Monday, March 23, 2009
I'm Prepared to be Convinced
One of the puzzling things about Geithner is that, if he truly believes in his policy as the best policy, he's done so little outreach to people who have a public platform, who want a bailout to work, and are sympathetic to the Obama Administration. I understand the need to keep some details under wraps, but it isn't as if the broad outline of the plan is a secret - it's been known to the public since Paulson's first TARP proposal. You can tell by reading the loudest critics of the plan, such as Paul Krugman, that no effort has been made to win them over. Not even a slight effort to persuade them to take another look. Why not?
Part of my skepticism comes from the feeling that Geithner's not being honest about his goals and intentions, or the risks involved. Sure, he wants to fix the economy and get things back on track. But it seems, without inflicting any sort of price on the people who got us into this mess and, in fact, making them richer than ever with the bailout funds. Is it a joke or a sad truth to observe, if this proposal is half as good as Geithner says it is, none of these sweetheart, non-recourse loans are available to the general public. Only billionaires need apply.
Geither's own defense of his plan, at least the one in the Wall Street journal, is drivel. Granted, it was published when he was still trying to keep the details under wraps, but I think it did a lousy job even with the big picture. I also suspect that the leaks were deliberate, so I'm skeptical of the notion that Geither didn't want them out there - I suspect that he just didn't want his name on them until the official announcement.
Yet even now the strongest defenses I see of the Geithner plan are coming from third parties. There's speculation about the difficulty of getting Congress to approve nationalization, the up-front cost, and the potential for disaster - but none of that is coming from Geithner. Instead I get an editorial in which he offers nothing of substance, and talks to me like I'm stupid. No, that didn't leave me in a charitable mood.