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Paulson says bailout needed to shield economy | Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson took his case for an unprecedented $700 billion bailout of financial markets to the American people on Sunday, saying it was needed to prevent further damage to an already fragile economy.

"This is not something that we wanted to do. This was something that was very necessary," Paulson said on the NBC Sunday program "Meet the Press."

"We did this to protect the taxpayer."

The sweeping Bush administration plan would have the Treasury buy up bad mortgage-related debts from financial institutions to try to stem the worst financial storm since the Great Depression.

Paulson said U.S. authorities were pressing other governments to take similar actions.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:12:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / In depth - Global markets roar in approval

Stock markets around the world roared their approval on Friday, staging huge rallies as the US authorities moved towards agreement on a programme of government intervention that would put hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers' money at risk in an effort to quell the credit crisis.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:33:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monday, not so much. Oil at 120.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 08:37:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German Politicians Wary of US Financial Rescue Plans | Business | Deutsche Welle | 21.09.2008
German politicians are skeptical about a $700 billion US bailout of markets and of calls to take similar measures as Chancellor Merkel criticized Washington for failing to implement stringent market controls.

A growing chorus of German politicians questioned over the weekend whether the unprecedented US rescue package meant to inject liquidity into the financial system w

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 03:56:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many economists skeptical of bailout

Avi Zenilman Sun Sep 21, 8:58 AM ET IN Yahoo's POLITICO

Many of the same economists and opinion-makers who'd provided a bipartisan sheen of consensus to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's  previous moves have quickly begun casting doubts on the wisdom of a policy that would allow Treasury to purchase without oversight hundreds of billions of dollars of difficult-to-price assets from financial institutions. "We need to take a bold move. In that sense I think Paulson is right," Luigi Zingales, a Professor at the University of Chicago School of Business who wrote a widely circulated short essay titled "Why Paulson is Wrong," told Politico.

Zingales fears  that the Treasury bailout would effectively turn the entire financial sector into a Government Sponsored Enterprise, complete with the same murkiness and moral hazard that sunk Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "It might achieve the final outcome, but it will do so at an enormous cost," he said. "All the troubles we've seen with Fannie and Freddie would be seen again and again across the entire financial sector."

President Bush is "asking for a huge amount of power," said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University who was among the first to predict the crisis. "He's saying, `Trust me, I'm going to do it right if you give me absolute control.' This is not a monarchy." (Roubini told the New York Times that despite these concerns, he also thought the plan could help stave off a recession.)

Paul Krugman, the Princeton University economist and liberal columnist for The New York Times who had until now been cautiously supportive of Paulson's and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's efforts to prop up the system, wrote that the new plan would be a taxpayer rip-off. "I hate to say this, but looking at the plan as leaked, I have to say no deal," he wrote on his blog at 4:46 p.m. Saturday. "Not unless Treasury explains, very clearly, why this is supposed to work, other than through having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets."

Yves Smith, a longtime banker and contributor to the influential finance blog Naked Capitalism, published an angry post there titled, "Why You Should Hate The Treasury Bailout Proposal":

"Given that continuing to buy U.S. assets will come under increasingly harsh scrutiny overseas, the U.S. needs to bend over backwards to devise a plan that at least looks credible in terms of directing the funds that come from taxpayers and lenders to their highest and best uses and implementing reforms that will restore active and prudent oversight of financial firms," she wrote. "The administration's demand for a free pass, even if Congress unwisely goes along, is likely to backfire with our foreign creditors."

-Skip-

Sebastian Mallaby, the center-right economic columnist for The Washington Post and scholar of the modern financial system, was equally dubious. "The plan is being marketed under false pretenses," he wrote in his Sunday column, rejecting comparisons of the plan to the Resolution Trust Corporation, which the government formed in response to the savings and loan crisis to purchase and sell off the bad loans made by bankrupted thrifts.

"The administration proposes to buy up bad loans before the lenders go bust," Mallaby noted, keeping the banks alive but doing little to solve the problem infecting the markets. "Bad loans are weighing down the financial system precisely because private-sector experts can't determine their worth. The government would have no better handle on the problem."

Justin Fox, Time magazine's top financial writer and columnist, also worried about the lack of an upside for the taxpayer. "What I still can't figure out is how Treasury hopes to structure the bailout so there's at least a chance of getting a fair return on that risk-taking," he wrote on his blog.

-Skip-

Zingales, though, writes in "Why Paulson Is Wrong" that "For somebody like me who believes strongly in the free market system, the most serious risk of the current situation is that the interest of a few financiers will undermine the fundamental workings of the capitalist system. The time has come to save capitalism from the capitalists."

(My bold.)
I am glad to see that there is far from unanimous agreement  amongst popular economics writers in favor of this giant toxic waste dump on the taxpayer on behalf of the folks who brought us this disaster.  I am certain that there are better ways to "save the economy" if we only look for them.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 06:04:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Op-Ed Columnist - Cash for Trash - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

The logic of the crisis seems to call for an intervention, not at step 4, but at step 2: the financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to -- a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don't go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

That's what happened in the savings and loan crisis: the feds took over ownership of the bad banks, not just their bad assets. It's also what happened with Fannie and Freddie. (And by the way, that rescue has done what it was supposed to. Mortgage interest rates have come down sharply since the federal takeover.)

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a "clean" plan. "Clean," in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached -- no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review "by any court of law or any administrative agency," and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:47:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This link has a tight synopsis and a call to action - and the phone numbers of the Congress...I don't usually like to call from here, but I am going to load up on Skype minutes and have at it.

We Gambled. You Pay. Jesus' General

Of course, there are some who think the wealthy do not deserve to take our piece of the American Dream:

...first thing on Monday morning, [everyone] needs to call their Representatives and Senators and say: No. Blank. Checks. For. Crooks.

Be as polite as you can be and don't use bad words. Personally, this injunction may limit the duration of my calls to under a thirtieth of a second, or shorter.

Congressional phone numbers.

Update: Scarecrow has more:
The most important condition to put on any bailout proposal is to impose a tax surcharge on the incomes of the wealthiest Americans to pay the bailout's cost.
And just go read Avedon.



Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to -- a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don't go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

The way I put it is this... Why is is okay to recapitalize a company by appealing to foreign "Sovereign Wealth", but in the case of domestic "Sovereign Wealth" it would be "Nationalisation" and therefore evil?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:46:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
when Will Kristol essentially agrees with Paul Krugman on it:

A Fine Mess - Op-Ed - NYTimes.com

... is the administration's proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for -- or even promises of -- disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

And I've been shocked by the number of (mostly conservative) experts I've spoken with who aren't at all confident that the Bush administration has even the basics right -- or who think that the plan, though it looks simple on paper, will prove to be a nightmare in practice.

But will political leaders dare oppose it?



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely the "magic of the markets" is what is needed here?  Let failing banks fail and let them be replaced by more prudent banks and banking practices.  Why should "prudent" institutions be punished and disadvantaged by Billions being given to their competitors?

Vote McCain for war without gain
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:12:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean "creative destruction" doesn't apply to financial institutions?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:24:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
America's Own Kleptocracy
By MICHAEL HUDSON   (excerpted from CounterPunch)

-skip-

What a two weeks! On Sunday, September 7, the Treasury took on the $5.3 trillion mortgage exposure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose heads already had been removed for accounting fraud. On Monday, September 15, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, when prospective Wall Street buyers couldn't gain any sense of reality from its financial books. On Wednesday the Federal Reserve agreed to make good for at least $85 billion in the just-pretend "insured" winnings owed to financial gamblers who bet on computer-driven trades in junk mortgages and bought counter-party coverage from the A.I.G. (the American International Group, whose head Maurice Greenberg already had been removed a few years back for accounting fraud). But it is Friday, September 19, that will go down as a turning point in American history. The White House committed at least half a trillion dollars more to re-inflate real estate prices in an attempt to support the market value junk mortgages - mortgages issued far beyond the ability of debtors to pay and far above the going market price of the collateral being pledged.

These billions of dollars were devoted to keeping a dream alive - the accounting fictions written down by companies that had entered an unreal world based on false accounting that nearly everyone in the financial sector knew to be fake. But they played along with buying and selling packaged mortgage junk because that was where the money was. Even after markets collapse, fund managers who steered clear were blamed for not playing the game while it was going. I have friends on Wall Street who were fired for not matching the returns that their compatriots were making. And the biggest returns were to be made in trading in the economy's largest financial asset - mortgage debt. The mortgages packaged, owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie alone exceeded the entire U.S. national debt - the cumulative deficits run up by the American Government since the nation won the Revolutionary War!

This gives an idea of just how large the bailout has been - and where the government's (or at least the Republicans') priorities lie! Instead of waking up the economy to reality, the government has thrown all its resources to promote the unreal dream that debts can be paid - if not by the debtors themselves, then by the government - "taxpayers," as the euphemism goes.

-truncate-

 At least Hudson has the integrity to call it what it is: Cleptocracy and accounting fraud.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:34:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh my goodness gracious. (My now-dead mother used to say that a lot.)

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 07:41:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last major investment banks change status
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics Writer 1 hour, 24 minutes ago  AP via Yahoo

WASHINGTON - The Federal Reserve said Sunday it had granted a request by the country's last two major investment banks -- Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley -- to change their status to bank holding companies.
ADVERTISEMENT

The Fed announced that it had approved the request of the two investment banks. The change in status will allow them to create commercial banks that will be able to take deposits, bolstering the resources of both institutions.

The change continued the biggest restructuring on Wall Street since the Great Depression.

The request for the change to bank holding companies was granted by a unanimous vote of the Fed's board of governors during a late Sunday meeting in Washington.

The change of status means both companies will come under the direct regulation of the Federal Reserve, which regulates the nation's bank holding companies. The banking subsidiaries of the two institutions will face the stricter regulations that commercial banks are required to meet. Previously, the primary regulator for Goldman and Morgan Stanley was the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Does anyone know if this increases their access to FRB "special facilities"?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 12:32:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, just wow.

But who's going to want to put their deposits with MS or GS?

Nouriel Roubini has predicted GS and MS would go the way of Lehman and Merrill Lynch - either merging or being taken over by a commercial bank. After the rumours that Wachovia and MS were in merger talks, now GS and MS are trying to simply become commercial banks?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:57:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not seriously, no. They'll most likely open one commercial branch each in the cellar of a warehouse in North Dakota. Or Alaska.

This is another naked attempt to grab federal insurance - aka a bailout - for their liabilities. Some creative accounting will move the debt from one place to another.

They're probably hoping that with Paulson's planned new superpowers they won't be held accountable.

But given that no one is buying Paulson's beatification - not even Newt Gingrich - the plan may not be the success they're hoping for.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:57:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is another naked attempt to grab federal insurance - aka a bailout - for their liabilities. Some creative accounting will move the debt from one place to another.

I think that's right. The key is this line from the FT story I quote in my parallel comment:

During the transition period, the Fed will make loans to both entities and to the broker-dealer subsidiary of Merrill Lynch against collateral acceptable for posting either by a bank or a securities firm.
The Fed expands the kinds of collateral MS, GS and Merrill Lynch can post - but in the case of Merrill Lynch, they're becoming part of Bank of America, so that's okay...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, Paulson will happily take their most toxic paper as collateral.  Talk about foxes guarding chickens.  Reagan would be proud.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:13:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To answer your question, here's from the FT:
In a statement issued at 9.30pm Sunday, the Federal Reserve said it had approved their applications to become bank holding companies, subject to regulation by the Fed.

During the transition period, the Fed will make loans to both entities and to the broker-dealer subsidiary of Merrill Lynch against collateral acceptable for posting either by a bank or a securities firm.

The Fed will also lend to Goldman, Morgan and Merrill's London-based broker dealer subsidiaries directly.

The Fed approval is subject to a five-day waiting period for potential antitrust issues.



A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 05:51:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Mig.  All I get from FT is a three line teaser or a headache.  I can't afford to subscribe to the entire neo-classical spectrum.  My pocket book and my gag reflex prevent it.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:24:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just google the headline and follow the google news link. Then you can read the whole thing.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 10:33:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AP via Google: Morgan Stanley to sell 20 pct stake in itself
Investment bank Morgan Stanley said Monday it signed a letter of intent to sell up to 20 percent of the company to Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. If the deal is completed, the price would be based on Morgan Stanley's book value after Japan's largest bank completes a due diligence review. The letter of intent signed by both banks is nonbinding.

The framework for a deal comes just hours after Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street's biggest investment banks, received regulatory approval from the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company -- making it a commercial bank and allowing it to receive deposits. Morgan Stanley will also now be regulated by the Fed instead of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I'm getting a very uneasy feeling about all this...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:16:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And Migeru's entry in the ET Understatement of the Decade Award is:

I'm getting a very uneasy feeling about all this.

:-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:37:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's because I haven't quite digested this yet.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 11:43:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gives me indigestion.  If the model is broken, wind them down with the least possible collateral damage instead of putting FDIC, etc on the hook for their excesses.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 04:28:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thinking the bailout through - Paul Krugman - Op-Ed Columnist - New York Times Blog

... the more I think about this, the more skeptical I get about the extent to which it's a solution. Problems:

(a) Although the problem starts with mortgage-backed securities, the range of assets whose prices are being driven down by deleveraging is much broader than MBS. So this only cuts off, at most, part of the vicious circle.

(b) Anyway, the vicious circle aspect is only part of the larger problem, and arguably not the most important part. Even without panic asset selling, the financial system would be seriously undercapitalized, causing a credit crunch -- and this plan does nothing to address that.

Or I should say, the plan does nothing to address the lack of capital unless the Treasury overpays for assets. And if that's the real plan, Congress has every right to balk.

<...>

Let's not be railroaded into accepting an enormously expensive plan that doesn't seem to address the real problem.



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 03:35:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wall Street Trades In Fear -- Literally : NPR
The fear index is not merely an indicator. The Chicago Exchange does a steady business trading bets on whether the VIX will go up or down. In these strange times, you can essentially buy and sell fear.

<...>

The computer spits out a number called the volatility index, or VIX. It's a reading of how scared people are. "That's in fact what it measures," Whaley said. That reading provides insight into future wavering in the market, what traders call volatility.

The details of Whaley's formula are complicated. The VIX gets its magic number by analyzing the price of a kind of insurance policy against stock market declines. "What VIX measures, to some extent, is the amount people are willing to pay for insurance," he explained.

On Thursday, Whaley stared at numbers from a fairly nervous market. The VIX indicated people thought the stock market might go up or down by almost 9 percent over the next 30 days.

<...>

Another measure of market anxiety is called the TED Spread. By considering the demand for Treasury bills, the euro and the dollar, it renders a number on how scared banks are that another bank might collapse.

Jeff Frankel, an economist at Harvard, said that for years the TED Spread was tiny and steady and dull. "It always used to be very boring," he said, "so I never used to keep an eye on it at all. It's not boring now."

Sometime around June 2007, he remembers, the TED Spread shot up -- and stayed high. "You know, for it to shoot up temporarily is OK," he said. "But for it to stay up! It is really quite remarkable. It's one reason why people say this is the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, because so far as I know this has not happened before."



Point n'est besoin d'espérer pour entreprendre, ni de réussir pour persévérer. - Charles le Téméraire
by marco on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 06:10:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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