Last week, the Obama administration brought us a $1 trillion Federal Reserve magic trick hatched by the David Copperfield School of Economic Recovery — printing up a trillion bucks and “pumping it into the U.S. economy”…by buying up bonds and mortgage securities…sold and backed by the government.
Today, hapless, truth-challenged tax cheat Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner officially unveils another $1 trillion magic trick. Instead of letting failed banks fail, we’ll have another desperately massive and massively desperate attempt to prop them up through a “public private partnership investment program.” Eager to get the still-unfolding Bonus-gate behind them (see “Geithner Aides Worked With AIG for Months on Bonuses” and “AIG paid over $218 million in bonus payments”), Team Obama leaked details of the plan over the weekend. World stock markets were up this morning, full of audaciously blind hope.
Geithner ’s WSJ op-ed this morning lays out some of the details he failed to deliver when he first unveiled his non-plan plan a month ago:
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.
The self-delusional hope, as the NYTimes put it over the weekend (see “Toxic Asset Plan Foresees Big Subsidies for Investors”), “is that such a generous taxpayer subsidy will attract private investors into the market and accelerate the recovery of the country’s banks.”
Because, you know, the trillions of generous taxpayer subsidies we’ve already poured down the hole have worked such wonders to “accelerate the recovery.”
And because, you know, healthy investment firms will be sooooo eager to accept government funding after watching what happened to AIG.
Mike Shedlock boils it down:
This is similar in nature to fraudulent schemes that promise “what’s inside the bag is worth $1 million, unless you open the bag”.
In this case there may be a few “good bags” similar in nature to salting the mine schemes, but for the most part everyone knows what’s in the bag is toxic garbage. What really makes no sense whatsoever is why the government would risk 97% with shared “upside” instead of just buying it all.
Somehow, Geithner (and Obama by implication) believes that igniting a bidding war between hedge funds and private equity over a bag of cow manure will inspire confidence that there’s gold in the bag. Such insanity cannot possibly work, which means it won’t.
To paraphrase Obama’s favorite president, Abe Lincoln: “You can fool all of the Kool-Aid drinkers some of the time, and some of the Kool-Aid drinkers all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the Kool-Aid drinkers all of the time.”