There’s no way out of TARP

(H/T – Lawhawk)

Back at my regular home, both my co-blogger Shoebox and I have been monitoring attempts, some successful, others not, by banks to get out from under the Troubled Assets Relief Program. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Stuart Varney relates the story of a larger bank that was forced to take TARP money:

Here’s a true story first reported by my Fox News colleague Andrew Napolitano (with the names and some details obscured to prevent retaliation). Under the Bush team a prominent and profitable bank, under threat of a damaging public audit, was forced to accept less than $1 billion of TARP money. The government insisted on buying a new class of preferred stock which gave it a tiny, minority position. The money flowed to the bank. Arguably, back then, the Bush administration was acting for purely economic reasons. It wanted to recapitalize the banks to halt a financial panic.

Fast forward to today, and that same bank is begging to give the money back. The chairman offers to write a check, now, with interest. He’s been sitting on the cash for months and has felt the dead hand of government threatening to run his business and dictate pay scales. He sees the writing on the wall and he wants out. But the Obama team says no, since unlike the smaller banks that gave their TARP money back, this bank is far more prominent. The bank has also been threatened with “adverse” consequences if its chairman persists. That’s politics talking, not economics.

Why can’t this bank do what some tiny banks that received TARP money have done? Varney answer that with three words – “Control. Direct. Command.” He points to the Pay for Performance Act, which many have seen as merely a ceiling on pay at any company that has so much as a dime of TARP money. Given the Democrats’ support for a “living wage”, I see that as a vehicle for raising the minimum wage by means other than legislation. After all, if the biggest banks are forced to pay a large sum of money for entry-level tellers, that will force the smaller banks and other businesses that offer entry-level jobs to follow suit.

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