Archive (2008)

Massa Press Conference: Taxes and the Bailout

Eric Massa unveiled his tax plan [pdf] at his press conference today. That, and bailout reaction, after the break.

Massa's plan is similar to the Obama plan. It would lower taxes on 97% of "working Americans in the 29th Congressional District." It ends taxes on Senior Citizens making $50K or less per year. It cuts taxes for those going to college, and removes the self-employment tax for those making less than $250K per year.

Massa proposes to pay for the tax cut by removing oil tax breaks ($14 billion), ending loopholes for hedge funds, repealing the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250K, putting a stronger emphasis on pay-as-you-go financing of legislation, ending the war in Iraq and earmark reform.

Most of the questions from the many members of the press were about the bailout plan. Massa believes that the Senate should take up the bailout plan and "no one goes home until the work is done." He's concerned about the amount of power concentrated in one person, and wants an organization similar to the Depression-era NRA, composed of "the best and the brightest" to administer the program.

Massa believes this is "not a fabricated crisis" and that we "can't have a repeat of the dysfunction we saw yesterday".

When asked about Kuhl's plan, Massa said the main problem he sees is that it calls for a 100% US Treasury guarantee for private insurance companies. "I'm not quite sure how we're going to implement this, and if those companies go bankrupt, the American taxpayer is left holding the bag." Massa quoted Doug Elmendorf at the Brookings Institute, who said that he didn't understand how this is going to work.

Massa said that Kuhl's plan put a "for-profit middleman" in the midst of the crisis. "It makes no sense."

That said, Massa says he's "willing to learn and listen." That said, if a proposal "is driven by pure ideology, and political talking points, then it ought not take up our time."

More News: Bailout and Canandaigua Ad

The Hornell Evening Tribune and the Messenger-Post both have bailout stories.

The Messenger-Post also has a story on Kuhl's ad on the Canandaigua VA hospital. It looks into the bi-partisan history of saving the hospital, much of which occurred before Kuhl took office.

More Vote Coverage

In today's Corning Leader, Randy Kuhl explains his "no" vote.

Kuhl also gets coverage in todays' Democrat & Chronicle and Star-Gazette.

In all the stories, Kuhl signals that he still might vote for a compromise.

Kuhl's Alternative

Randy Kuhl has posted an alternative bailout plan. It's hardly a serious alternative. Here are some quotes and a few thoughts:

Require the Treasury Department to guarantee losses up to 100%, resulting from the failure of timely payment and interest from mortgage-backed securities (MBS) originated prior to the date of enactment. [...] Direct the Treasury Department to assess a premium on outstanding MBS to finance this insurance.

In 2006, the Mortgage-Backed Security market was $6.1 trillion. Let's assume that we're looking at $8 trillion today. Earlier this year, Merrill-Lynch sold some lower-grade MBS at 22 cents to the dollar. Let's assume, charitably, that 25% of entire MBS pool is bad debt. We need an insurance pool capable of taking a loss of $2 trillion. How are banks that are already broke going to pay those kind of premiums?

Immediately suspend the capital gains rate from 15% for individuals and 35% for corporations. By encouraging corporations to sell unwanted assets, this provision would unleash funds and materials with which to create jobs and grow the economy.

The "unwanted assets" that the banks would be selling aren't worth what the banks paid for them. So, there won't be any capital gains on those assets. Even if the banks sell both MBS and "good" assets, the losses from the MBS will offset the gains from the "good" assets.

Suspend “Mark to Market” Accounting: Direct the SEC to suspend the mark-to-market regulatory rules until the agency can issue new guidelines that will allow firms to mark these assets to their true economic value. The current rules contribute to a downward spiral as firms have to evaluate their assets not on the basis of their long-term investment but rather on a short-term mania.

"Mark to Market" is simply reality-based accounting. If banks are allowed to value securities at any price they think is reasonable, they'll have a major incentive to keep those assets on their books at inflated values, guaranteeing that there will be no market in them for the indefinite future. And there's no evidence that "Mark to Market" is causing a downward spiral, as Forbes notes in its story about the Merrill-Lynch sale earlier this year:

"I have previously argued that mark-to-market losses exaggerate the severity of the credit crisis," wrote investment strategist Ed Yardeni in his e-mail newsletter Tuesday. "Then again, Merrill Lynch converted its mark-to-market losses into permanent ones.... This is bad news for other investment banks and commercial banks trying to get rid of loans and securities in a market flooded with distressed assets."

The plan that failed today had many faults, but at least it was an attempt to inject some liquidity into the market. Kuhl's plan expects banks to conjure up capital from thin air, sell worthless assets at a profit, and pretend that the rest of those assets are worth far more than their real value. It's a fairy tale solution to a real world problem.

Bailout News

WENY has a story about the bailout vote that quotes Randy Kuhl. WHAM-1180 also has some coverage.

The Democrat and Chronicle has an editorial calling for another vote, and soon, saying that Kuhl's call for private-sector participation must be acknowledged.

And Exile at The Albany Project interviews a hedge fund manager, who gives his perspective on what the meaning of a "credit freeze".

Bailout Fails

I'm watching C-SPAN and it's over: the bailout lost by 19 23 votes.

Randy Kuhl joined 132 133 of his Republican colleagues and voted against the bailout. He's issued this statement explaining his vote.

Update: Here's the roll. It's an interesting mix. Other area representatives (Reynolds, Walsh, and Slaughter) all voted for the bill.

Star-Gazette District 29 Stories and Op-Eds

Thanks to readers Tom and Elmer for sending links to yesterday's Star-Gazette stories on the race.

The S-G ran biographies of Randy Kuhl and Eric Massa. And it also carried two op-ed pieces by Massa and Kuhl.

News: Dunning on the Debates, Bailout Analysis and Opinion

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader opinion page [pdf] (and jump [pdf]), where Joe Dunning analyzes Kuhl's reluctance to debate in a public forum. He concludes that Kuhl's "accessibility has diminished" over the past two years. The whole column is worth a read.

The Messenger-Post has a long piece on the bailout. It sees local concern about Wall Street, especially among those with 401(k)s, but sees no concern in the real-estate market. It quotes Kuhl's opposition to the Paulson plan.

The Democrat and Chronicle's editorial on the bailout castigates the local Republican delegation as follows:

Moreover, most of the House Republican minority, which includes area Reps. Randy Kuhl, Tom Reynolds and Jim Walsh, say they are being led by a desire to stop a $700 billion bailout. But what they are really doing is representing the views of the same Wall Street fast-money types who created this crisis. They want government support without any strings — no restrictions on CEO pay, no taxpayer stake, no congressional oversight.

In Kuhl's case, that's just factually wrong. Kuhl has said the opposite, " I will OPPOSE the Bush Administration’s proposal if it does not include provisions to protect the taxpayer." A simple fact-check on Kuhl's latest press release takes a couple of seconds. There's no excuse for that kind of sloppiness.

Reading the Kuhl Tea Leaves

Since the details of the bailout bill are not yet finalized, we don't know Randy Kuhl's position on the bailout plan. After reading his statement yesterday, which emphasized taxpayer protection and no golden parachutes, I concluded that Kuhl might well support the final bailout bill.

Today's Buffalo News story on the bailout reaches this conclusion:

In saying private companies will have to carry the financial burden of any bailout, Kuhl sided with the renegade Republicans who refused to agree with the tentative compromise leaders of both parties agreed to Thursday.

I don't think that's true. From what I've read, there are three groups of thought on this.

First, Paulson, whose plan didn't include taxpayer equity or pay caps. His plan is DOA.

The second group is a small number of Democrats and a large number of Republicans who just think the whole thing stinks. The Republicans have put out some talking points, which, as this article explains really don't make a lot of sense.

The third, and largest, group is the compromisers in both parties, who see the importance of the bailout but want to couple it with taxpayer equity in return, some form of pay caps, and tight oversight. These people are laboring to get something that's strict enough to include the nay-sayers, while still giving Paulson what he says he needs.

My guess is that Kuhl will end up in this group. I don't think he's a dead-ender. He's not a member of the Republican Study Committee, which is the 100 or so most conservative House members who have been most steadfast in their opposition to the bailout.

Responding to the Kuhl Ad

The Massa campaign has provided a response to Randy Kuhl's ad. They point out that Kuhl actually voted for the bill he criticizes Massa for supporting.

Only someone who's been asleep for the past few days would believe that taxes aren't going up. The question isn't whether we'll pay, but who will pay. At some point these ads will become completely ineffective. I don't know if we've reached that point, but we have to be closer than 2006.

Kuhl Statement on the Bailout

Randy Kuhl has posted his position on the bailout. He opposes a bailout proposal "if it does not include provisions to protect the taxpayer", and if it contains golden parachutes for Wall Street executives.

Every discussion about the consensus bailout plan has included some form of taxpayer protection (such as an equity in exchange for a bailout) and has limits on executive compensation. Kuhl says he's confident that there will be a "bipartisan, bicameral" solution, so I think the signal he's sending is that he's not a GOP minority dead-ender.

New Kuhl Ad: Blueprint

The Kuhl campaign has released a new TV ad, which is embedded below: