WASHINGTON - Despite all the noise on the networks about President Bush's bailout, the people who will pay the bill for it, the taxpayers, will not get details until weeks from now, if ever.
However, a few scraps of information have fallen from the negotiating table. First, the tab isn't limited to $700 billion. The legislation really doesn't impose a ceiling on the price tag. It says the Treasury secretary's authority to buy "mortgage related" securities "shall not exceed $700 million at any one time."
The bill gives the Treasury secretary absolute power, according to the Washington Post. The legislation says "decisions by the secretary (of the Treasury) pursuant to the authority of this act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court or law or administrative agency," the Post reports.
While President Bush's Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., has warned Congress that credit markets are drying up on Wall Street, not all the bankers there agree with him. One prominent New York City money manager, who spoke only on promise of confidentiality, said Thursday that Paulson is not telling the truth about credit.
"No one here is not getting their money," said the Manhattan money manager. The White House plan is getting hit from left to right and center by spokespersons outside the Washington Beltway.
From the left, ACORN President Maude Hurd said President Bush in his Wednesday night speech neglected to take responsibility for the failure of his regulators to prevent the episode. Why trust a president who created this crisis to solve it? Hurd asked.
Conservative Richard Viguerie called the scheme "economic fascism."
"Conservatives must stand up and say, loud and clear, to their senators and representatives: We will not tolerate any bailout of Wall Street millionaires.
"This is going to be hard for almost every member of Congress, given the culture of corruption that prevails in Washington," said Viguerie, a prominent Republican direct mail entrepeneur.
"Since 2002, the financial industry has given more than $1.1 billion to congressional candidates. And that's not including the hundreds of millions spent on lobbying. Now Wall Street is saying: It's payback time.
"If John McCain supports this bailout," Viguerie said, "he will lose all of the goodwill and support he has gained from conservatives by picking Gov. (Sarah) Palin as his running mate."
A Marist survey reported that 68 percent of the voters polled say it is important for Congress and the president to act, but not right away, while 26 percent want Congress to act this week.
A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll finds that "most Americans don't believe the government has responsibility for bailing out financial firms with taxpayer money, a core part of the rescue plan Congress is considering to halt the near-meltdown of the nation's financial markets."
Asked whether "the government should use taxpayer dollars to rescue financial firms whose collapse could have adverse effects on the economy, 55% of the poll's respondents said they did not believe the government should be responsible for funding a bailout plan."
Comic Jay Leno had his own take on the controversy on Wednesday: "Oh, more bad news from President Bush. Remember those rebate checks from a few months ago? He wants them back. Yeah! We need to give that money to rich people on Wall Street. They need it more than you do!"
--- Douglas Turner