The U.S. Congress only has two choices. It can raise the debt ceiling, or it can abolish the debt ceiling. The latter option isn’t realistic, sadly. Which means that the debt ceiling is going to be raised. Yet somehow the House of Representatives contrived today to vote 318-97 against raising the ceiling, in an idiotic political stunt which makes all 318 Nay votes look like complete morons. Not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill, while the Democrats were pretty evenly divided between the sane and the bonkers; even the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel voted nay.
Christine Lagarde’s international campaign to become the next head of the IMF is an attempt to maximize her credentials as the choice not only of Europe but of the rest of the world as well. The job is hers, at this point: once the US falls in behind Lagarde there’s no question that Lagarde will get the job, and with Hillary Clinton now waxing enthusiastic about how “we welcome women who are well qualified and experienced to head major organizations such as the IMF”, it’s going to be hard for the US to support anybody else. So Lagarde’s latest world tour should be seen as maneuvering to make her life as easy as possible when it comes to dealing with increasingly-powerful shareholders such as China and Brazil, after she starts in her new role.
Would Mohamed El-Erian have moved from Harvard to Pimco in 2007 if he was only offered the job for less than 18 months, at which point he would have to reapply for his job under a different system? Because that’s the offer that El-Erian thinks the IMF should make to Christine Lagarde:
Christine Lagarde is going to be the next managing director of the IMF. European consensus is clearly coalescing around her: she has been endorsed by Germany, France, Italy, and the UK, not to mention Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the euro zone finance ministers. And the only other front-runner for the job, Kemal Dervis, has now ruled himself out after the NYT published an article about an extramarital affair he had many years ago. (The woman, I understand, still works at the IMF.)
It takes Mohamed El-Erian until the very last paragraph of his FT op-ed to rule himself out of the running for managing director of the IMF: “I will not be part of this process,” he says, adding that “I already have a great job, here in California.”
It now seems more likely that Dominique Strauss-Kahn will end up in a prison cell than that he will be elected president of France. Either way, his career at the IMF is over, which means that the race to succeed him is on.
Serena Ng has been keeping an eye on AIG’s share price, which is far below where it was trading at the beginning of the year — and below even where it was in October, when Treasury’s Jim Millstein told me that Treasury was going to make a profit of roughly $13 billion on the money it used to bail out AIG. That’s looking increasingly unlikely: Treasury’s break-even price on its AIG stake is about $28.70 per share, and at current prices it’s going to have to accept less than that if it wants to sell $20 billion of stock into the market.
Gordon Brown is very comfortable at the IMF. He chaired its most important committee, the IMFC, for many years, and he would love to take the top job of managing director. There might be a vacancy soon, if the incumbent, Dominique Strauss Kahn, steps down to run for president of France. But it won’t be filled by Brown, now that UK prime minister David Cameron has made his opinions crystal clear.
After the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission fractured into bipartisan incommensurability, I had little hope for the Senate’s report into the financial collapse. But my initial impression is that it’s a great piece of work — almost incredibly so, given that it’s got bipartisan support.