that seem to leave enough cash in the system for lavish bonuses and golf outings. None of this seems fair.” Nice shot, Lizzie!
She said TARP is “an investment that eventually must profit” all Americans “and not just Wall Street.” Hmm, I thought TARP took aim at saving the financial system from collapse and freeing banks to lend, not at turning a profit for taxpayers.