Sunday, December 06, 2009

The $700 billion man

Today's Washington Post profiles Neel Kashkari, the man tasked with putting together the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Here's a look at how the sausage gets made in Washington DC:
In Washington, he used his BlackBerry to determine the bailout sum presented to Congress. His arithmetic: "We have $11 trillion residential mortgages, $3 trillion commercial mortgages. Total $14 trillion. Five percent of that is $700 billion. A nice round number."

Looking back, he says, he is more confident about the two-by-sixes.

"Seven hundred billion was a number out of the air," Kashkari recalls, wheeling toward the hex nuts and the bolts. "It was a political calculus. I said, 'We don't know how much is enough. We need as much as we can get [from Congress]. What about a trillion?' 'No way,' Hank shook his head. I said, 'Okay, what about 700 billion?' We didn't know if it would work. We had to project confidence, hold up the world. We couldn't admit how scared we were, or how uncertain."
Don't be so naïve as to think current health care legislation, or pretty much anything which is cooked up inside the halls of Congress, is much different.

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