Some corporate leaders are bristling at the potential terms of the grants and loans authorized by the stimulus legislation President Trump signed last week. Boeing’s chief executive, David Calhoun, for one has suggested that the aerospace company could raise money elsewhere if it found the government’s terms too onerous.
The Treasury Department, led by Steven Mnuchin, a former investment banker, might try to avoid imposing conditions that companies find burdensome. But if the aid appears too lenient, popular support for the rescue could evaporate as it did with the bailout of banks and other businesses after the 2008 financial crisis. And some lawmakers and experts argue that Mr. Mnuchin ought to resist the temptation to cut businesses too sweet a deal to prevent them from walking away from the government’s offer.
“Either they don’t need money, which means they shouldn’t get the money,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in an interview. “Or maybe they really do need it, in which case they should agree to some restrictions on how the money is spent.”
Taking a tougher line with companies could bolster the overall economic impact of the aid. Demanding that companies maintain hiring levels, for example, might mean that more people have money coming into their bank accounts, allowing them to spend on necessities and pay the rent or mortgage, said Phil Angelides, a former treasurer of California and chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which was created by Congress in 2009.
Of course, with revenues falling off a cliff and losses piling up, some companies may be so desperate that their chief executives happily accept terms like a temporary ban on companies buying their own shares, a condition that airline executives have said they are willing to accept. Others may accept aid simply because the public wants them to.
One big difference between the economic problems of today and the 2008 financial crisis is that most of the companies in need of relief are not suffering from self-inflicted wounds. “That’s obvious to most people, and a C.E.O. will have this defense at his or her disposal,” said Tony Fratto, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury and a former deputy press secretary for President George W. Bush.
Right now, policymakers are keenly watching how airlines and Boeing might respond.
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