The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release


Government Bailout Must Put Americans First

Citizen Groups Call for Caps on Interest Rates, Strict Accountability, Bans on Conflict of Interest, Re-Regulation


Two nationally recognized citizen groups called on Congress
Wednesday to slow down, proceed carefully and incorporate consumer
safeguards in any financial bailout plan, including a cap on credit
card and mortgage interest rates, public equity in firms receiving
bailout funds, and rules that would prevent lobbyists and firms from
cashing in on the massive taxpayer handout.

Public Citizen and Consumer Watchdog released a set of
recommendations for Congress to consider as it debates a bailout plan
worth $700 billion, a hastily reached, arbitrary amount since it is
unknown how much the assets of the failing financial institutions are
actually worth. Never before has Congress considered such a large
expenditure with such little discussion or specifics.

The groups' recommendations call for increased regulation of
financial institutions and strict accountability for the firms that
receive bailout money. The recommendations include:

  • Ignore Wall Street's effort to panic Congress into hasty passage of
    bailout legislation. To protect America, Congress must do its job and
    carefully consider legislation that will not only restore the economy
    but prevent a future debacle. Congress should not rush a plan through
    so that members can adjourn to their election campaigns.
  • Cap interest rates on credit cards and mortgage rates at a level
    based about 3 percentage points above the Federal Reserve's Discount
    Window, which is presently 2.25 percent. Taxpayers shouldn't be charged
    exorbitant interest rates to borrow their own money.
  • Ensure government ownership stake in bailed out firms in proportion
    to the amount of taxpayer risk. This should include a seat on the
    boards of directors of companies that take bailout money.
  • Prevent bailout recipients from receiving government contracts to
    manage the government's newly held assets. The companies that receive
    taxpayer assistance must also agree to a ban on lobbying Congress or
    bank regulators until taxpayers have been repaid. Additionally, there
    should be strict salary and bonus caps for executives of any companies
    receiving a bailout and tight limits on payments to management
  • Require Strict government accountability and greater transparency.
    All Treasury actions must be subject to ordinary judicial review and
    any new program or authority must be subject to open-government laws,
    such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Sunshine Act.

"Rushing through a $700 billion package will blow open the doors of
the Treasury for unprecedented graft and corruption," Public Citizen
President Joan Claybrook said. "Congress must put their constituents'
interest ahead of their own political agendas."

Harvey Rosenfield, the founder of Consumer Watchdog who led the
California voter revolt at the ballot box that resulted in stringent
regulation of insurance rates, said: "Americans who play by the rules
and work hard to provide a decent life for their families are now being
asked to pay for the mistakes of those who bent or broke the rules in
pursuit of riches. If our money is going to be used to save the
economy, we deserve real relief, like a rollback in interest rates, not
face-saving gestures intended to allow public officials who did nothing
to stop this catastrophe to race home to campaign for re-election
claiming they protected taxpayers."

David Arkush, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division, said accountability is paramount.

"This crisis is rooted in a lack of regulation and oversight,"
Arkush said. "This bailout bill must be covered by the Freedom of
Information Act and have regular reporting to Congress of all

READ the Public Citizen and Consumer Watchdog recommendations.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

(202) 588-1000