Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bailout Bonanza

Will the Senate version of the bailout bill pass? We'll know soon.

Here is Pete DeFazio's take on it from his NPR Marketplace Interview:
" is the same Paulson plan, which, in short, is what he started with. He gets $700 billion, unbelievable discretion in how he spends it. He can pick winners and losers on Wall Street. He can even buy credit card debt."

The Bill is 451 pages, and I haven't yet read the whole thing, but I am still opposed to weak oversight, a lot of discretion on the part of the Treasury Secretary, and any proviso that allows the Treasury to buy bad debts without receiving equity positions in the companies being bailed-out. I've read the sections that permits taking equity or debt positions in the bailed-out company (pages 31-32, 36, 85), but I can't really tell from their wording if they require it or not. Since the cap on salaries and golden parachutes for CEOs only seems to apply to companies where the Treasury receives equity or debt positions in the company, if there's a way around Treasury doing so, there's a way for Paulson to hook up his friends.

While some people may not agree with my position that all the panic talk is excessive, and is helping fuel emotional reactions that are causing big dips in the markets, I stick by it. I do agree with many of the points in that article about earlier "happy talk" causing the markets and regulators to ignore unsound fundamentals, but I think that to "make up for it" with panicked talk of cataclysm now isn't much help.

I'm not a big fan of basing our entire economy on gambling, but if we're going to do so, we should at least pay attention to the odds, and not make the typical gambler's mistake of throwing good money after bad by panicking after a bad run. Sometimes, it's best to just walk away from the table.

I don't know for sure if rejecting a bailout will cause another Great Depression (nobody knows for sure), but with a variety of economist pundits saying the bailout might not prevent one, either, given the shaky fundamentals we've allowed to take root, if the package doesn't include New Deal style aggressive regulations it may do very little to shore-up the situation (something Steve Fraser was discussing on NPR).

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