What Every American Should Know About The Bailout

Now I am no economist, in fact, I will readily admit that there is a wealth of information about the banking system that I know nothing about. But I do try to be informed and to keep up with the news and current events. And considering the state of the economy I have been paying a bit more attention to accounting and how the banking system actually works.

So here are a few things that while everyone has been watching these bailouts go out that should be known. Thanks to John C. Coates (a professor at Harvard Law School) and David S. Scharfstein (a professor of finance at Harvard Business School) who wrote a beautiful op-ed in the New York Times, I now know that the bailouts did not actually go directly to the banks that are having trouble lending but rather to bank holding companies. In their piece they ask why the government would give this money to a bank holding company as opposed to a bank, I mean we aren’t bailing out the automotive companies by giving the money to the equity firms that own those companies so why would we do this with the banks? I realize that we, the people (at large), may not be informed of this. But I would hope that those members of the House Financial Service Committee would be aware of this and would have created legislation to be appropriate to the situation instead of going this awkward (not to mention inefficient) way about it.

The next point was raised by yet another fabulously written op-ed by James Deitrick and Michael Granof (professors of accounting at the University of Texas at Austin). The point that they brought up is how the banks are having such trouble accounting for the money being lent to them by the government. But this should not be so difficult. Every non-profit is required to have their accounting systems in order such that they can be held accountable for the funds they receive from various parties. Now, if a non-profit organization can keep their books accordingly, one would imagine that this should not be such a difficult task for a bank. I mean banks are financial institutions, which leads you to believe that they should have a sufficient understanding of accounting to be able to manage the money that they have. I mean isn’t that the point of a bank. If one were to decide to be a banker, it shouldn’t be so difficult to imagine that said banker could be held accountable for their actions. And that they would be capable of having it done correctly. I mean if bankers cannot do this then why are they managing banks, perhaps we should be turning to the accounting teams at non-profits for some guidance. But in all seriousness, it should not be cause for this much of a stir, it should be standard business practice or at least one that they are familiar with.

Lastly, I’d like our government to remember that these are not free handouts to spoiled children who misbehaved. It may be critical to our economy to aid the banks but it is also critical to our economy to not encourage poor practices. However, it is critical that we encourage those wayward souls to start implementing best practices, such as responsible accounting so that things like this will have less of a chance of occurring. Let us remember that it was no accident that we ended up in this position. And if our lawmakers, who are bailing these irresponsible people out of a self-made crisis, do not set the record straight about what is acceptable and what is not, I have little faith that such an event will not occur again in the future.

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