THE BLOG

Chutzpah

09/24/2008 11:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011



The classic definition for the word chutzpah is: That quality in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan. It also is defined as unmitigated effrontery or impudence, gall, audacity, and nerve.

The opportunity has presented itself to create a new metaphor or person to be an example in the future for the word "chutzpah." I nominate Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson to be that person. His request, for a paltry $700 billion in order to fund the Troubled Asset Relief Program known as TARP, allows him to be the brand new poster child for explaining chutzpah.

Paulson, by the way, comes to us from Goldman Sachs and told us in January '08 that the economy was fundamentally strong. It is difficult to believe that the man who is at least in a small way responsible for putting this country into jeopardy, will be assigned the job of getting us out of the trouble we are in.

Secretary Paulson makes in a way a "threatening request for three quarters of a billion dollars" and makes it in a way a plea for mercy like the man who killed his parents.

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." It has been the lack of accountability and oversight that got our financial system in trouble in the first place.

Now that is CHUTZPAH!

Secretary Paulson's "demand" goes on to say the following. "The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this act, without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts. Any funds expended for actions authorized by this Act, including the payment of administrative expenses, shall be deemed appropriated at the time of such expenditure."

Many Republicans and Democrats complain that the bill gives the Treasury Department a blank check. In other words "Treasury" now will have the opportunity to "screw" the public in concert with the Wall Street people who HAD been screwing the public all along.

This all sounds very romantic to me, and would all be very funny if it were not so serious.

As a middle management executive at a variety of companies, if I were to go to my Board asking them for more money after I had screwed up big time, I would be out the door in a single heartbeat.

I would like to hear the President, Vice President, leaders of Congress and others say the sanitized version of, "We screwed up and we are sorry. We see there are many possible plans to deal with this crisis, yet we feel Secretary Paulson is not the man to make these decisions. His asking Congress for the $700 billion with no oversight, as well as a "get out of jail" card, demonstrates to me that he is not the man for the job. For the longer term, I will form a bi-partisan group from the private sector in order to determine what has gone wrong so that we can take steps to ensure it will never happen again. Also I must tell all Americans that this authorization may not be all that we need, and may only constitute a short term solution for our financial problems."

You will never hear anything like that from him or them. But the administration should win "The Chutzpah Award of All Time", for their actions. This award has been given out annually by the inmates of the Federal Prison in Yankton, South Dakota, (a repository for white collar criminals), and is a stand alone federal prison camp, in a converted college that went defunct. It's in the middle of the town, not on the outskirts. People leave "the facility" during the day and come back at night. In other words, it is a "cushy incarceration."

Paulson certainly deserves recognition for his valiant service as well as the temerity of his request for funding.

It is too bad that if and when the President leaves office he will grant pardons to everyone including Barney the dog for anything that they have done during his Presidency.

He gave to Scooter Liddy a commutation of his sentence, but sadly he will not have that opportunity in the future.

Were he not to do this, I assume they could make room in Yankton for at least a few hundred of the people who served this administration for all or part of the eight years of the Bush Presidency.

You say that he wouldn't dare? Wanna bet?

Norman Horowitz

When Paulson moves his lips, all I can hear is Vice President Dick Cheney who said on August 26, 2002 "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Never forget the following lyric when dealing with President Bush and members of his administration:

"How can you believe it when I say I love you when you know I've been a liar all my life?"