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Treasury Defends Bailout Bait-and-Switch


Regulators respond to scathing criticism from the Washington Post.

It's the classic bait and switch: Offer up a shiny, too-good-to-be-true trinket and hook the buyer - only to deliver a rusty old spoon.

The bailout sounded like it was just that: Too good to be true. $700 billion deftly injected into the financial industry to sop up toxic assets, an end to ad-hockery that would not only rescue the financial system from imminent collapse, but would also turn a hefty profit for taxpayers.

With almost half the bailout money spent, Ford (F), General Motors (GM), and Chrysler teetering on the brink, only marginal improvement in credit markets, and an economy that's badly lost it's way, a rusty spoon isn't sounding all that bad.

Yesterday, in what can only be described as a rather unprecedented show of cowering to the American media machine, the Treasury Department defended itself ... from the Washington Post.

The Post ran a piece entitled "Bailout Lacks Oversight Despite Billions Pledged," detailing failures on the part of bureaucrats to keep tabs on their Frankenstein-ish bailout machine.

Oversight behind schedule, opaque initiatives and a program whose initial focus -- and what was sold to the American people -- has been all-but-scrapped: The Post tore Treasury a new one.

The Treasury, for its part, shot back.

Arguing that the Post's assertions omitted many key facts, Henry Paulson and company issued a press release dubbed "Setting the Record Straight" to try to quash the public's growing discontent with the bailout. They trumpeted disclosure of contracts and other pertinent information on their website, efforts to choose a new Special Inspector General for the TARP program, the immediate convening of the Financial Stability Oversight Board, and regular briefings to Congress.

That Treasury even responded at all is astounding. Their continued focus on an aggressive media campaign to sell what our friends at BTIG like to call "half-baked ideas" is evidence of just how little credibility regulators have left.

Surely, the officials dealing with a financial crisis they call the worst in our lifetime have better things to do.
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