Economic Outlook: Subsidized smear

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Oct. 25, 2010 at 9:53 AM
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Bank of America, which returns to foreclosures as usual in 23 states, explained recently that it had found paperwork mistakes in a small number of documents.

The industry, the states, about every regulatory branch in the U.S. government with the exception of the Environmental Protection Agency, homeowners, economists, pundits, politicians and especially the courts are waiting in the wings, expecting at least one of the 102,000 foreclosures BofA is resubmitting to the courts will show the foreclosure process as a demonic bank ritual gleefully organized by fanged bankers who sleep on a bed of taxpayer dollars and dream of one day owning Connecticut.

That couldn't be farther from the … the … well, dreaming of owning Connecticut is not illegal. As far as sleeping on a bed of taxpayer dollars is concerned, The Washington Post reported Sunday that some companies that received billions of dollars of taxpayer funds in the past two years are returning funds to Washington in the form of campaign contributions, much of it going to Republicans who are stirring up a stink about the generosity of Democrats who controlled the Troubled Asset Relief Program after Republicans cooked it up on the first place.

TARP, which remains one of the most unpopular success stories of modern times, is deep in its guilt-by-association phase. General Motors Co., a recipient of billions and still owned largely by the government, contributed $5,000 to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign, despite McConnell blasting the Obama administration's decision last year to expand the bailout program to the automobile industry.

McConnell said the taxpayer should not "subsidize failure." But GM shrugged off the insult. "We contribute to candidates who thoughtfully approach issues that are important to the auto industry and manufacturing. If you look at our giving, we have given equally to both parties' leadership," said GM spokesman Greg Martin.

GM in September alone donated $190,000 to political candidates and will certainly press its case on issues in Washington when it sees fit. The Obama administration, from its side of the equation, appeared to take a hands-off pledge seriously, not interfering with GM operations despite majority ownership of the company. A clear exception to that, of course, was the government's insistence that former GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner Jr. hit the road. Beyond that, for a lot more than $5,000 -- for about $50 billion -- the government appears to have kept clear of major GM decisions.

Overall, the Post said, 23 companies that received $1 billion from TARP donated $1.4 million to political campaigns in September. As for the Great Recession being followed by the Big Smear, Democrats are pouncing on Republican congressional candidate Scott Rigell in Virginia for denouncing bailouts despite auto dealerships he owns participating in the "Cash for Clunkers" program.

Ads for Rep. Glenn Nye-D-Va., say Rigell profited handsomely from the program, taking in about $500,000, before trying to profit on the unpopularity of the bailouts during his campaign. But Nye voted for the "Cash for Clunkers" campaign and is now "attacking me for a program … (he) voted for," Rigell said.

"Hypocrisy!" has become the rallying cry for both sides of the debate.

In international markets Monday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan lost 1.27 percent and the Shanghai composite index in China rose 2.57 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong gained 0.47 percent and the Sensex in India rose 0.68 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia rose 1.33 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index rose 0.41 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 0.52 percent. The CAC 40 in France gained slightly, up 0.16 percent and the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.19 percent.

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