Bailout: One Down, One to Go

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For better or worse, we're one step closer to making the mother of all mother of all bailouts a reality. The Senate passed a bill last night that could extend up to $700 billion to unclog our financial system, approving the measure by an almost 3-to-1 ratio. The House of Representatives -- which voted down its version of the bill on Monday -- is likely to vote on an updated proposal Friday.

Good news, right? Of course, that depends on whom you ask. Some banks, such as JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , are sitting near 52-week highs, while others, such as National City (NYSE: NCC  ) , are holding on for dear life and realizing that anything less than a bailout could force them down the path of Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM  ) or Wachovia (NYSE: WB  ) . But despite the constant bickering and split opinions, this bailout is about Main Street, not Wall Street.

Over the past few days, we ran two polls asking Fool readers how they felt about the proposed bill. With more than 18,000 votes cast, the results are pretty darn split. The poll conducted closer to the Dow Jones' 777-point decline sided more toward a bailout, while the poll conducted closer the Dow's nearly 500-point gain sided closer against a bailout. Go figure. At any rate, this week has been completely dominated by split opinions over whether the proposed plan makes any sense, and whether we need a bailout at all.

If you're ideologically opposed to any intervention in the first place, that's one thing. But what seems to have been wholly overlooked are the huge changes made over the last week. Hank Paulson's original three-page plan that gave the former Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) CEO unfettered reign over the situation morphed into a more appropriate 400-plus page proposal that should have put many of the topics headlining the debate circle to rest. The updated bill, among other things, proposes:

  • Caps on executive compensation.
  • Amendments to retrieve any cost to taxpayers from the financial industry after five years.
  • A demand of equity compensation form any company taking part in the plan.
  • A move to push FDIC insurance limits from $100,000 to $250,000 per account.
  • A slew of tax breaks on everything from alternative energy to tuition deduction and teacher expenses.
  • An oversight board.

Why did the changes fail to sway so many people who are opposed to the exact areas the bill tried to dispel? My take is that Washington has done an absolutely terrible job informing people whom this bailout is actually designed to help. The words "Wall Street" and "bailout" have been jumbled together so closely in the same sentence that it's all too easy to overlook that the main premise of the bailout is to unclog the credit markets, not to line the pockets of the infamous Wall Street "fat cats."

No matter how you feel about the bailout, the fact is that credit is completely frozen in place, and it'll have an effect on you and everyone you know until it gets fixed. Auto giants such as Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) and GM (NYSE: GM  ) are seeing sales get absolutely decimated amid a freeze-up in auto loans. From small businesses that can't make payroll because lines of credit are being pulled to students who can't get education loans to ... oh, you get the idea ... no use belaboring the Wall Street-vs.-Main Street comparison any more than it has been, but no matter what way it gets turned or who you think is to blame, the problem has become everyone's business now.

Regardless, this debate is sure to remain heated for quite some time. Care to speak up? We'd love to hear from you. Feel free to take part in our two Fool polls, and chime in on our bailout discussion board.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. JPMorgan Chase is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (23) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 3:55 PM, BobLaColla wrote:

    I am a business owner, teacher, NY State taxpayer and elected official. Please consider these thoughts when deliberating the proposed bailout. I realize that these thoughts come to you as an individual opinion, but many people I speak with share these views:

    Our Economic System:

     As a country, we have promoted the free enterprise system, both here and abroad, as the best means to achieve personal liberty and equality

     The free market allows individuals and corporations to trade, incorporate, employ workers, and use money provided by central banks, in goods, services (including finance), labor and land.

     Production and distribution in a free market are governed by the market rather than state regulation, with state action confined to defining and enforcing the basic rules of the market (though the state may provide a few basic public goods and infrastructure.)

     To maintain efficiency, all members of the market must understand the risks they assume for the rewards they pursue.

     During the past twenty years or so, “the market,” especially the consumer and financial sectors, have shown an increased appetite for greed and loss of appetite for due diligence.

     Most small business owners do analyze risk and understand the inherent fairness of the system

     Small business drive the “real” economy, not the cyclical economy

    Our Government:

     Does not “buy” assets and services in a very efficient way

     Has a Treasury Secretary with a bias to the financial sector of our economy

     Since the time of the FDR administration, seems to have vacillated in its fundamental role in the market

    On the bailout proposal:

     Directs, what will most likely be, an inefficient organization to administer a confusing bundle of commands in order to address systemic problems that have more to do with attitude, policy and greed, not liquidity

     Publicly directs the purchase of risky assets quickly with a known amount of cash – this is not the best way to ensure a fair deal, much less a good deal.

     Punishes those who have exercised diligence by exposing them to unnecessary risk

     Rewards those who have been negligent by subsidizing their excesses

     Changes the rules of the game after the fact

     Leads the nation into unchartered economic territory – without a plan

     Will most likely lead to resentment from those that make up the backbone of our economy – especially resentment towards tax policy

     Tosses the notion of personal responsibility and accountability on its head

    As those of us who teach our young understand, there is no better teacher than experience. Many people have ignored common sense through the recent “boom.” Denying the consequences of those actions will prolong the problem by ignoring the lesson. As a nation, we have faced adversity before. We have always learned from our experience and overcome our obstacle. Let us address this problem the old-fashioned way. Identify the source of the problem and allow The People to adjust. We will be stronger for it.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 3:57 PM, garyc27 wrote:

    True, Washington has done an extremely poor job of 1) Explaining the problem and 2) Explaining what the bailout is designed to accomplish and who is helped by implementing the "rescue plan". Even after Paulson's/Bush's pleas and albeit poorly worded explanations of the plan; I perceive there is an even larger problem --the "middle class" is feeling squeezed to the point of becoming non-existent. This has generated disdain for Wall Street and apathy to the rescue problem/solution.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 4:10 PM, temp2290 wrote:

    A great man (nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman) once said that if you can't explain something to a kid than you don't really understand it yourself.

    I'll agree, Washington has done an absolutely horrible job at being transparent about their actions (and I'm not just talking about the financial crisis). And, fair to the quote, it's probably because they don't really understand what's going on either.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 4:18 PM, gk390 wrote:

    I've never defaulted on any loan. I've never been late with any payment. I've never bounced a check. I've never been rewarded for doing so (and never felt I should have been). Now, at 55 years of age, I feel I'm going to be "punished" because my government is going to bail out others that can't live up their commitments.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 4:39 PM, PTDBD wrote:

    This is not good for you, your country, nor the rest of the world. It continues the Myth economy based on debt and postpones the pain which will be even worse.

    If these "smart men" got you to the Armageddon brink, why do you trust their guidance?

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 5:17 PM, rmgsandlin wrote:

    Too little, too Late.....Our Washington children in Congress allowed our Assets to take the hit and, with more skeletons in the closets yet to come out, we will get an even bigger hit over the next few months.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 5:55 PM, USAeconomist wrote:

    This bill was written to bail the bad debt on Wall Street. We are forgoing the natural economic process, bank fails, some losses are absorbed by stocks, assets sold, and Federal Government takes portfolio and sells it, depositors insured. Now the US government is going to prepay bad debt at full absorbing all of the loss that has been generated by fiscally irresponsible banks.

    Hard working Americans have been punished enough by this administration. We are faced with a higher cost of living, high energy prices, our jobs have been exported and now we are going to face a $110 billion deficit.

    The rich will be fine, what about the working class? Will this be our future; Take a look at this

    Our economy is just as important as our national security. Its time that we address our economic policy, encourage domestic production, discourage outsourcing, and work together to fix America?

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 6:19 PM, Harvybing wrote:



    Do Your Part And Pass These Videos Along To Everyone You Know And Lets See The Crooks Put In Jail. Unless Obama Appoints One Of These Crooks To The Attorney General Post Like Obama Has promised. In That Case All Of Those Crooks Are Expected To Get Away Scott Free.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 6:41 PM, jw360 wrote:


    According to Countrywide / Bank of America, the $300 billion dollar homeowner bailout bill (FHASecure refinanace program) has not yet been passed. It was supposed to go into effect yesterday. I called them about it, and they are saying the legislation has not yet been approved. They said someone still needs to pass it. I told them the President signed the bill, who else needs to pass it? They told me that they don’t know. I asked to speak to a supervisor to ask her who else needs to approve the bill and was given a voice mail. I was also told recently from a different person at Countrywide that they supposedly sent out letters to people that qualified and if you didn’t get a letter you don’t qualify. They also told me that if HUD qualifies someone for the program and send them their way, then Countrywide automatically approves them. I talked to HUD, HOPE Program, and the FHASecure Program and they do no such thing of approving people. They told me that I need to work with an FHA approved lender that participates in the program. Countrywide is FHA approved. So evidently according to Countrywide the homeowner bailout bill was not passed.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 7:48 PM, keddie1 wrote:

    Slight change in topic....

    One the Motley Fool themes is that this crisis affects all of us and we all have to pitch in.

    Is this not the case Tom and Dave?

    How about if the Motley Fool, as a demonstration of this principle ... drops it's Motley Fool Message Structure... particularly the part that result in each Motley Fool article ending a hard sale for MP Premium Services....

    If the article is about general finance... like when you should start changing your portfolio struction for retirement... or what you should do if you are 20.... then find... "Market Away"..

    But with respect to the financial meltdown.... show some leadership... and don't include any MotFoo Marketing in these articles...

    Just a thought

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 8:29 PM, EScroogeJr wrote:

    "My take is that Washington has done an absolutely terrible job informing people whom this bailout is actually designed to help."

    The only kind of help that I will accept is complete and permanent bankruptcy of the banking system and houses going for $50K in all-cash transactions. That will be highly appreciated. All other helpers are cordially asked to stay away.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 9:02 PM, froggy112 wrote:

    Is this bill legal? should congress even vote on this one? Congress is the only body of goverment to create bills concerning money and taxes. If a situation comes up such as this they don't have the authority anyways, as you see in amendment ten that is left to the poeple to delegate.

    Another point is the Congress is to vote on the bill and IF passed send it to theSenate to vote on or admend. Congress killed the bill and never realy sent it to the Senate. senate viloated the seperations of power and crafted their own bill voted on it then sent it to Congress? how could it possibly become law of the land?

    Bush is to Make sure the constitution is protected..but he is not, he is encouraging the violations if not down right involved in these unconstitutioal acts.

    Section 8

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and

    Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general

    Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be

    uniform throughout the United States;

    To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and

    with the Indian Tribes;

    To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject

    of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

    To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the

    Standard of Weights and Measures;

    To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin

    of the United States;

    Amendment 10

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor

    prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to

    the people.

    Section 7

    All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives;

    but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

    "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of

    President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve,

    protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    Wonder.. can there be a mass impeachment hearing of the prez, 74 senators and a yet to be detirmend amount of congressmen?

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2008, at 9:50 PM, keddie1 wrote:

    Interesting approach ..... that is, declare the whole process unconstitutional...

    I think the answer is a further on in the above comment...

    The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

    To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

    The key is "General Welfare"...

    This is a matter of "General Welfare." Is it not?

    As for the matter of procedure... True, the House killed the bill... and it is dead...

    The Senate did not vote on that bill...

    Note that the resolution number is different..

    I believe that congressional process is alive and well... This is what I think happened...

    What the Senate did is take a Bill that was passed by the House.... They then amended the text to include the language of the economic stabalization act ... that is the same text voted down by the House.... but now contained within a Bill that the House approved...

    The Senate is well within their rights to do so.... The Senate changes the text of Bills sent to them by House nearly all the time... what is unusual is that the House and the Senate pass bills with the same language.... almost always they tinker...

    Now... this amended Bill has to go back to the House for their reconsideration.... a different Bill from the one that they voted down on Monday.... but containing some of the same language..... and also the language that House sent to the Senate... this different bill will be considered by the House.... maybe on Friday....

    I don't think there is a breach in procedure......

    Now... if they vote it down.. then things get tricky... because the House will have approved a version of the bill that does not contain the Economic Stabilization language.... while the Senates version does have that language.... so... Both Houses of congress will have approved the Bill.... but not a common language... It will therefore have to go off to committee where the differences get hired out... and if you are amoung the folks who want the bailout gone... it also has to be killed in committee as well as in the House...

    However, if there is a constitutional breach... It still has to go to the president... and if it really is Unconstitutional then the lawyers of the land are free to bring it before the Supreme Court who has the final say...

    I think this is how it works....

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 12:54 AM, froggy112 wrote:

    What the Senate did is take a Bill that was passed by the House

    what bill was that?

    when the senate was getting ready to vote on their bill..Senator shelby i believe from Alabama was chastizing them. during that he said they was violatinb section amendemt 10 of the constitution. figure he would know, aye?

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 12:56 AM, froggy112 wrote:

    violating section8 that is , lol

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 1:11 AM, froggy112 wrote:

    and no, speculating with tax bucks is not for the general welfare its gambling

    or after they pass it one person can petition for it to be repealed if they have standing.

    some dude did that to a suprime court justic way back in the day. cept for impeachin. vote was 21 to 22,

    I saw a plan by a guy named dave.used by chili or somebody in 1982..very simaler to paulsons, main thing instead of buying we loan them the bucks on the instruments for ten years then after ten years they buy it back . got some other nifty things in too. no need for protections.

    i had it but i lost it will find it and post it.


  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 1:25 AM, froggy112 wrote:

    here it b some guy named daves tride n true improved paulson plan

    As a history nerd, I have done a considerable amount of reading on the Chilean Banking Crises of 1982, and find some interesting parallels, strategies, & solutions. There is much to be learned from that crisis as they successfully managed a financial meltdown much worse than our current predicament. Another thing that really makes the Chilean Crisis interesting is it took them some time to figure it out so they tried several different strategies before they got it right.

    Note: As a former financial analyst I cringe every time I hear some idiot in the news saying that you can’t value these securities. In reality they can, they just can’t show anyone those numbers without impacting the holding companies credit rating and stock price. So step one is to come up with a good model using updated conservative assumptions the same assumptions should be applied over all securities. As much as possible good securities should be separated from crap they should be repackaged into two buckets marketable and unmarketable. The following recommendations only apply to unmarketable securities.

    My recommendations:

    As I mentioned before the Chileans employed several different strategies all at once. One of these involved buying mortgages from banks in a similar manner to Paulson's idea. The Chilean framework was much more clever and was effective of "cleaning the books" of the banks while keeping most of the risk on their side. The way that they did this was to buy mortgages, but they would only hold them for 10 years and the same banks that they had purchased them from would have to repurchase those assets.

    In our scenario we should keep the option to sell the securities if conditions improve and we can make a profit by selling in the market. But if this improvement does not occur the original selling firm will be required to repurchase the asset (one way to look at this is a collateralized loan).

    But the whole point is to recapitalize these banks. The best way to get new capital in their coffers is to require any firms who sell distressed securities to bifurcate their stock. Original stock would be obligated to repurchase the securities. New stock (and new investors) will be free to capitalize the banks without worrying about repurchasing the securities after the 10 year period. This is what the Chilean's did and it worked.

    Another thing that they did that was quite clever was they made sure that no mortgagee knew if the government had bought their mortgage. This is important because I guarantee you if people know the government holds their mortgages there will be a dramatic reduction in debt service just based on the expectation that they can reduce their own costs (especially if the government starts a restructuring service as Senator Dodd has proposed).

    This is just one idea, there are many more, all with less exposure to the American taxpayer, all with less risk of moral hazard than the current proposal. The current proposal is not very well thought out. It pays too much attention to the wants and needs of the financial sector and not enough to everyone else.

    One thing everyone needs to realize is the impacts of a credit crunch have been overblown by Paulson, the Bush administration and most of the press (who doesn’t really get any of this). This exaggeration has negatively impacted the markets. In time we are going to see that:

    1. Credit Markets aren’t going to completely dry up.

    2. The limiting of credit will not be as dire as it is being purported by the press (they act like every business in the country uses a line of credit to cover payroll expenses)

    3. People will realize that Wall Street is not the only source of capital, and is not really as important as some people want to think it is (Paulson & Wall Street).

    i am only against the bailout they b voting on couse it sucks..n as a vet..pisses me off when the people who took a oathe to protect the constitution ignores its protections ..Hiel.

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 9:51 AM, keddie1 wrote:

    For Froggy112....

    The Senate used H.R. 1424, Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act. The HOUSE approved this Bill.

    They then passed an ammendment, Something like Senate Amendment 3098..(I'm not sure about the number) that amends HR 1424 to include the text for the (Emergency Economic Stabilization Act). and whalla - they are voting on a bill that was passed by the House.

    I can not find where the House approved HR 1424.... but it was introduced int he spring of 2007 with a lot of work done by the House in the Fall of 2007.

    On Monday the House defeated H.R. 3997, EMERGENCY ECONOMIC STABILIZATION ACT OF 2008. Not HR 1424. This Bill was also already in progress as the Defenders of Freedom Tax Relief Act of 2007 or Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2007. It was introduced in the House on Oct 30th 2007. What the House did last weekend was to .... borrow.... this existing bill and change the text so that it became the Emergency Economic Act..

    The really sad thing - even a tradgety - is that the Bill was originally intended to help the families of the troops returning from the Middle East. These folks truly need some help. I don't know what Congress did to compensate for that...

    I agree that congress did not follow normal procedure.... everything they have done (procedurally).... is allowed.... as for the subject matter.... I'm going to stick with ... This is General Welfare....

    That being said... I see your concern... fortunatly there are many more steps to the process in case you are right..

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 10:50 AM, froggy112 wrote:

    yeah your right but I thought it was a bill that involved the wooden arrows.

    though I still believe they are not use tax dollars to buy into business.

    That is what realy bothers me also.we have young men in Irag we are asking to sacrice their lives to protect us and the constitution nad bill off rights (freedom, Liberty) but yet we are not willing to sacrice a buck.

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 10:54 AM, RaulChapin wrote:

    So in IT we call this a Trojan Horse. It is like those really cute programs you down load for free... than then just keep taking resources from your PC.

    The original bill gets used as a shell to place "ammendments" which should in principle be related to the original bill. In reality it is a nice way to sidestep the constitutional protections of democracy.

    Have you ever read one of the user access policies or agreements, at the end of them they always say they can be ammended and it is YOUR obligation to read the ammendments and your continued use after x days implies concent.

    It would be just as legal for Yahoo to change their user agreement to say You shall pay $1000 a month for life, wait for a month and then nail you for implicit concent. Would it be moral or acceptable, no... but then again Yahoo is not the USA senate... so we do expect them to have some sort of morals...

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 10:58 AM, vest0r2 wrote:

    The two houses of Congress comprise a millionaire's club, thoroughly corrupt, aside from a few sterling exceptions such as Drs. Paul and Coburn. The revolving door effect guarantees a too-cozy relationship with industry.

    Why would anyone trust these bastards? The 110th Congress has been utterly USELESS, they've only rolled over each and every time Bush has asked them to do so.

    Apparently both Presidential candidates are cut from the same bolt of cloth (big surprise there), so don't expect "change" from either of them.

    If a dollar crash would clean the scum out of Washington then I'm willing to feel my children canned food for six months or a year until a more just system can be constructed and the economy rebuilt. The system is rotten through and through and I'm sick to my soul of it.

  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 11:20 AM, RaulChapin wrote:

    I oppose the bill on principle and now with all the pork stuck in it, i just loath it.

    HOWEVER I must now side with support for the bill, the reason:

    Personal responsability:

    Everyone in America benefited from the boom... everyone even those living below their means. So now that the party is over, it is time to clean up. HOWEVER the party should be over. The bailout should not mean on Monday everyone forgets and goes to buy that new Mustang they absolutelly must have.

    And while not bying the car might seem un-american, GM needs to make parts and even assemble some cars overseas, because they need to be afordable. They need to get access to cheap chinesse credit, so that you can buy with 0 down and 60 months free finance. They need to make them crappy so that every 10 years (now 3 with the leasing programs) there is a boom and their investors are happy.

    If people were willing to wait longer and pay more for better products, GM could manufacture in the US, there would be no need for super cheap foreing loans and the cherry on the sundae, there would be less pollution from having to recycle cars every 5 years!!!

    Letting the markets do their thing would cost the creditors of the USA a lot of money and while they did assume the risk, it is still a good idea to keep them happy, so that money is still available in the future.

    The secret is: do you need to borrow money to go bomb Irak?? do you need to borrow money to aid people in buying houses they can not afford... the answer should be self evident!!

    The USA needs to watch one of those very popular sitcomms: DEBT 911 or whatever they are called...this bill is just a time delay... if you see it as a solution... it will explode right in your face...


  • Report this Comment On October 03, 2008, at 12:39 PM, dwscho wrote:

    I am sitting hear listening to the House debate the bailout Bill. I have the extreme pleasure of hearing wise cracking Barney Frank, one of the greatest leaders of Congress of all times (just ask him) who helped bring this mess to our country, tell other House members that the Bill provides for bailouts to banks for credit card and auto debt in addition to mortgages. There is nothing about this Bill that isn't pork. It's either pork for the politicians or pork for the banks. Also, the Bill allows the Treasury Secretary to mitigate individul mortgages for those people who over-extended themselves and bought homes well beyond their financial capacity. Lets' reward those folks who helped bring this crisis to us.

    Proponents of this Bill say it is essential for this Bill to pass to free up the credit markets. Central banks around the world have thrown hundreds of billions of dollars at the credit markets yet, they still remain very illiquid.

    I stongly doubt this Bill will be enough to solve this crisis. The Treasury will be back for many more hundreds of billions of dollars on top of what has already been expended. In the end, it will likely cost taxpayers a couple trillion dollars with no reasonable degree of certainty it will solve the problem.

    I believe the current Bill before the House should be voted down once again. I think we let the chips fall where they may. I have far more confidence in the free markets to sort out the mess any find a solution. I have no confidence that Congress will help matters but, feel it more likely they will simply make it worse.

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