What's In a Name?

Roger Schlesinger
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Posted: Nov 19, 2008 11:53 AM
What's In a Name?

Hopefully there is a lot in a name and generally more than meets the eye! Who said that? Actually as far as I know it was I who penned those words. Why do we care? Because there is much concern in the financial and governmental circles about a name and what it actually means. I'll get to that in a moment.

If you decide to take a trip overseas to see some of the historical monuments we have all heard of, you wouldn't be happy if the pyramids turned out to be a square structure. Nor would you be pleased to see the Parthenon if it turned out to be a round building. The white cliffs of Dover might be closer to gray, perhaps, but if they were pink you would have a lot of questions. Hopefully you get the point. Now back to the current little problem: TARP. That of course stands for the Toxic Asset Repurchase Plan of which Congress approved....only it didn't happen.

Hank Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury, obviously isn't a purist. He certainly doesn't make a big deal out of names and while we're at it we might say he doesn't seem to mind the Congress, the American Public and probably half the free world wondering what the heck was he thinking? No one, to my knowledge, told him to call his plan TARP, or even do what TARP suggests will be done. But if he wasn't going to do the repurchase of the toxic assets why would he call the program the Toxic Asset Repurchase Plan? Why not name the program BUB: Buying Urban Banks or SPAM: Securing Plans to Accumulate Money. Probably the most likely acceptable program is simply PC: Paulson's Choice! Did we really need another Congressional hearing to try to figure out what happened between "yes, we are going along with your plan and why did you changed your mind?"

Paulson had better study the theory of holes in a hurry. It starts with once you recognize you are burying yourself it is time to stop digging. As kids we saw many young girls take a flower and pull the pedals off one at a time saying he likes me, he likes me not and hoping to end on a positive note.

Just when I thought I was through with the adult version of this pedal pull, up pops Hank with his "I didn't think it would work and besides I have a better plan." Have we as a nation not suffered enough?

It has gotten to the point in this country that saying something or writing something can be as confusing, misleading or downright dishonest as you want it to be. Half the country will take it as gospel, whatever it is, and the other half will either ignore it or dispute what the first half think. Most people will not take the time to find out whether it ever portrayed the right message. Case in point was a recent announcement that foreclosures had gone up 25 percent from the previous year. I heard many say that it was beyond a national tragedy that one-fourth of the homes were in foreclosure and others said they didn't think it was that high. Nobody convinced the other side and everyone moved on. In reality foreclosures were about 6 percent to 8 percent of the homes last year and having gone up 25 percent means they are 7.5 percent to 10 percent this year.

Back to Hank Paulson. Today we heard the debate as to whether he should have stuck to the plan or at least part of the plan that Congress approved. He thought his new idea was better and had already acted upon it to some extent. The debate went on with some suggesting we should consider doing the new plan while others thought the old plan should be done or perhaps a little of each. Where was the indignation that normal people would have shown if they dropped their early teen aged kids at the movie theater and found out they had gone across town to a party instead. Are we so numb to the financial beatings some or all of us have taken that we just can't react to any more financial suprises? This isn't a small matter unless you aren't impressed with $700 billion, which of course we don't have. If you trace the raising of the money to the funding of the various projects and realize the risk this nation is taking,and then find out we aren't even doing what we thought was this high risk I for one would be outraged. Aren't you?

Are you relieved to find out half the money hasn't been spent and will be turned over to President-elect Barack Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, who might think that part of it can be used to enter the Power Ball Lottery or maybe some other type of plan We don't know who the person is or what he or she might do but we know they get $350 Billion to do it with. This is turning out better than the old TV show "Queen for a Day." Have we lost our collective minds?

I think it is time to end this essay before I start obsessing over the Big 3 Automaker bailout and really go nuts. Perhaps tomorrow I shall awake and find out this was just a dream, excuse me, a nightmare along with the Sub-prime Mess, The Credit Crunch, The Real Estate Bubble, The CDS and Derivative Problems and the dawning of a Recession. Or maybe, just maybe someone else will really get upset. Hopefully it will be somebody who can do something other than write about it!