Monday, March 30, 2009

Geithner's Hedge Fund

Robert Samuelson, for what it's worth, in the WaPo:

Call it Uncle Sam's hedge fund. The rescue of the American financial system proposed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is, in all but name, a gigantic hedge fund. The government would lend vast sums to private investors to enable them to buy loss-ridden assets at discounts from banks with the prospect of making sizable profits. If that's not a hedge fund, what would be? The hope is that the $14 trillion U.S. banking system would expand lending if it could get rid of many of the lousy securities and loans already on its books.

Almost everyone thinks that a healthier banking system is necessary for a sustained economic recovery. Can the Geithner plan work? Maybe, though obstacles abound. One is political. Private investors may balk at participating because they fear populist wrath. If the plan succeeds, many wealthy people will become even wealthier. Congress could subject them (or their firms) to humiliating hearings or punitive taxes. Why bother? Another problem: Investors and banks may be unable to agree on prices at which assets would be bought.

Question: isn't there a way to do this without making wealthy people even wealthier, and worse yet, from the public trough?

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