Arlo Sings Bailouts

Only days after the president declared, “No more bailouts, no more handouts,” I see that Arlo Guthrie is touring the South in February and March. What’s the connection? If you have the good fortune to see him, be sure to ask for “I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae.” That 2008 song was itself a new version of Tom Paxton’s classic song “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler,” sung here by Arlo: “When they hand a million grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out….If you’re a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic, Down in Congress there’s a safety net for you.”

The 2008 version is sung here by Arlo and here by Paxton. Besides the name of the company, they had to make a few other changes in the lyrics, like “When they hand a trillion grand out, I’ll be standing with my hand out.”

But that was October 2008. By the end of December, I was noting that it was a Merry Christmas for GMAC, which learned on Christmas Eve that the Federal Reserve had approved its application to become a bank holding company. That gave GMAC “access to new sources of funding, including a potential infusion of taxpayer dollars from the Treasury Department and loans from the Fed itself,” as the Washington Post explained. GMAC wasn’t the only company that suddenly became a “bank holding company” in order to cash in on the $700 billion financial bailout. Late one night in November, American Express was granted the same privilege, along with Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and CIT. Which was why I suggested then that Tom and Arlo needed a new version: “I’m Changing My Name to Bank Holding Company.”

For now, enjoy “I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae”: