TARP Watch

TARP = Troubled Asset Relief Program i.e. the Bush administration’s proposed bailout legislation for corporations that have overextended and overexposed themselves to dodgy derivative financial instruments.

Some perspectives exercising opinionators in particular are the no-strings attached nature (the corporations being bailed out will not be required to agree to any restrictions/regulations in return), the remarkable expansion of executive power being proposed for the Secretary of the Treasury department without legislative oversight (the Left being nervous was predictable, but the Right is suddenly also very nervous about not having proper checks and balances now that the prospect of an Obama presidency is looming), and the deep and long-abiding ties of advisors in the McCain campaign to the laissez-faire policies which led to the subprime crisis and the need for a bailout in the first place.

Paul Krugman:

Basically, after having spent a year and a half telling everyone that things were under control, the Bush administration says that the sky is falling, and that to save the world we have to do exactly what it says now now now.

Glenn Greenwald: The complete (though ever-changing) elite consensus over the financial collapse

How can these bailouts not at least be categorically conditioned on the disgorgement of ill-gotten gains from those who are responsible? The mere fact that shareholders might lose their stake going forward doesn’t resolve that concern; why should those who so fantastically profited from these schemes they couldn’t support walk away with their gains? This is “redistribution of wealth” and “government takeover of industry” on the grandest scale imaginable — the buzzphrases that have been thrown around for decades to represent all that is evil and bad in the world. That’s all this is; it’s not an “investment” by the Government in any real sense but just a magical transfer of losses away from those who are responsible for these losses to those who aren’t.


The Treasury Secretary is dictating to these companies how they should be run and who should run them. The Federal Government now controls what were — up until last month — vast private assets. These are extreme — truly radical — changes to how our society functions. Does anyone have any disagreement with any of it or is anyone alarmed by what the consequences are — not the economic consequences but the consequences of so radically changing how things function so fundamentally and so quickly?

Other countries are debating it. The headline in the largest Brazilian newspaper this week was: “Capitalist Socialism??” and articles all week have questioned — with alarm — whether what the U.S. Government did has just radically and permanently altered the world economic system and ushered in some perverse form of “socialism” where industries are nationalized and massive debt imposed on workers in order to protect the wealthiest. If Latin America is shocked at the degree of nationalization and government-mandated transfer of wealth, that is a pretty compelling reflection of how extreme — unprecedented — it all is.

More reaction:

Dems incensed at corporate bailout plan
from Pam’s House Blend by Pam Spaulding

Boiling Angry
from ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES by echidne

Better Proposals
from ECHIDNE OF THE SNAKES by echidne

Loan Titans Paid McCain Adviser Nearly $2 Million
from Pam’s House Blend by Julien Sharp

Growing right-wing opposition to the Paulson plan and Single funniest blog post I ever read
from Salon: Glenn Greenwald by Glenn Greenwald

International implications:

International insolvency regime
from skepticlawyer by Legal Eagle

The end of global deregulatory reform
from Crooked Timber by Henry

Full on market wonkery:

America at the Crossroads. Again.
from Club Troppo by Ingolf

from Interfluidity by Steve Randy Waldman

Now for the really big one and Moral hazard, meet adverse selection
from Crooked Timber by John Quiggin

Categories: culture wars, economics, ethics & philosophy, law & order

Tags: , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. I heard this referred to the other day as privatising the profits and publicising the losses. I can’t see that the big companies have anything to lose if they keep getting bailed out.

  2. Besides this being a general mess, all I can think is that the acronym is hilarious.

  3. To Mindy: you watch The Young Turks? that’s where I heard that phrase.
    Its also where I heard the phrase “shock doctrine” which basically means how the Bush administration always keeps saying “the world is all going to smash and will only stay safe if you do what WE tell you.”
    I’m personally kinda sick of it now. especially since they’re using a horrible situation THEY made to get this kind of power again.

  4. I can’t see that the big companies have anything to lose if they keep getting bailed out.

    That’s what the post on a proposed ARISE Act is all about, Mindy – Automatic Reorganization of Insolvent Systemically-important Enterprises.
    The proposal is to identify all SE’s now, so that there is no implication that any particular SE is having problems, and enact modification of the existing bankruptcy legislation that will allow such firms particular reorganising abilities but which would also limit the amount they can expand using unsecured options because of the obligations incurred by having to be able to cover this new bankruptcy option i.e. having to swap equity for debt with any creditor. The author claims this would be an effective brake.
    It’s intriguing, but there also needs to be a change in shareholder culture with CEO packages. All the mythology about who is the best CEO and rewarding them with unrefundable performance bonuses that are just dead money if the firm goes into insolvency within a year or two. Those bonuses (or at least 90% of them) need to be placed into escrow for at least 2 years, and preferably 5, with the funds defaulting back to the firm’s capital account if the firm’s stock doesn’t maintain certain benchmarks (with provisions for external market contingencies) over the time period. If these people are as good for a company as they claim to be, then having these bonus funds sequestered while the company proves the worth of their innovations should not be a problem. They are, after all, still being paid a damn good salary.

  5. According to this site dealbreaker.com it hasn’t prevented acute human suffering:

    $$$ For her 50th birthday, Annette Pucci, a New York retail manager, planned to treat herself to a facelift by cashing in $15,000 in stocks. But after consulting with her husband, a manger with Consolidated Edison Inc., she realized their stock portfolio had taken such a hit that it was out of the question.
    “It was a very big disappointment,” Ms. Pucci said. Her consolation: a $1,200 Botox treatment she had this week instead. [WSJ]

    It seems the carnage has extended to proofreading (“a manger”).

  6. Annette Pucci can suck my left one. And pay my credit card bill this month.

  7. Oh, have you seen the stunt McCain is pulling? Utter rat cunning. Will the gamble pay off?

  8. My guess is no. People here want answers and they want them now–we’ve known the economy was going to be an issue for months. Paulson’s proposal is a mess, but it’s a proposal; Obama already has a response anyway.
    So between this and Palin’s refusal to actually talk to the press, this is seen as stalling.

  9. I caught the story of McCain’s ‘proposal’ half way through this morning and for one gut wrenching second I thought they were talking about suspending the election itself.
    The sight of politicians who have long known about and no doubt, in many cases personally profited from the excesses of the US financial system wringing their hands about how angry they are about having to bail out the banks is sickening.

  10. Bene, I’m relieved as I read around that it is viewed as the stalling stunt that it is. Just an excuse to get out of the debates, it seems.
    We can all vote on whether the debates should go ahead over at MSNBC: Agree or Disagree: Friday’s presidential debate should be postponed so the candidates can focus on the economy
    So far Strongly Disagree is way ahead on over 70% of respondents – so go and vote and get it up even higher!

  11. Seeing Sarah Palin’s new interview with Katie Couric, I can understand why they’re doing this. It’s pretty damn bad.

  12. She looked like a deer in the headlights, didn’t she?
    It’s not like Couric’s the hardest-hitting interviewer in the world, either.

  13. A bleeding, bleeding mess. She had no idea how to respond when Couric kept going after a point, and I think all political parties could agree that this was ridiculous.

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