Saturday, January 24, 2009

But It's Even Worse, Isn't It?


If you wait long enough, somebody's probably going to articulate what you are thinking, and probably say it better. Case in point: I haven't had much time to type out my thoughts on the nation's fear of "nationalization", but Robert Reich does a pretty good job of describing something that's been bothering me:
The federal government -- that is, you and I and every other taxpayer -- has taken ownership of giant home mortgagors Fannie and Freddie, which are by now basket cases. We've also put hundreds of millions into Wall Street banks, which are still flowing red ink and seem everyday to be in worse shape. We've bailed out the giant insurer AIG, which is failing. We've given GM and Chrysler the first installments of what are likely to turn into big bailouts. It's hard to find anyone who will place a big bet on the future of these two.
In terms of the companies lining up for bailouts,
If anyone has a good argument for why the shareholders of these losers should not be cleaned out first, and their creditors and executives and directors second -- before taxpayers get stuck with the astonishingly-large bill -- I would like to hear it.
I completely agree. But there's something Reich doesn't mention that concerns me: Our current bailouts aren't working. That is, it may cost us more to continue bailing out loser companies while declining to nationalize them than it would if we nationalized them, ate their bad debt and, as quickly as possible, restored them to private ownership. (Part of the reason, of course, is the appalling greed of incompetent managers.)

I can also tell you this, not far off from one of Reich's points - Chrysler is a black hole. If it weren't, Cerberus would be bailing it out itself. They shouldn't be invited back for more "loans" or bailout funds, save perhaps a bridge loan to help them seal a takeover deal with a viable company.
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Addendum: "Moral haz... whuttard?" David Ignatius flat-out calls for subsidy:
How will the managers of the Bad Bank coax the gremlins out of hiding? With money, of course -- buying up an estimated $1 trillion to $2 trillion in toxic paper. Will the government overpay? Of course it will, especially at first, as it discovers fair prices for securitized debt for which there isn't now a functioning market.
Anybody even casually conversant with this crisis knows that the government will overpay because to do otherwise won't help the banks. We can buy them for the pretend value the banks presently use, knowing we're paying probably two, three, four times their actual value, removing a huge liability from the banks' shoulders, then hope that with actual assets back in their coffers banks will return to "business as usual". Or we can try to come up with something approximating market value, force banks to report multi-billion dollar losses on those assets, and... then most of them have to admit insolvency.

At least people seem to be through arguing that if the taxpayer ends up owning these toxic assets, there's a chance of "turning a profit". Does Larry Kudlow blush when he reads crap like this, or does he shrug, smile at the corporate interests he serves and say, "It was worth a shot."

1 comment:

  1. "Does Larry Kudlow blush when he reads crap like this, or does he shrug, smile at the corporate interests he serves and say, "It was worth a shot.""

    No. It's been my experience that most sociopath's/career criminals don't feel shame . . . See "Madoff", Detroit's own "KK", etc., etc., etc.

    CWD

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