Hey Congress! Slow Down On The Bailout - InformationWeek

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Hey Congress! Slow Down On The Bailout

It might be a good idea to take more than a week to formulate a response to the biggest financial crisis in our history.

It might be a good idea to take more than a week to formulate a response to the biggest financial crisis in our history.Any approval of a massive aid package must come with several important riders that will demand thoughtful calibration that you don't get when your hair is on fire. Here's three things I'd like them to take the time to deliberate.

1) Limits on executive compensation.

I've heard McCain wants to cap it at $400,000. I'm proposing a slightly lower sum: $0. These executives should get a pink slip and nothing else, and be grateful they aren't being strung up like Mussolini at the end of World War II.

Here's why. Wall Street has learned an important lesson from the crisis: The best way to spread the risk of hare-brained financial instruments is to couple them tightly enough to the global financial system that when these instruments collapse, they'll take the entire economy with them. This coupling guarantees government intervention via bailout.

However, if executives on Wall Street are actually held accountable for the mind-boggling amounts of wealth they've destroyed, if they are tossed off the roofs of their headquarters without a golden parachute, perhaps they'll behave more responsibly in the future.

2) Strong oversight of the disposition of mortgage securities.

If the Treasury Department buys up all the mortgage securities clogging the market, someone's going to have to help them separate good loans from bad and get the best return they can for them. Who will that be? Why, the financial services firms that created them. If the inmates are going to run the asylum, we must have strict and transparent adult supervision.

Here's a suggestion. Regulators should stop dealing with Wall Street as if it were run by rational and prudent people. Wall Street is run by crack addicts. Mortgage-backed securities and other complex financial instruments were a potent form of crack that delivered unbelievable highs. But as these guys binged, they rotted out the financial body until it collapsed.

Whatever form the oversight of this bailout takes, the overseers should be well-versed in 12-step programs, and be experienced in dealing with people who will lie, cheat, and steal to get a fix.

3) Agree to share the blame.

Democrats and Republicans have to stop pointing fingers at each other like cliquey fifth-graders in a schoolyard. The roots of these problems spread across several administrations, and the garbage built up under the watches of many congressional leaders. Now there's plenty for everyone to get a heaping serving on their plates. Shut up and eat it and let's move on.

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