House Passes Bailout Bill

The US House of Representatives passed the now-infamous $700 billion Bailout Bill 263 to 171 today. Here’s a summary of some details:

Political Points:
-Democrats mostly voted for it; most Republicans voted against it.
-Hank Paulson says that he’s working on hammering out details at this very moment so that the plan can be implemented ASAP.
-The New York Times reports that many lawmakers signed it because they were afraid of the economic “calamity” that would occur if they didn’t.

The Cost:
-The Senate, when it passed the plan on Wednesday, added renewable energy tax breaks and a new alternative minimum tax exemption of $46,200 for individuals and $69,950 for married couples in 2008. This package costs an additional $150.5 billion.
-The bailout plan starts with a disbursement of $250 billion to buy up banks’ bad assets. President Bush will have authority to sign over the next $100 billion. The final $350 billion will be released after the Treasury requests it. Congress has authority to block this final payment within 15 days.
-If the rescue plan loses money after a 5-year period, the next president has to come up with a way to get back those losses from the financial industry, via taxes, penalties, fees, etc.

Who Wins:
-Banks, who get their balance sheets wiped clean.
-Many old guard Wall Street executives, who remain exempt from government scrutiny.
-700 counties in 39 states who used to depend on federal timber sales to pay for rural services, such as schools (from the AP).
Mental health patients, who now get health insurance benefits equal to those granted for other medical treatments.
-Disaster-stricken states, who get tax relief.
-Chevy fans, who get a $7,500 tax break for buying the Volt.
-Renewable energy companies, who benefit from tax incentives.
-Certain people with foreclosed homes, who will temporarily be exempt from federal income tax.
-Henry Paulson, Jr., assuming he’s really into power.

Who Loses:
-Whoever has to finance this monster. Taxpayers, barring the plan’s whopping success.
-The oil and gas industry, whose tax breaks are now more limited.
-New school Wall Street executives, who aren’t allowed to be paid nearly as much as their predecessors.
-Fans of the free market, who will find that the real estate and banking markets are now under constant watch.

It’s a pork-lined executive power ticket for the people who manage federal money. Let’s hope it works.

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