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Reactions to Geithner’s Public-Private Investment Program

Many reactions to the plan that Secretary Tim Geithner announced today have been negative, both from the left and the right.  Paul Krugman is one, and he makes some good points.But the proposal has its defenders.  One is Brad DeLong, who also makes some good points.   The Geithner Plan is an improvement over the Paulson plan in that, when ”toxic assets,” now called “legacy assets,” are bought from the banks, their prices are set by private bidding (from hedge funds and private equity companies), rather than by an overworked Treasury official pulling a number out of the air and risking that the taxpayer grossly overpays for the assets.   It is true that we might end up with some form of temporary bank nationalization before we are done, but Alan Blinder  has pointed out some neglected counter-arguments to that course of action.My basic feeling is: let’s give the plan a chance.  I debated it on NPR’s On Point this morning.

Originally published at Jeff Frankel’s Weblog and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

7 Responses to “Reactions to Geithner’s Public-Private Investment Program”

GuestMarch 24th, 2009 at 8:29 am

We’ve hear that about Obama too. Aw shucks, thank goodness we’re all about unicorns and rainbows now and its okay for Obama and his crew to talk about the whoopsy daisey mistakes they will make at taxpayer expense. Yeah, lets give it a chance.Sorry ain’t gonna work and Krugman gets it.Nice cheerleading though.Sometimes toxic crap is just that: toxic crap.But kets call it a “legacy asset”, because we are all about “giving the plan a chance”.Pathetic.

Diego MamaniMarch 24th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I heard the radio show. Unbelievable, I was in agreement with Robert Kuttner. He made very good points. Even better remarks were made by U of Chicago professor Steven Kaplan: he very lucidly explained the issues and why the current Treasury plan is doomed.I was disappointed in Prof Frankel’s views, not because I disagree with him, but because he made no substantial arguments. “Let’s give it a try,” or “people put a lot of effort into this,” etc., are not arguments. It was very partisan, to say the least. As an economist myself, I was disappointed. We expect Prof Frankel to act as an economist and give economic arguments to support his views, not to act as yet another political pundit.

AnonymousMarch 25th, 2009 at 2:32 pm

“The Geithner Plan is an improvement over the Paulson plan”If you build a plane without wings it won’t fly. If you improve on this initial design it still won’t fly unless you add the wings. The Paulson plan didn’t have wings and the Geithner plan doesn’t have any either.How does one discover the market value of an “asset” using state funded subsidies and guarantees to buy those (toxic) assets? The Treasury is pumping money into banks and private hands via the back door rather than doing it openly in an attempt to fool everyone and to minimise resistance.This crises was caused by excessive debt and speculation. Shifting money from the masses to a select group won’t solve the economic problems. Pouring public money into a black hole will simply ensure that the state and consumers have less to spend.Now that the real risks are known those parties who made the wrong bets need to take their losses. Socialising those losses will ensure that this mess is going to take a long time to clean up.Geithner’s Plan won’t fly.

Diego MamaniMarch 25th, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Let’s see an example. “Bank” has a mortgage-backed security (MBS) with original par (nominal) value of $100. In 2008 Bank “marked-to-market” and now values the MBS at $95 in its books. But we all know that this MBS is worth a lot less, maybe less than $60, but Bank won’t acknowledge reality.In 2009 we have the new Treasury plan, whereby “Peter” buys this MBS, for say, $90. That’s because the bank won’t take anything less. If it did, Bank would be shown to be insolvent and would be out of business.Peter puts only $6 out of pocket. Uncle Sam puts another $6, and the remainder $78 is a nonrecourse loan from Uncle Sam to Peter. (Total, $90).Then Peter turns around and sells the MBS to his pal “Paul” for $48. Paul pays $48 b/c he thinks the MBS is actually worth $58 as justified by what the homeowners will actually pay in monthly mortgage payments.Peter’s $6 investment is wiped out. So is the govt’s $6. And the $48 Peter gets from Paul goes to pay back the govt loan of $78. So now, Peter lost $6 but Uncle Sam lost $36 ($84-$48).Since Peter and Paul are buddies (co-conspirators), the latter can compensate Peter. Say, Paul gives Peter his $6 plus another $2 for his troubles. Paul pays $48 for something worth $58, but because he gave $8 to Peter, his profit is only $2. And the banks get fully $90 for paper that is worth actually $58.Summary:Peter puts in $6, makes $2 profitPaul puts in $48, makes $2 profitU.S. puts in $84, makes a $36 LOSSBank had paper that was really worth $58 but got $90 for it, makes a $32 profitYes, the Geithner plan is wholesale looting of the US Treasury. Us taxpayers foot the bill and will pay for it in a combination of higher inflation and higher taxes.

ShazaamingMarch 31st, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I’ve been wondering if the banks that hold these toxic assets will be able to offload them to hedge funds that own equity in these banks. Also, could the banks sell a Credit Default Swap for their toxic asset to the hedgefund, sidestepping the clause in Geithner’s plan about buying your own toxic assets? Isn’t Geithner’s plan really just a free “put option” for these assets? If investors are only willing to pay 30 cents to the dollar for these assets, and the banks need 60 cents to the dollar, would the put option plus the initial price the private investor would be willing to spend still be less than 60 cents to the dollar? If this is the case, and the banks have billions of dollars and careers on the line…couldn’t they find such a loophole unload their exposue to the taxpayer?

Rodger Malcolm MitchellJuly 23rd, 2009 at 3:37 pm

The U.S. federal deficit seems to be at the heart of nearly every economics discussion. Do you know of data showing high deficits are unsustainable or have caused recessions, depressions, inflations, tax increases, reduced availability of lending funds and/or any other negative economic effect?Please respond to rmmadvertising@yahoo.comThank you for your assistance.Rodger Malcolm Mitchell921 Pontiac, Wilmette, IL 60091847-256-6141www.rodgermitchell.com

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