Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming Down To Earth?

The Economist says Obama's Presidency is coming down to Earth, and they cite Buffett:
Mr Buffett has given voice to widespread worries about the administration’s failure to prioritize. “Job one is to win the war, the economic war. Job two is to win the economic war—and job three. And you can’t expect people to unite behind you if you’re trying to jam a whole bunch of things down their throat.”
Buffett is wrong to criticize. Obama and his team have done everything feasible and necessary to handle the financial crisis and restart growth. People will be surprised by how quickly things will change, and there's a glimmer of hope that it is already beginning. The major threat for America now lies in the structural problems it faces. And in this, Obama is right to be strong and efficient in trying to move us forward. He is sacrificing his own interests and tranquility for the benefits of our future. For this, he should be praised.

This Economist article, however, does the opposite, and in the process displays an all-too-familiar logical problem of keeping things in perspective. His faulty qualities, according to this article, are his optimism, hard-work and ambition (really?); his mistakes include mis-chosen cabinet members and 165 million in bonuses. These are very obviously minor in scale. Do I even need to list off the hundreds of real, serious, structural problems which were caused or left to us by the previous administration? And yet for some reason, the Economist was hesitant to rule Bush's presidency a disaster after 8 years, and it is already citing Obama's as potentially such.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Geithner: My Plan For Bad Bank Assets

Posted on WSJ:


However, the financial system as a whole is still working against recovery. Many banks, still burdened by bad lending decisions, are holding back on providing credit. Market prices for many assets held by financial institutions -- so-called legacy assets -- are either uncertain or depressed. With these pressures at work on bank balance sheets, credit remains a scarce commodity, and credit that is available carries a high cost for borrowers.

Today, we are announcing another critical piece of our plan to increase the flow of credit and expand liquidity. Our new Public-Private Investment Program will set up funds to provide a market for the legacy loans and securities that currently burden the financial system.

The Public-Private Investment Program will purchase real-estate related loans from banks and securities from the broader markets. Banks will have the ability to sell pools of loans to dedicated funds, and investors will compete to have the ability to participate in those funds and take advantage of the financing provided by the government.

The funds established under this program will have three essential design features. First, they will use government resources in the form of capital from the Treasury, and financing from the FDIC and Federal Reserve, to mobilize capital from private investors. Second, the Public-Private Investment Program will ensure that private-sector participants share the risks alongside the taxpayer, and that the taxpayer shares in the profits from these investments. These funds will be open to investors of all types, such as pension funds, so that a broad range of Americans can participate.

Third, private-sector purchasers will establish the value of the loans and securities purchased under the program, which will protect the government from overpaying for these assets.

The new Public-Private Investment Program will initially provide financing for $500 billion with the potential to expand up to $1 trillion over time, which is a substantial share of real-estate related assets originated before the recession that are now clogging our financial system. Over time, by providing a market for these assets that does not now exist, this program will help improve asset values, increase lending capacity by banks, and reduce uncertainty about the scale of losses on bank balance sheets. The ability to sell assets to this fund will make it easier for banks to raise private capital, which will accelerate their ability to replace the capital investments provided by the Treasury.

This program to address legacy loans and securities is part of an overall strategy to resolve the crisis as quickly and effectively as possible at least cost to the taxpayer. The Public-Private Investment Program is better for the taxpayer than having the government alone directly purchase the assets from banks that are still operating and assume a larger share of the losses. Our approach shares risk with the private sector, efficiently leverages taxpayer dollars, and deploys private-sector competition to determine market prices for currently illiquid assets. Simply hoping for banks to work these assets off over time risks prolonging the crisis in a repeat of the Japanese experience.


I'm all for it.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

March 7 Weekly Address

Also, you can find some notes from a NYT interview with Obama here.

Monday, March 02, 2009