Andrew Ross Sorkin
International Herald Tribune
September 24, 2008
The passage is stunning:
“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,” the original draft of the proposed bill says.
And with those words, the Treasury secretary – whoever that may be in a few months – would be vested with perhaps the most incredible powers ever bestowed on one person over the economic and financial life of the United States. It is the financial equivalent of the Patriot Act, after 9/11.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr.’s $700 billion proposal to bail out Wall Street is both the biggest rescue and the most amazing power grab in the history of the American economy.
In many ways, it is classic Wall Street: a big, bold roll of the dice that one trade can save the day. But at the same time, the hypocrisy is thick. The lack of transparency and oversight that got our financial system in trouble in the first place seems written directly into the proposed bill, known as TARP, or the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Just take a look at the original draft: “The Secretary is authorized to take such actions as the Secretary deems necessary to carry out the authorities in this act,” the proposed bill read when it was first presented to Congress, “without regard to any other provision of law regarding public contracts.”
It goes on to say, “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.”
Slowly but surely, as new versions of the bill are making the rounds in Washington, some legislators are pressing to include new language to give them at least a modicum of oversight. Democrats have complained that the bill gives the Treasury Department “a blank check” – and they’re right.
But given the rush to push the bill through, even if Congress cobbles together some oversight language, it will almost surely be inadequate.