"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Umpqua’s money trail

At least one of the Northwest 10 banks what have gotten federal bailout money has explained what was done with it. And as far as it goes, the explanation sounds reasonable – or at least, in line with what we were all told about the situation originally.

Umpqua Bank at Portland took in $214 million in federal money, second-most among the Northwest banks. The Oregonian reports today that Umpqua “is a healthy, profitable bank. When Umpqua cut the deal with the feds in October, it didn’t need money to survive, Umpqua CEO Ray Davis said at the time.”

Okay: So what was the point of our giving the money to Umpqua? “Ron Farnsworth, Umpqua executive vice president, said Monday that the Treasury money has enabled the bank to continue making loans. Umpqua originated about $400 million in new loans in the current quarter, about the same as it did in its second and third quarters.”

Presumably, the amount would have been less without the infusion, another tap on the economic brake.

The jury still seems out on whether this is doing much good, and at least one economist the Oregonian quotes is highly doubtful. (Members of Congress, having already opened the treasury to these guys, finally, belatedly, seem to be asking some of these questions too.) But at least one bank is providing some explanation for where all those taxpayer bucks are going, and at some some justification for them.

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