There’s only one bright spot in the picture: interest rates on mortgages have come down sharply since the federal government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and guaranteed their debt. And there’s a lesson there for those ready to hear it: government takeovers may be the only way to get the financial system working again.That is my concern also. The Republicans and their ideological counterparts in Canada see any government action as evil. So, they may dump a trillion dollars into the waiting hands of the fools who created this mess, with no strings attached, no additional regulation and no lessons learned, just so they can continue living in a fantasy world where the private sector can do no wrong and the public sector no right. Recommend this Post
Some people have been making that argument for some time. Most recently, Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman, and two other veterans of past financial crises published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal declaring that the only way to avoid “the mother of all credit contractions” is to create a new government agency to “buy up the troubled paper” — that is, to have taxpayers take over the bad assets created by the bursting of the housing and credit bubbles. Coming from Mr. Volcker, that proposal has serious credibility.
Influential members of Congress, including Hillary Clinton and Barney Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, have been making similar arguments. And on Thursday, Charles Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (and an advocate of creating a new agency to resolve the financial crisis) told reporters that “the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are realizing that we need a more comprehensive solution.” Sure enough, Thursday night Ben Bernanke and Mr. Paulson met with Congressional leaders to discuss a “comprehensive approach” to the problem.
We don’t know yet what that “comprehensive approach” will look like. There have been hopeful comparisons to the financial rescue the Swedish government carried out in the early 1990s, a rescue that involved a temporary public takeover of a large part of the country’s financial system. It’s not clear, however, whether policy makers in Washington are prepared to exert a comparable degree of control. And if they aren’t, this could turn into the wrong kind of rescue — a bailout of stockholders as well as the market, in effect rescuing the financial industry from the consequences of its own greed. (emphasis mine)
Friday, September 19, 2008
Paul Krugman lays out the situation this morning: