Thursday, January 1, 2009

Advice for the Banks

Bill Shein

Memo to: Bank PR Directors
From: Global PR Central
Re: Weekly Talking Points

As you know, under the bailout law we don't have to disclose how we use the money. Why? Because millions in campaign contributions and non-stop lobbying ensured toothless legislation that gives us money for nothing, even though most Americans were strongly (and rightly) opposed. Thanks, democracy!

But simply pointing out Congress' failure will only further enrage the public. So we must soften the blow, or people might take to the streets. Here are a few examples of good (and bad) responses to any future AP inquiries:

GOOD: "Working closely with Congress, Treasury, and the Fed, we will help unfreeze credit markets and ensure that American business has the resources it needs."

BAD: "Our massive bonuses from the last few years — based on illusory, phony profits from fictional mortgage-backed securities — are ours to keep. Isn't that awesome? Don't you wish you worked for a huge bank and not the Associated Press? Send me your résumé and I'll see what I can do."

GOOD: "We urge Congress to immediately appropriate the remaining $350 billion. Any delay could endanger financial institutions that are critical to our economy."

BAD: "It's vital that all $700 billion disappear down our carefully constructed rabbit hole before Barack Obama takes office — even if his Treasury Secretary-designate helped design the bailout plan. We have yachts to buy, after all."

GOOD: "The American people can rest assured that during this crisis we will continue to act in the public interest."

BAD: "The American people can rest assured that we are permanently beyond their reach, and that we will spend the holiday season laughing and high-fiving about what we call, 'The Most Foolish Giveaway of Public Funds to Private Industry in the History of the Known Universe.'"

Remember, we don't want anyone taking to the streets to demand accountability from the financial services industry. Fortunately, there's a clause in every credit card agreement that says, "If you ever take to the streets to demand accountability, your interest rate will increase to 385 percent." So we're probably covered. But let's not take any chances until we've pocketed the rest of the dough.

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