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February 11, 2009

Now They’re Really Scaring Me

Friedrich von Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards,

Given Mr. Geithner’s track record to date in devising financial system solutions that are remarkably favorable to Wall Street, I was prepared to dislike his bank rescue plan. I was not prepared to find that he has no plan at all.

A look at Mr. Geithner’s biography suggests that he has been seen as a star pupil of a variety of very powerful mentors. Well, the star pupil just got a “D-“ on his first big exam.

Did anybody like this plan? The stock market certainly didn’t.

And how about the blogosphere?

Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism sums of a series of reactions, here.

The Financial Times surveys another set of reactions, here.

Reading these, I'm not feeling the love anywhere for Mr. Geithner and his mad leadership skills.

For my money, two commentators get most to the heart of the matter. Martin Wolf, the Financial Times columnist, points out that Mr. Geithner is struggling to solve a problem while putting too many constraints on possible solutions:

[The Obama Administration] seems [to have] set itself the wrong question. It has not asked what needs to be done to be sure of a solution. It has asked itself, instead, what is the best it can do given three arbitrary, self-imposed constraints: no nationalization [of Wall Street banks]; no losses for bondholders [of these same banks]; and no more money from Congress. Yet why does a new administration, confronting a huge crisis, not try to change the terms of debate? This timidity is depressing.

You can read Mr. Wolf’s entire column here.

I think James Hamilton of Econbrowser in his post, The Treasury's Financial Stability Plan, gives us some insight into why Geithner is being so timid:

As I've argued before, there basically are five parties who might be asked to absorb the losses on existing assets, namely, stockholders, creditors, managers, employees, and the taxpayers. My favored concept is, we use player 5 [the taxpayers] to get as much leverage as possible out of the first 4. It appears that the Treasury's concept is instead a continuation of Plan A [the Paulsonian TARP], namely, hope that if we hold on tight and keep the ship from sinking long enough, everything will turn out OK.

That is to say, at some point the Obama Administration, if they are serious about resolving this problem, will have to decide whose ox is going to get gored: either Wall Street and its investors, creditors and lavish campaign contributors or the taxpaying public. In other words, do you hurt the guys who finance your political campaigns, or do you hurt the voting public? Golly, that’s a tough one for any politician. Both the Bush Republicans and the Obama Democrats seem to have walked up to that one, and been unable to pull either lever. Much better to go on pretending that, as Mr. Hamilton remarks, “everything will turn out OK.”

I think one reason the public hasn't freaked out more over this crisis in the past year is that it was perceived that even if Bush, a lame duck and clearly no financial wizard, was a bit clueless, that an election was coming up and new management would be taking over shortly. If Obama starts being perceived as equally incapable, well...look out.

Cheers,

Friedrich

posted by Friedrich at February 11, 2009




Comments

I'll add to the fear:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/kausfiles/archive/2009/02/10/the-money-liberal-conspiracy-at-work.aspx

Posted by: Anonymous on February 11, 2009 12:17 PM



wanna know what i think?(pay me for it, bitches!) I think the obama administration is drawing aces and stockpiling a big hand.

you have 350 billion from the last bailout. you have 1 trillion from a stimulus plan. you have the bad bank carrot, that will buy up the system's toxic assets.

you also, seemingly have a mandate to pull off the most keynesian spending program in history.

you think the obama admin needs to care about 350 point drops in the stock market? they probably have the communists cheering them every step of the way.

the stock market better be prepared for massive crowding out and high interest rates in the next year.

Posted by: Ramesh on February 11, 2009 12:19 PM



I was hoping for the best but the appointment of one Goldman Sachs goon after another told you there wasn't going to be a lot of new thinking.

I suppose crass self-interest plays the biggest part, and Geithner is probably already thinking about his next job, but perhaps also these NE Ivy League types can't even imagine an economy that isn't centered around Finance.

Posted by: Bhh on February 11, 2009 1:07 PM



The real problem? There is no fix. The foundations of the financial system have been so damaged by greed and mismanagement that even a trillion dollar injection isn't going to help. And let's face the facts: Nothing is going to be worked out with the same players who broke the system trying to fix it.

Posted by: GFS3 on February 11, 2009 1:52 PM



Most liberals would agree with this post. We all preferred Obama to McCain, much less Bush, but even before he was nominated people were fearful of how he would turn out.

I think that this crisis is of a greater magnitude than any even since WWII, and will change everything. I'm not at all confident that the political and economic leadership is capable of handling it, nor of how well the American people will respond when the depth of disaster becomes evident.

Posted by: John Emerson on February 11, 2009 2:12 PM



Imagine what the WSJ or Financial Times would have had to say if the new administration came out with a bold plan to nationalize the big banks ... or allow them to go bankrupt with the stock holders and investors taking all the pain. Let's also remember how Paulson's three pages entered the Congressional sausage machine and soon grew to hundreds of pages with innumerable clauses filled with mind numbing specificity.

Maybe we should also try to imagine how a McCain administration would (or wouldn't) change things. Would McCain have a robust, fully detailed, plan ready for Congress to work on? Would that plan have the support in Congress that would allow it to be passed? Would McCain be proposing, for example, that we have the big banks to go bankrupt by cutting off the flow of tax dollars? Would he want to nationalize them? Would these proposals be accepted and passed by Congress or embraced by Wall Street?

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, please remember that with my particular utopian political ideals I see the two major parties as both creatures of the same elite. I may well disagree with others who believe the same thing, however, about exactly who is or isn't included among the "elite" or what the better alternatives might be. Given that they're the only viable choices I find the Dems more user friendly. Sort of like I'm a MAC rather than PC guy, even though in my utopian dreams I'd be geeky enough to go Linux and open source.

The juggernaut of Global Capitalism Windows has had a systems crash. So far the powers that be are trying to re-boot it but haven't yet seen signs that the re-boot has been successful. Some think it is time to get a different machine with more RAM, a faster processing speed, and start running ... running ... what? Global Capitalism Vista? Euro-socialism Leopard? Do the Chinese have a new operating system they won't or can't export?

All I think when I hear and see all the carping and frustration that things aren't going back to "normal" immediately is that Mose Allison line, "Everybody wants to go to heaven, nobody wants to die."

Posted by: Chris White on February 11, 2009 2:57 PM



Chris, this is you best comment ever. Couldn't agree more with every line of it.

Posted by: JV on February 11, 2009 5:20 PM



Chris, you really are a preposterous Blowhard. So, I guess, you are at the right place.

You apparently have no particular job experience, no technical or scientific skill and no managerial experience.

How did you acquire this almost Godlike ability to solve the world's problems... sans any qualifications?

Steve Sailer is a very good writer and researcher. He's been writing some very good stuff about what really caused this economic catastrophe. In fact, it's happened because we have so many completely clueless, sanctimonious halo worshipping narcissists... like you. Go read Sailer's writing. He actually has a factual understanding of what's going on. You are completely clueless.

Really, you are a big part of the problem. Selling the diversity scam to Utopian dreamers like you played a big role in this farce. You are a complete sucker for anything that feeds your narcissism. And you haven't learned a thing. I think that you are incapable of learning. You will be suckered again, and the reason is your fondness for your own halo. The politics of sanctimony, of which you are Exhibit A, are destroying us. Upstate New York is killing itself with the cult of self-worship you represent.

You are aptly named, for you are the whitest of the SWPL crowd. Whiter than white, if that is possible.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 11, 2009 7:23 PM



Like everybody, I've lost some money lately. The fact that I now need to buy euros with wilting aussie dollars is adding to the pain. But I expect capitalism to crash every couple of decades, for all the obvious reasons. The only bright side: this is how a centralised economy feels ALL the time. The market economy is vulnerable to theft, folly, corruption. Socialism IS theft, folly, corruption. You'll know this simple formula no longer applies when Americans start getting on leaky boats to enter Cuba. Or when Aussies brave the Timor Sea to get to the Mekong Delta.

A lesson? I've learnt, once again, that crap-credit should never be given or taken. And when government gets behind crap-credit schemes, only the one result is possible. The same crowd are now promising to reboot "the system". Since free enterprise implies an absence of system, I assume this means more crap-credit, at even easier rates to even sillier ends. Linux Credit? Open Source give-away?

It's a time for adults. (If anyone is wondering if mass-childishness is currently gripping the West, look here: http://warner.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/05/sometimes-a-president-is-just-a-president/?apage=1#comments

Now I'm going to get back on the horse.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on February 11, 2009 8:16 PM



Let me guess. Sailer has discovered that the entire problem was caused by immigrants! And non-white people! Meanwhile, another bunch of people are telling us that the whole problem was caused by government regulations! And high taxes!

And guess what? Taxes and immigrants cause cancer too! And high gas prices!

I think that the invective dumped by Shouting Thomas justifies my calling him a moron. Just read Thomas, and then read Chris, and ask yourself which one you'd feel safe in the same room with. Or which one you might want to maybe have a beer with. Jesus.

Socialism isn't the cause either.

This hasn't hit yet, but when it does the old slogans aren't going to work.

Posted by: John Emerson on February 11, 2009 9:31 PM



"Let me guess. Sailer has discovered that the entire problem was caused by immigrants! And non-white people."

Low IQ NAMs sure as hell don't help matters. Didn't you see the graph? Let's not even talk about the other problems with these permanent welfare cases. But hey, nothing a few trillion can't fix!

Posted by: Try Reading on February 11, 2009 10:11 PM



In fact, Sailer writes about illegal immigration. So, John... you're a liar on that count. Clever rhetorical move, though... I'll give you credit for that. You've got the bigot hunting maniacs tactics down pat.

And, then you trot out the flag of the PC idiot... intimating that Sailer is a racist.

You're a piece of work, John. Not an original piece of work by any means. The world is filled with idiots like you who think they've discovered some original insight.

What you really are is... something like those shrieking Catholic virgins of the 50s who screamed when their orthodoxy was challenged. I think that I can see the reflection of your panties off your black patent leather Mary Janes.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 11, 2009 10:23 PM



"let me briefly describe the rescure rescuee relationship" John stewart speaking what is possibly the greatest words of this decade

Posted by: Ramesh on February 11, 2009 11:18 PM



RT - Care to explain the fallacious concept that "free enterprise implies an absence of system"? While there may be arcane Utopian theories about a system-less free market, the real world thus far has always required a system, multiple overlapping systems actually, to function. While certain isolated tribes in Borneo might possibly have a "free market" that lacks a system, even that seems doubtful. A system of exchange is the most obvious first system generally adopted. It gets kind of cumbersome lugging around those cows you intend to exchange for bricks ... and the guy with the bricks doesn't even have the advantage of them being able to move under their own power. Never mind all the systems that are required to have consumer goods manufactured in China that meet the health and safety standards of Australia or Sweden, being shipped by container vessels flying the flag of Panama to be sold as taxable items by a WalMart in Peoria with tech support service from Ireland or India.

ST – You really, really, really need to consider therapy. You presume a lot, based on facts not in evidence, about my supposed lack of job experience, technical or scientific skill and managerial experience. While I may not have achieved great financial success, I've managed to get within sight of sixty supporting myself. In any case, why that would matter on a blog site comment thread discussing the economic crisis and possible solutions to it is a bit obscure anyway. Who among the Blowhards is a macro-economist, or heads up one of the major financial companies under discussion? And if such an expert were posting here, would you or anyone presume that their expertise trumps you own views?

As noted on previous threads, I do not discount the contribution made to the financial crisis by sub-prime mortgages and the borrowers who were able to get them. They were, however, more the catalyst rather than the underlying cause and Steve Sailer's race baiting isn't going to change my opinion.

Posted by: Chris White on February 12, 2009 12:17 AM



Chris, I won't bore you with a long discussion of the words "degree" and "absolute". If you think that free enterprise means a free-for-all, or that it is a "system" in the way that socialism is a system because it entails standards and liabilities, then no discussion is possible. I can only suggest something like a comparison of Singapore with Burma. Or a comparison of the first American pilgrims, who starved under socialism, and the subsequent generations who prospered under free enterprise.

Unlike plantation-economies and their socialist opposites, free enterprise creates a large middle ground and middle class. This class will always be hated by intellectuals and envied by those who do, indeed, live under "systems". When Chomsky supported Pol Pot, he wasn't making a case for standards, he was expressing the intellectual's love of system-above-all and his desire to see humans conforming to a purely cerebral creation, cost what it may.

System. Standards. See any difference?

Posted by: Robert Townshend on February 12, 2009 1:36 AM



Chris,

You really, really, really need to consider therapy.

Perfect! The kids learned how to make a living out of your priggish scolding. You were born 20 years too early. What a great diversity consultant you would have made. As a corporate apparatchik, you could have held a room of poor smucks captive, lectured them on their evil whiteness, and made $1,500 a day.

You're probably too old to get the job now, but you should really give it a try. You're a natural.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 12, 2009 7:33 AM



RT - I see a semantic shell game that points out how, with the proper parameters included and excluded from a discussion, apples can indeed be compared to oranges. I particularly like the "comparison of the first American pilgrims, who starved under socialism, and the subsequent generations who prospered under free enterprise." Boy, I'd like to see the American History textbook that sets forth the Pilgrim = Socialist meme.

Count me among those who find in our founding documents phrases like "We the People ..." and "E Pluribus Unum" that lead me to an understanding of who and what we are as a nation that is not exclusively focused on the individual. Your use of the "socialist" label is a thinly veiled attempt that attacks the idea and ideal of protecting and respecting ALL of the nation's citizens rather than allowing those who succeed in the "free market" to accumulate cash and power in an unlimited fashion, regardless of the harm that may befall the rest of the population. It is, in short, an argument that boils down to "I got mine, so f##@ you."

Posted by: Chris White on February 12, 2009 8:04 AM



Left to its own devices the market would get us through this crisis. A steep recession? Yes. Losers culled from the herd? Yes. And then we would start to recover. A year and a half, tops. Suppressing the normal market forces, which our glorious government is doing, will most likely tip us into the mother of all depressions.

Posted by: ricpic on February 12, 2009 10:16 AM



I think one reason the public hasn't freaked out more over this crisis in the past year is that it was perceived that even if Bush, a lame duck and clearly no financial wizard, was a bit clueless, that an election was coming up and new management would be taking over shortly. If Obama starts being perceived as equally incapable, well...look out.

I would be heartened if the pitchfork brigades were standing down from a measured, informed decision to see what the new guy's got to offer, rather than passivity and obliviousness. (I also would've hoped that the first pitchforks out of the gate would've been the prudent savers, not the imprudent borrowers.) On the other, more optimistic, hand, the scales seem to be falling pretty rapidly from the eyes of a lot of lefties. Maybe they're much faster learners than the true-believin' Bushies? Of course, that could just be sampling bias on my part. More cynically than you, though, I don't think the question is a dilemma - "Do you hurt the guys who finance your political campaigns, or do you hurt the voting public?" - but rather a calculation - "Where is the limit to the pain we can inflict on the public, for the benefit of the lobbying classes, beyond which we provoke a response that will really shut down the party?" "Not there yet, me buckos!" seems to be the answer.

On a cheerier note, Jesse had a video up yesterday, good, as he says, "for sheer catharsis" provided by Rep. Capuano.

Chris: Lest anyone get the wrong idea, please remember that with my particular utopian political ideals I see the two major parties as both creatures of the same elite.

Non sequitur, Chris. Seeing both parties as "creatures of the same elite" has no necessary logical connection to holding any sort of utopian ideals. Only cranks see this as a matter of theory.

But if you actually believe your conclusion, what's with all the meandering about what a McCain administration would or wouldn't do, or what the FT would or wouldn't say? They're all creatures of the elite, right? McCain's a tool, Obama's a tool. You're just pretending to have some detachment from the corrupt, sclerotic party system, while clinging to your Camelot fantasies about the Donks and Obama. He's a tool, Chris. Get over it. Man, how pathetic have we become if we're reduced to quibbling about whose buggering is more "user-friendly"?

I do not discount the contribution made to the financial crisis by sub-prime mortgages and the borrowers who were able to get them. They were, however, more the catalyst rather than the underlying cause and Steve Sailer's race baiting isn't going to change my opinion.

I, too, think the sub-prime debacle is a symptom, not a cause, of the current mess, but I fail to see how disagreeing with my take makes Sailer a race-baiter. How exactly does one figure out causal factors without examining the data? Or do your "utopian ideals" work kinda like all-purpose Cliff Notes, distinguishing cause from catalyst with bullet points? (Actually, "cause vs. catalyst" is a pretty sloppy metaphor, but whatevuh. Nicely alliterative, though.) Come off it, Chris - you just want to (attempt to) anathematize anything that notices the race-hustling that is an obvious feature of our glorious political landscape.

Posted by: Moira Breen on February 12, 2009 10:38 AM



Shouting One, your preoccupation with me, the assumptions you make and the hidden meanings you read into my comments are both funny and sad. You have long since ceased to respond to whatever I might write and instead go off on these tangents into topics like diversity training. What's up with that?

That said, since you have repeatedly noted how friendly you are with various CEO's of companies for which you provide services, I'd be happy to accept any consultancy gigs you'd care to send my way. I don't have any diversity stuff worked up, but I'd love to present my "Why Buy Art?" material. Would 15% be reasonable compensation for any gigs you line up for me?

Posted by: Chris White on February 12, 2009 10:48 AM



Can we all call bullshit on the cries of "socialism?" Chris doesn't want that, I don't want that, no liberal I know wants a socialist country. Belief that government has a role in regulating the free market does not equal socialism.

That said, I'm in agreement that the bailout plan was bullshit, and that the failing corporations, no matter how big, should have been left to fail, along with all their stockholders.

Posted by: JV on February 12, 2009 11:26 AM



"How exactly does one figure out causal factors without examining the data?"

Moira, we aren't supposed to notice stuff like that. Just keep handing over the money...

Posted by: Try Reading on February 12, 2009 12:30 PM



Chris doesn't want that, I don't want that, no liberal I know wants a socialist country.

Funny, liberals sure act like they want socialism...But maybe I'm looking at the welfare thing in the wrong way.

Posted by: Try Reading on February 12, 2009 1:47 PM



"Funny, liberals sure act like they want socialism...But maybe I'm looking at the welfare thing in the wrong way."

No argument there.

Posted by: JV on February 12, 2009 2:04 PM



Sailer and his supporters continually point to minorities, diversity requirements, and so forth in ways that quickly become complaints that our (white "real" Americans) problems are the result of them (illegal immigrants, blacks, and others without the same moral, intellectual, capabilities as us) and the elitists who rely on them for political power. This is, by any logical standard, race baiting. It flies in the face of my sense of morality, political beliefs, and personal experience.

And yes, cause vs. catalyst is a sloppy analogy. My point was that while defaults on sub-prime mortgages may have triggered the crisis, they revealed the systemic rot that permeates the global financial services industry. The minimal regulatory oversight, by regulators who move back and forth between working for the industry and "regulating" it, the arcane "products" like credit default swaps developed by econ/computer geeks, the vast rewards built into the system for those who do not exercise due diligence and caution, and so on are the real cause of the collapse. And I believe the cycle of bubble and burst is a feature not a bug of our current system. This cycle serves to suck wealth from all strata of society and deposit it, ultimately, in the hands of the few.

Having voted for my fair share of progressive alternative party candidates over the years, and too often seeing the Bad Cop Party (GOP) benefit (e.g. Bush in 2000) from the "spoiler" effect, I've grown weary of looking for the perfect alternative party and often accept the logic of supporting the better major party alternative instead, usually the Good Cop Party (Dem). Still, I've voted for moderate Republicans as well and continue to agitate for Instant Runoff Voting, which I think might break the stranglehold the two Establishment parties have on our governmental system.

My approach to many things in life is to have a clear sense of my long-term goals, my version of some Utopian ideal, toward which I aspire when deciding what immediate decisions to make. In the political/economic realm my Utopian ideal is a blend of Jeffersonian, libertarian, green, small "c" capitalist, and yes, even socialist beliefs. Given the choices available in the most recent election Obama seemed, and still seems, to have been the better choice.

He is now at the helm during what may well be the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression. I do not expect anything other than a few years (or more) of rough sledding. To spend time and energy sniping, bitching, moaning, and attacking when his administration has not even finished going through the confirmation process seems to me just so much whining.

Posted by: Chris White on February 12, 2009 2:24 PM



He is now at the helm during what may well be the worst global economic downturn since the "Great Depression. I do not expect anything other than a few years (or more) of rough sledding. To spend time and energy sniping, bitching, moaning, and attacking when his administration has not even finished going through the confirmation process seems to me just so much whining."

Yeah, so nominating tax cheats is just fine! Not to mention the money spent that even the CBO thinks won't help. If you have the job, you get the shit (Where was this forbearance with Bush?) That's just the way it is. Shitty argument. Try a bit harder.


Posted by: Anon on February 12, 2009 3:47 PM



Immigration, illegal or otherwise, is responsible for maybe 1% of the problem. But if you've been ranting about one thing for ten years, why quit just because we're at risk of a depression. Slogans about socialism don't do anything either.

Thomas has nothing to contribute but insults, ever. He's worthless.

Ricpic, you're pulling stuff out of your butt. You don't know anything.

I used to like this site without agreeing with the politics, but it's getting too crazy to visit. When wa the last time that Thomas had anything to say but insults? And he's the most memorable guy here.

A lot of people here seem to have been venting recreationally for years or decades. But we're actually coming to a time when things have to be done right or the problems will become enormous, and random noise won't help. Get serious.

Posted by: John Emerson on February 12, 2009 9:41 PM



John Emerson - mega dittos!!!!

Posted by: Chris White on February 13, 2009 7:04 AM



John Emerson,

Do something like what? Leave the border wide open some more, while there are massive layoffs? Dole out more government subsidies while tax revenues fall off a cliff? Replace competent people with incompetent people of the "right" race and sex?

You and all the other leftist goofballs have no solutions for the problem. And the problem is that the big money and the government have become one and are looting this country for all its worth. You and others like you facilitated this by supporting more and more government intervention and taxation for decades, and asking for no accountablity whatsoever, merely comforting yourself for the "good intentions" of the various boondoggles, while wearing a false halo.

How do you know that the illegal immigration is "1%" of the problem? Where do you get your numbers--"out of your butt"? What a joke that is!

Scary, isn't it, when the socialist nightmare is now appearing here, just like it has elsewhere? But of course, it wasn't supposed to turn out that way, was it? Looks like all those idealistic dreams didn't pan out here, just like they haven't everywhere else that socialism takes hold.

I got some bad news for you guy. Socialism was created and supported by the mega-wealthy in the western world. It was never intended to transfer money from the rich to the poor. The whole purpose was to bankrupt and steal the wealth of the middle class, and make everybody equally impoverished and controllable. And ignoramuses like you and Chris White got suckered every step along the way. You need to stop--stop blaming other people and start blaming yourself. People like you are greatly responsible for this, and you and I both know that you've got no solutions to what's happening either.

Posted by: BIOH on February 13, 2009 3:53 PM






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