Tulsa World Editorial: Huh?

Tulsa World Editorial

Our money is not our business?
By World's Editorial Writers
Published: 12/24/2008  2:27 AM
Last Modified: 12/24/2008  2:56 AM

Try this after the first of the year: Go to your friendly neighborhood bank and politely ask for a $500,000 loan. When the loan officer asks for the reason you need the money, just tell him or her that it's none of his or her business. That ought to work.

Silly? Of course. No credible financial institution would loan money on such terms. That, however, is pretty much what the banking industry is doing to the taxpayers.

Congress and the White House are rescuing Wall Street to the tune of about $700 billion, much of which has already been doled out.

The Associated Press asked these four questions of 21 of the banks that have received at least $1 billion of the money: 1. How much has been spent? 2. What was it spent on? 3. How much is being held in savings? 4. What's the plan for the rest?

The answers were, basically, "None of your business."

Huh? Oh, sure, there was some financial gobbledygook such as, "We manage our capital in its aggregate" and some plain evasion, "We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking." But the message was clear: Butt out.

There is a lot of taxpayer money at stake here. The Big Three automakers, who received far less in bailout money - $17.4 billion - have had some pretty tough restrictions placed on the money. That is fair.

But Wall Street evidently doesn't believe that it is playing under the same rules.

Of course, this is a problem that should not have occurred. The rules of the game should have been set before the money went out. It was a necessary move to head off even more foreclosures and financial failings.

It's taxpayer money and the bankers must answer questions.

Does Wall Street expect us to abide by the standard of "Trust us"?

We tried that once. We'll not make the same mistake again.