Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bob Schieffer nails it

I didn't think his questioning of Paulson was especially tough, but Bob Schieffer's editorial bit at the end of FTN was pitch perfect. I'll try to find the video, but basically he said that whatever needs doing to fix the current crisis, the fact that it was created without any laws being broken suggests we need better laws.

I'm less worried than most of left blogistan (especially Prof. Atrios) seems to be that Hank Paulson's m.o. in all this is to enrich his former peers at the big banks. It obviously seems fishy that there's a section in the proposed legislation that would forbid any kind of congressional or judicial review of any action Paulson might take, and I'd like to see that clause nixed, but you can't blame him for trying.

I like the sound of some alternative plans, put forward by Krugman and others, that provide the government greater upside when things improve. But there's also something necessarily messier about government equity ownership as opposed to government ownership of this crappy debt.

What I'm more concerned about is getting some meaningful regulation on mortgage origination, securitization, credit ratings, bank leverage, etc. The banks will not want it, but this is the moment where their political influence is at its absolute nadir. They are desperate for government help, and are in no position to put up much of a fight. So as long as any bailout is accompanied by (if not conditioned on) those reforms, I don't really care about the particular form it takes.

I do share Prof. Atrios's appreciation of this (sadly anonymous) email from a congressional Dem to Matt Stoller. My favorite graf:

I also find myself drawn to provisions that would serve no useful purpose except to insult the industry, like requiring the CEOs, CFOs and the chair of the board of any entity that sells mortgage related securities to the Treasury Department to certify that they have completed an approved course in credit counseling. That is now required of consumers filing bankruptcy to make sure they feel properly humiliated for being head over heels in debt, although most lost control of their finances because of a serious illness in the family. That would just be petty and childish, and completely in character for me.

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