Make the bailout “investments” voluntary

Letter I sent to the President and my representatives in Congress:

The recent bailout plan approved by Congress authorized the Dept. of the Treasury to purchase mortgages securities at above-market prices.  More recently, Secretary Paulson announced that the Treasury would also be purchasing stock in major financial institutions.  Many Members of Congress, economists, Wall Street executives, financial pundits, and Mr. Paulson himself have suggested that these “investments” will be profitable for taxpayers.

Though my portfolio is modest, I do have some experience investing, both in retirement and non-retirement accounts.  In all of these scenarios, I have been free  to decide how much to invest, choose the mutual funds or stock to invest in, and withdraw my money or move it into a different investment when I wanted to.  This is a clear contrast to bailout plan, which compels me to “invest” my tax dollars in whatever investments the Secretary of the Treasury chooses, with no option for withdrawal from the plan.

I mention this discrepancy for the following reason: it would seem that a voluntary, rather than a compulsory, investment plan would suffice.  The federal government should convert the bailout money to a voluntary mutual fund, controlled by the Secretary of the Treasury, to invest in these securities, to which anyone can contribute as much as they like.

If those Members of Congress, economists, Wall Street executives, and financial pundits sincerely believe that the bailout investment scheme will prove profitable (I suspect many of them are insincere), they should be allowed to contribute more of their own money into this investment fund.  Those taxpayers, myself included, who believe this fund to be a losing proposition, should be allowed to withdraw our “investment” or sell our shares of this fund before taking a loss (or forgoing our profit).

Thank you,
Nathan A. Benefield