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Paul Kiesel
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Interim Head of Government Bailouts, Neel Kashkari, Called a “Chump” by One Congressman, While Another Compares Him to Mel Gibson

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Neel Kashkari, the interim head of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (aka the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial rescue plan or TARP), came under heavy fire today at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing, after Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings got his chance to ask Kashkari questions relating to an expanded $154 billion that was given to American International Group Inc. (AIG) this week, even though AIG still plans on setting aside $503 million in compensation for executives.

Cummings asked Kashkari, "I’m just wondering how you feel about an AIG giving $503 million worth of bonuses on the one hand, and accepting $154 billion from hard-working taxpayers? [And] what really bothers me is all these other people lining up. They say, well, is Kashkari a chump?"

Kashkari responded by telling the panel he was "outraged" that AIG will do this, but he then said he recently learned that AIG has set aside money in order to eliminate an incentive to leave the insurer.

"I’m not defending it," Kashkari said. But, in actuality, he had done just that.

After Cummings prodded Kashkari further, and laid a minor guilt-trip on him, explaining that families, due to the economic situations that many in the country currently face, will "probably be sitting under the Christmas tree with no presents" this year due to his decisions inadvertently determining consumer behavior, Dennis Kucinich, the chairman of this subcommittee, repeatedly interrupted the Treasury official during the more than two-hour session.

Kucinich harshly criticized Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s decision this week to abandon the TARP’s original intent of purchasing toxic mortgage assets from financial firms.

"The secretary just essentially took some scissors and cut it out and threw it away [. . .] Maybe this is some kind of game to some people in the administration," Kucinich said. "They’re [Bush’s Administration] on their way out of office and they just feel they can do whatever they want."

Is Kashkari a Chump

Kashkari reitterated to the subcommittee that his department isn’t in charge of bank oversight, and that financial regulators are more concerned with bank using this capital to increase lending.

The top Republican on the subcommittee, Darell Issa (R-CA), chided Kashkari saying that his efforts have done little to help families stay in their homes. "It’s very clear that the Treasury cannot and will not make the effort to keep people in their homes."

After further accusations by some other members of the committee, California Republican Brian Bilbray, with an absurd veneration, compared Kashkari to Mel Gibson’s character from Braveheart, "I guess you sort of got a taste of how Mel Gibson felt in the last scenes of ‘Braveheart’ [. . .] You’re probably the best spokesman the administration has [and] you’ve come across with more credibility than anyone else that I’ve heard."