The Great Debate UK

from Commentaries:

Geithner of Oz

Earlier today I wrote that Sheila Bair is one of the few financial regulators who gets it. And by getting it, I mean not sucking up to the banks and the big money interests on Wall Street. You know, the guys (and most of them are guys), who got us into this financial mess. Tim Geithner, on the other hand, is a regulator who just doesn't get it.

It's not that the Treasury secretary isn't smart--he is. And it's not that he's not up to job--he is. It's that Geithner is too much of a politician and his views have been molded by people who work on Wall Street.

So, that's why we have Geithner telling The Wall Street Journal today that Wall Street isn't reverting back to its old ways--even though everything indicates that's exactly what is going on. In Geithner's world, things are getting better and the banks are becoming better citizens:

I don't think the financial system is reverting to past practice, and we won't let that happen. The big banks are running with much less leverage now, much more conservative liquidity cushions. There has been a significant shrinking of their balance sheets, getting rid of bad assets and cleaning up. And the weakest parts of the system don't exist anymore.

from The Great Debate:

California, harbinger of hard U.S. choices

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

California's fiscal train wreck should be watched warily by investors in U.S. Treasuries; as the start of a trend among states seeking bailouts, as a source of pressure on Federal funds and as a harbinger of hard choices at national level.

California voters last week rejected a finance bolstering proposal, setting the stage for billions of dollars worth of  cuts in services, layoffs and a shortened school year.

from The Great Debate:

Failure is the only success in stress test

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The stress test of banks now underway in the U.S. is one exam in which failure will be the only true measure of success, at least in terms of speeding a recovery.

The U.S. will release some information about the methodology of the stress test of 19 major banks on Friday according to reports, with results slated for release in some form on May 4.

from The Great Debate:

Goldman’s TARP out: give up ALL state aid

goldman-crop -- Jonathan Ford is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Goldman Sachs wants to do its duty by the American people and give them their TARP money back. Some spoilsports have urged the government simply to say no because allowing the investment bank to repay the cash would make other banks look bad.

But this seems rather un-American. Why shouldn't taxpayers get their money back if Goldman really doesn't need it? The point to insist upon is that they get all of it back -- and on commercial terms.

from The Great Debate:

“Truman doctrine” could boost IMF firepower

Paul Taylor Great Debate-- Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The day before he returned to the U.S. Treasury for six weeks to help the understaffed Obama administration, Edwin Truman published a proposal to give the International Monetary Fund more firepower to fight the financial crisis.

Truman's idea -- a one-off $250 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to IMF member states -- looks like the quickest way to put a safety net under developing countries and avert financial contagion. The Group of 20 world leaders should embrace it at the meeting in London on April 2.

from The Great Debate:

Too failed to live not too big to fail

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

The U.S. policy of keeping zombie financial institutions alive is so clearly failing that it is now attracting attack from inside policymakers' circle of covered wagons.

The most interesting intervention in the banking debate in the past few weeks was an extraordinary attack by Kansas City Federal Reserve President Thomas Hoenig on what he termed a policy of "piecemeal" nationalization which leaves discredited management in place, repels new capital from the banking system and allows bad assets to fester rather than be cleared.

from The Great Debate:

Geithner’s hair of the dog plan for banks

jimsaftcolumn-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

U.S. plans for a public-private fund to buy up toxic assets are likely to amount to a fig leaf with which to hide subsidies to failing banks.

It is also, inevitably, an entirely new subsidy to outside investors, who by definition will only participate if they get better terms than now available in what we formerly thought of as the free market.

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