Last week the US Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, got down on his knees and begged the Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to endorse his $700bn bailout of his Wall Street friends. “I didn’t know you were a Catholic” she reportedly replied, in one of the sharpest asides in modern political history.
Father Paulson used to be boss of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, also known as “Golden Sacks” for its lavish bonuses, which netted him $400million dollars when he left to join Bush’s government in 2006. Goldman will, of course, be first in line for taxpayers billions if and when it is finally doled out.
But this is only because, like the church, it is a noble and philanthropic organisation whose first concern is for the needy. For those in distress. Father Paulson is collecting for the Troubled Asset Relief Programme, or TARP. He wants the public to pay for the treatment of all those troubled assets sitting in the bowels of bankrupt banks. Worrying themselves sick. Getting bulimic. Self harming.
These troubled assets don’t blame; they need help. Counselling and financial support. A half way house where they can recover their values. All those collateralised debt obligations, credit default swaps, structured investment vehicles and conduits were only doing their job, keeping the economy going and making a buck for Goldman.
But eventually the stress just gets too much. When you are leveraged thirty to one, the pressure is enormous and some assets just can’t cope. They start drinking in liquidity from the central banks. Others turn to debt injections which become habit forming. Distressed assets hide themselves away, not wanting to appear on any balance sheet, shadows of their former selves.
At last help is at hand in TARP. Yes it’s expensive – but it’s all about priorities. Why spend billions bailing out repossessed homeowners ? World doesn’t owe them a living. Or single mothers living on debt. No, the world owes it to troubled assets to give them the very best care that money can buy to give them back their self-worth. Just imagine the smiling faces of Wall St bankers when they all see their troubled assets come back from the Federal Funny Farm all shiny and new again. Worth their weight in gold .
And just remember. In Britain we have our own distressed assets, each with their own heart-rending rags to riches story. Lenny Henry will be hosting a twenty-four hour “drop the debt” marathon in which we will be collecting from around the country, so remember to tune in and get your blank chequebooks out now. Please, please give everything you can before Henry has to go down on Nancy again.