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Cummings To Kashkari: Don't Be a 'Chump'

Neel Kashkari, Treasury's man running the $700 billion government bailout/rescue, just wrapped up his grilling before a subcommittee of the House Oversight committee, which is unhappy with the way the government is spending the bailout money.

The issue: Treasury asked for and received from Congress the authority to spend $700 billion to buy troubled assets from financial institutions. But on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said, no, the money will be used to buy directly into companies. The economy degraded so quickly that, by the time the bailout package was approved, buying troubled assets would no longer be effective, Paulson said.

The cause of today's fireworks on the Oversight committee came down to this: Either you believe Paulson, Kashkari and Treasury's argument, or you believe as many lawmakers evidently do: That Treasury executed a bait-and-switch.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a member of the committee questioning Kashkari today, is trying really hard to buy Treasury's story, but can't quite bring himself to do it. He's wondering if Treasury is getting duped by troubled financial institutions lining up for cash -- specifically, insurance giant AIG, which is still granting bonuses while taking government money -- and if he, and Congress, are getting duped.

To make his point, Cummings employed some colorful street argot.

"In the neighborhood I grew up in, one of things you tried to do was make sure you were not considered a chump," Cummings said. "You didn't want people to see you as someone they could get over on. I am wondering how you feel about AIG giving $503 million worth of bonuses with one hand and accepting $154 billion from hard-working taxpayers."

"I'm trying to make sure you get it," Cummings said. "What really bothers me, are all these people who are lined up [for money], are they saying, 'Well, Kashkari is a chump?' "

Cummings added: "I do not want to be considered a chump, either."

-- Frank Ahrens

The Ticker is Twittering!

By Frank Ahrens  |  November 14, 2008; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  
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