smart spending

Can Tony Soprano fix bailout mess?

Jay MacDonald You know what we need to straighten out this bailout mess? We need a financial partner with deep pockets and a proven track record in loan management.

A partner like the mob.

With all due respect to our Ivy League economists who have been busting their slide rules trying to algorithm us out of this morass, it may be time to bring in the big boys.

Wise men, meet wise guys.

The mob may be the perfect partner. Think about it:

  1. It's liquid.
  2. It steered clear of the subprime mortgage fiasco.
  3. Its return on the "products" in which it historically invests in continues to outperform the financial markets.
  4. Its loan terms meet or beat most credit card companies.
  5. Its bosses spread the wealth around, taking only a "taste" for themselves.
  6. A handshake will seal the deal. Paperwork? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Brutal business

Admittedly, my knowledge of La Famiglia is limited to what Tony Soprano's lawyer might characterize as "hearsay."

I stayed mostly awake through all three "Godfather" films. I watched "Goodfellas" twice. (Don't you wish Tim Geithner was a little less Ray Liotta and a little more Joe Pesci?) I followed the highs and lows of the Sopranos like everyone else.

True, I don't actually know any connected guys. But if you can't trust Puzo, Scorsese, DeNiro and Pacino to cook you up a pretty authentic bolognese, whaddayagonnado?

Furthermore, the mob has been lending money forever. It's one of their traditional income streams. I can't speak to their underwriting criteria, but their risk management is second to none.

“The mob has been lending money forever. I can't speak to their underwriting criteria, but their risk management is second to none.”

Sure, their "vig" -- short for "vigorish," the mob's colorful fee and interest structure -- can be uncomfortable.

But so can a subprime adjustable-rate mortgage reset. Or the default rate on your credit card.

Lending, as we've lately come to appreciate, is a brutal business. Bailout lending is even more so, because we're playing with the lives and dough of those not yet born.

Ergo, it strikes me as fiscally sound from a taxpayer's perspective to enlist a lending partner that will ensure that the bailout debt gets fully repaid.

With interest.

Or else.

Who better for this job than the mob?

An offer we can't refuse

Sure, it's risky. The mob's not fond of commuting. Or Wall Street. Or returning untapped phone calls.

As for Mr. Geithner et al, working with "made" guys could present its own set of challenges, not the least of which might involve arriving at a working definition for "badda bing, badda boom."

But desperate times call for desperate measures -- including strange bedfellows who aren't afraid to "go to the mattresses."

If the plan succeeds, we can look forward to repayment of the bailout funds in a timely manner.

And for those deadbeat CEOs who unwisely choose to test the patience of the American taxpayer? One day, an intercom chirp will interrupt their in-suite pedicure.

"Sir? A Mr. Armbuster to see you."

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