A welcome imposition

Restrictions encourage companies to get off the government buck.

While the stimulus package is being debated in the halls of Congress, the talking heads have been anything but silent. Sean Hannity, for instance, has subtly cloaked his distaste for the pending stimulus bill by describing it as the âÄúEuropean Socialist Act of 2009.âÄù This is nothing new; criticism of President Barack ObamaâÄôs economic policy has long been tarred with the generic epithet of âÄúsocialism.âÄù However, this is just a red herring. The intellectually honest would acknowledge that the programs have little to do with true socialism and that the actual point of contention is the governmentâÄôs reach in the private sector. There is certainly no shortage of legitimate contention, as the past week saw two significant proposals of government-led economic intervention. First, the stimulus bill passed by Congress included a clause that required projects funded in the package to âÄúbuy AmericanâÄù when it came to steel and other manufactured goods. Second is a $500,000 salary cap on the CEOs of companies on the government dole. Critics of these policies will intone that the imposition of these controls are entirely unwelcome intervention, and they would be right. But thatâÄôs the point, and it may work to taxpayersâÄô advantage. Goldman Sachs announced that it was looking to repay the $10 billion it was lent under the TARP program âÄúas soon as possible.âÄù Acknowledging that the loan was âÄúnot meant to be permanent capital,âÄù GoldmanâÄôs CFO David Viniar said, âÄúthere are capital structure restrictions on having the TARP, we would like to get out from under those.âÄù Lets keep this in mind when we hear griping about draconian impositions by our government and consider that maybe itâÄôs time that industry takes its medicine with or without a smile.