It's difficult to conclude which side looked the most ridiculous last week during the congressional hearings on bank bailouts. On one side of the room were silk-stocking bank CEOs who had to admit that they had not really used their bailout money the way they promised they would. On the other side of the room were U.S. congressmen who looked foolish and naïve when they discovered that those bank CEOs had hustled the system from the first day they received their corporate welfare. Some congressmen looked shocked as they listened to all the ways those Wall Street bankers had lied to America in order to get possession of taxpayer bailout money.
A couple of congressmen looked particularly brain dead when they suggested that, golly, maybe they should have put some things down in writing back in October when congress and our last president handed over $350 billion to a room full of bank CEO failures. Ya think?
Back then, Citigroup, Bank of America, and every other mismanaged bank that had enough money to fly their corporate jet to D.C. was making promises they knew they would never keep. Frankly, any rational thinking congressman should have known those banker promises were meaningless. It was a group that looked too lean, hungry and desperate.
So just how badly have we been hustled? Here are a few parts of the story: The ink had barely dried on Bank of America's first $25 billion bailout check before they used $7 billion of that bailout money to buy a bank in China. That Chinese bank has no connections to the U.S. They don't employ U.S. citizens. They don't lend money to American taxpayers.
Another place Bank of America spent more than $10 million was on K-Street lobbyists who were hired to help stop union initiatives aimed at giving workers the right to organize. Put another way, Bank of America took taxpayer money so they could lobby against a huge number of taxpayers who gave them that money.
You would think Bank of America is on a mission to advertise just how unsophisticated and foolish our Congress and our last president was to actually accept the promises of a room full of desperate bankers with no strings attached.
Bank of America and most of the other welfare recipient bankers have gone as far as raising interest rates on existing credit cards, along with cutting lines of credit on some of their most reliable customers. They have almost eliminated small business lending entirely. Their promise to end the foreclosure mania was just as meaningless as their promise to preserve jobs within their industry. In fact, Bank of America, after spending most of their bailout money, now tells us they intend to lay off 35,000 of their workers.
There are no surprises here. Mark Twain gave us some accurate insight into the character of an entity like Bank of America. He said, "a banker is a fellow who lends us an umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain." Is that really the kind of entity we should lend money to with no ground rules?