Here’s how to get involved in the bailout discussion

This morning in the Mercury News, I wrote a column sharing my thoughts on the proposed bailout. The bottom line: We need to find better ways to reward risk without encouraging recklessness.

But this is just the beginning of this debate. Already this morning, my inbox is flooded with emails from readers and “experts” wanting to talk about the bailout. It’s scary stuff. There’s a lot of unknowns and what-ifs, and a healthy dose of outrage mixed in. A good recipe for getting your blood pressure racing up the charts.

Once you’re past the venting stage, there’s a way for you to participate in the debate. Via Craig Newmark’s blog, I found Public Markup. In short, it’s a place where pending pieces of legislation get posted and you can comment on various parts of them, or, in D.C. parlance, “mark them up.”The site is sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation.

Right now, there are two pieces of legislation posted there relevant to the bailout discussion.

First, there’s the administration’s plan.

Second, there’s an alternative bill submitted by Sen. Christopher Dodd.

I’m sure there will be more bills submitted, and the details will change. But this a valuable way to examine the nuts and bolts up close and post your thoughts.


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  • Misty

    Wouldn’t this be nice? I guess we can always dream.

    I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor
    of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend!
    To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide
    U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting
    every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at
    adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon
    that equals 425,000.00. My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+
    as a We Deserve It Dividend. Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So
    let’s assume a tax rate of 30%. SO ……. Every individual 18+ has to
    pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle
    Sam. But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket.
    A husband and wife has $595,000.00.

    What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

    Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved. Repay college loans –
    what a great boost to new grads. Put away money for college – it’ll be
    there. Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs. Buy a
    new car – create jobs. Invest in the market – capital drives growth.
    Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves. Enable
    Deadbeat Dads to come clean – or else. Remember this is for every adult
    U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman
    Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course,
    for those serving in our Armed Forces. If we’re going to re-distribute
    wealth let’s really do it…instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 (
    “vote buy” ) economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our
    candidates for President.

    If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult
    U S Citizen 18+!

    As for AIG – liquidate it. Sell off its parts. Let American General go
    back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the
    private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up. Here’s my
    rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn’t.

    Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work.” But can you imagine the
    Coast-To-Coast Block Party! How do you spell Economic Boom? I trust my
    fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion We Deserve It
    Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC. And
    remember, The Family plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5
    Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

    Ahhh…I feel so much better getting that off my chest.
    PS: Feel free to pass this along to your pals as it’s either good for a
    laugh or a tear or a very sobering thought on how to best use $85
    Billion! !

  • V Hufman

    A country held hostage – Resistance Grows to Banker’s Coup D’etat
    More than 100,000 letters sent through to Congress
    New Free Web Button Available for VoteNoBailout

    A VoteNoBailout
    To-Do List:

    1) Send a letter to Congress
    2) Tell a friend about VoteNoBailout
    3) Put this button on your site or blog

    A grassroots movement of resistance is sweeping the country. More than 100,000 people have used the website to send a letter to Congress telling them to vote “No” to the bailout legislation.

    Tell all of your friends to send a letter to elected officials through

    The Bush administration and the richest bankers in the country, with support of some of the top leaders in Congress, have put a gun to our head: give us your money, or we will sink your economy. Yesterday, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, threatened the Senate if they failed to pass the $700 billion plan, they would be responsible for causing recession, more joblessness, and pushing more homes into foreclosure.

    The bailout package takes our money and gives it to the same bankers and executives who drove the economy into the ground. The pay for chief executives of large U.S. companies is now at 275 times that of the average worker’s salary in 2007. It was 25 times greater in 1965. The same bankers who will be given our hard-earned tax dollars refuse to support even the bailout of their own institutions if their obscene salaries are even slightly compromised. “We support the bill, but we are opposed to provisions on executive pay… It is not appropriate for government to be setting the salaries of executives,” said Scott Talbot, executive for Financial Services Roundtable, a group representing the bankers.

    Below is a press release sent out by Please send it to your local media and make sure they cover the growing resistance to the proposed bailout legislation.


    100,000 letters sent to elected officials in 24 hours opposing bailout legislation was launched on September 22, 2008, in response to the Bush Administration’s attempt to rush Bailout legislation through Congress.

    In an astonishing response to its appeal, more than 100,000 letters were sent to elected officials within the first 24 hours through the email advocacy mechanism. People are circulating this appeal all over the internet on web sites, blogs and between individuals.

    A sample of the letter reads:

    “Congress has no right to give the White House and its Secretary of the Treasury the power to transfer the people’s money to the richest bankers in the country. Vote No to the Bailout legislation. The Bailout legislation is being rammed through Congress in a matter of days.

    “This is an illegal power grab by the White House and their richest friends on Wall Street. The Legislation allows the Treasury Department to appoint the same bankers who created the crisis to administer and dictate the use of trillions of our tax dollars. It is also one of the biggest transfers of wealth from working families to the ultra-rich in the history of the United States.

    “Congress should help families stay in their homes. Wealthy executives should be forced to disgorge their obscene profits, fees and bonuses that made them ultra-rich while they ran the economy into the ground.” was initiated as a project of There will be daily updates for the media about the number of people who have sent letters to Congress opposing this unprecedented handover of the people’s money to the richest bankers and the assumptions of vast, new powers by the Executive Branch of government.

  • Ken

    Concerning a $700,000,000,000.00 bailout:
    Every American citizen is being sold out plain and simple. The people that are struggling will continue to struggle to survive. The people with all of the power and money will be given this enormous gift at the expense of our “American Dream”. This is shameful, dishonest and immoral and needs to be stopped.

  • Subject: A Bailout Plan Based On Solution Of Value

    The foundation of economics is value. For example, every transaction is intended to increase value. Thus, the solution of value should be the foundation of a rational bailout plan.

    The solution of value can be describe in one sentence: “The cash flow equation {Total Cash Return = Sum of Cash Flow + Cash From Resale} is satisfied for the price and all the resale prices to infinity in time.” The solution is mathematically rigorous and a non-violable law of nature in social science.

    The solution of value can quantify the supply and demand model for multiple commodities with similar functionality, such as cars, houses, currencies, money supply, etc.

    The bailout plan satisfies two non-violable laws of nature, derivable from the solution of value. The first is the solution of value, and the second is the quantity theory of money, Quantity x Price = Velocity of Circulation of Money x Money Supply. Milton Friedman proposes that the Velocity is an approximate time-invariant, and, thus, Money Supply would be the key to preventing Great Depress. With sufficient effort, the money supply can be determined from a quantitative supply and demand model based on the solution of value.

    The solution of value can detect over-valuation and, thus, can prevent all the recent financial crises. But, since the current crisis has not been detected and prevented by the solution of value, the quantity theory of money needs to be observed to save the US economy from another potential Great Depression due to the chain reaction of bank failures. The current bailout plan is designed to stop the chain reaction.

    The rational bailout plan involves three parts:
    1. Reduce foreclosures by restructuring the foreclosure (and bankruptcy) regulations based on value determination.
    2. Keep money supply from contracting.
    3. Require all investments be valued by the solution of value.

    The mortgage payment should be reduced to a level that the homeowner can afford, even to an amount less than the interest-only payment (the principal will grow). And to be fair, the mortgage interest rate should be raised proportionally. Also, there should be a fine for “littering” the housing market with foreclosed property by a homeowner, just as there is a fine for littering by a driver on the highway.

    The $700 billion bailout proposal should be used efficiently to prevent the contraction of money supply. But, a “reverse” tax and loans to small business might be more efficient than a “reverse” auction and loans to mature corporations in pumping money into the economy.

    Financial crises will no longer occur, if all the market participants, including the government, observe the non-violable laws of nature based on the solution of value. A valuation project can be within just 1% of the cost of the proposed $700 billion bailout plan. Knowledge will be the solution to all our problems.

  • virginia

    I tinhk that this is not going to solve the problem on ws.It’s just another way of taxing the people. And giving the very rich and the greedy more power than ever.This country is loosing all of it’s freedom and the very rich is the reason why,because they are getting al the taxs breaks , then sending all the jobs of the working class people to poor countrys such Mexico to save them money. I thought the the people in Washington would have seen this coming.When people can’t work they can’t pay the banks.

  • Thanks for pointing to Public Markup for the draft legislation. I wanted to inform you that we just put the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act up on Public MarkUp( We are also asking people to sign a petition to ask lawmakers to not vote on the bill for 72 hours so that Congress can actually READ THE BILL.

    We need to require better lawmaking from our representatives. They can’t rush this important legislation through without reading it.

    Please sign the petition and thanks so much for your support.

    Nisha Thompson
    Sunlight Foundation
    Online Organizer and Outreach Coordinator

  • John Meggers

    Misty, your math is off. It’s only $425 per adult, not $425,000.

    This is a huge sellout of the American people. I’m not an economist, but why should the govt buy the worthless loans and be stuck with them, hoping someday they will have some actual value, while the banks keep the top choices for themselves? The better alternative, in my view, is loans to the banks to stay afloat, secured by the mortgages that actually have value. And the salaries and bonuses earned by the heads of these companies is obscene. They should have to foot some of the bill themselves.

  • SFGary

    Did this info get to you?:

    Apparently the treasury officials had a conference call with Wall Street types that the $700M was on its way and not to panic and that the restrictions were either not too onerous or ones that could be ignored. Its downright breathtaking. This crowd just has a few more weeks in control and they are emptying the treasury as fast as they can. They would load the moving van with everything of value that’s not nailed down. Yet another reason not to trust Washington.