Editor's note: Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University. A Libertarian, he was one of 166 academic economists who signed a letter to congressional leaders last week opposing the government bailout plan.
Jeffrey A. Miron
Senior Lecturer, Harvard University
Congress has balked at the Bush administration's proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. Under this plan, the Treasury would have bought the "troubled assets" of financial institutions in an attempt to avoid economic meltdown.
This bailout was a terrible idea. Here's why.
The current mess would never have occurred in the absence of ill-conceived federal policies. The federal government chartered Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970; these two mortgage lending institutions are at the center of the crisis. The government implicitly promised these institutions that it would make good on their debts, so Fannie and Freddie took on huge amounts of excessive risk.
Worse, beginning in 1977 and even more in the 1990s and the early part of this century, Congress pushed mortgage lenders and Fannie/Freddie to expand subprime lending. The industry was happy to oblige, given the implicit promise of federal backing, and subprime lending soared.
This subprime lending was more than a minor relaxation of existing credit guidelines. This lending was a wholesale abandonment of reasonable lending practices in which borrowers with poor credit characteristics got mortgages they were ill-equipped to handle.
Once housing prices declined and economic conditions worsened, defaults and delinquencies soared, leaving the industry holding large amounts of severely depreciated mortgage assets.
The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.
Barry, unfortunately $700 Billion (700,000,000,000) divided by 200 Million (200,000,000) adults is actually only $3,500 per person. Not much of a stimulus package. Maybe it would help pay off some credit card debt, but little else.
It seems that Paulson is like a "mole" for Wall St. in our govt. The Investment banks are playing a game of chicken with the house and senate, and Paulson is their negotiator.Those investment bankers are a schrewd bunch,they see the bailout of Fannie & Freddie, than how AIG was handled ( 85 B.) and a few phone calls to some of their buddies in the commercial paper markets and now we have the "Big Scare " Of course the business world needs the commercial paper aspect to function on a day to day basis, carried on by banks that offer business services. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citibank just to name a few. I would think that our (ahem) esteemed congressmen could call several of the appropriate officers from perhaps 6 of those bigger banks into a meeting and ask what does it take to keep that commercial paper market flowing. By the way... commercial paper is all short term functions of lending, 30 -60 -90 day type of loans. These are NOT mortgages, or Helocs (home equity line of credit) so there should be no fear of any sub – prime B.S. going on. I have heard that one business (Used car sales) was given a change of terms by his bank which ws more stringent ( higher costs to the businesman) than they usually had. This is due to that particular bank being , lets say overly cautious. I could say afraid...as this goes to the hoarding of their capitol. Banks only make $$$ by loaning money. But I digress, THERE SHOULD BE NO $700 BILLION BAILOUT. We'll see how serious our Gov't is about any reforms based on the amounts of indictments and jail terms handed out. Almost a year ago, Sheila Bair, the director of the Federal Reserve suggested a solution to the subprime mess, and it was swept under the rug. One sane intelligent person in the morass of me-ism in our Gov't. She should be given a lot more authority in being part of our turn around team.
God save the Republic !
I have worked in banking 25 years and just lost my job because it went to India. The CEO's of these big banks always get off with huge perks. Today the same bank that eliminated my job has now been bought out by Citicorp. More job cuts. Our country is in so much trouble and middle and lower class once again is forced to pay for the big coporations mistakes. Our government should worry about fuel costs, help people to keep their homes, get a handle on healthcare and perscription costs. If the American people would get help were WE need it we would have money to spend to stimulate our economy. The government is dragging their feet also when it comes to alternative fuel and clean power such as WIND. The only wind we get it is from all the politicians in Washington. I am so sick of it all.
Yes. No bailout!!! Vote Pelosi out of office and vote in Cindy Sheehan!!
As long as it's Chapter 13 and force the CEO's of these companies to live under the stringent Chapter 13 that these same legislators inflicted upon the taxpayers they now claim to want to protect. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Economists from all over this country are calling this baillout a disgrace ! At what point will our congressional representatives start to listen to them. The only way to solves this crisis is for the U.S. Attorney to start doing his job and that is to file charges on all of the officers and CEO's of all the corporations involved for violation of the RICO act and for consumer fraud.
Handing another $700,000,000,000 over to those who have cheated and scammed their way into this mess would be equal to treason on behalf of the U.S. Congress.
This money will not help at all those Americans out there with so much debt they will never see the end, or those who will be foreclosed on over the next several months. How will this money change personal debt so Americans have the money to make their house payments in the first place? We must first re-write the rules and regulations that decide how debt is used and offered to prevent people from taking the easy way out. The bankers and Wall Street leaches are just pimps, and our government wants to bail them out to protect their own fortunes.
If we continue to just try and buy our way out of trouble our entire nation will collapse, and the only thing left to do will be to back a revolution and start all over.
Bailout? Hell no!
Let these companies go bankrupt. Recesion is inevitable.
Let's not become in Japon part 2.
House prices need to go down. Stocks need to go down.
People need to live within their means.
Yes to regulation. No to stupidity and limitless greed.
just a heads up folks
today's loss in the market (your and my $$$)
1.2 Trillion $
We are witnessing capital crimes committed by corporate America and no one is paying for these crimes except the middle and lower classes. This is an act to keep segregation between upper and lower classes. If the average individual committed such acts they would be prosecuted at the fullest extent of the law. But Corporate America has found a major loophole in our laws to allow these crimes to go unpunishable. So our socialistic government wants to protect Wall Street and their greed and criminalistic actions. What the government fails to understand is that we must fixed depreciating home values and the astronomical high gas prices that have lead to shortage in payment on home and auto loans. The main factor is we must curve the credit scale. With the devastating increase in bad credit in America, we have a majority of Americans who do not qualify for a loan now because of the crisis that has started of a year ago. Without the purchasing power from using credit we will stay depressed as an economy for many years to come. It is inevitable unless we make these changes. I saw this coming over a year ago and I make less than $100,000.00 a year. We have CEO in Wall Street that makes more money in 1 month than most countries make in a year. Whats wrong with this picture?
I'm sure someone else has done the math on this but I did not see it so here goes: assuming there are 200 million adults age 18 & over in our country, if you take $700 billion & divide it among them it would come out to approximately $3,500,000 (three and one-half million) dollars each. When the government has taken its portion at 37% or $25,900,000,000 (25 billion 900 million) that still leaves each of us adults with approx $2,205,000 each. If that would not be sufficient to stimulate the economy and just about everything else in this country I don't know what it would take? If the government is going to spend $700 billion, I'd feel a lot better if they'd spend it on the majority of the population rather than the so-called 'smartest guys in the room' or the so-called 'masters of the universe.' The smartest guys in the room need to be called out and prosecuted for gambling and losing other people's money and they need to pay with some time in prison and with some stiff fines – they do not deserve to keep their ill-gotten gains AND be 'rescued' by our government. They are no better & really worse than the recent criminal seen mugging an old woman in an elevator. Just as he will pay for stealing from someone, these ? (I don't know what to call these persons?) need to pay too. That's what our government ought to be figuring out – who is responsible and how can they be held accountable?
The bottom line is that Bush, the SEC, and all the financial giants on Wall Street created this false economy to make it look like that all this deregulation on Wall Street would somehow be good for mainstreet USA. The fact is corporate greed always takes over when unregulated and corporations almost never do whats best for the American people or the Country.
I see the 1800's coming back. No gas, no computer, no phones, no cars should I go on?
The reps voted against the bill because that what the people who elected them wanted. My rep was swapped with thousands of emails, phone calls calling for him to reject this bill. The banks froze credit not because they afraid to loan it, but to hold a gun to the head of congress to get what they what. Why settle for 20 cents on the dollar when you can get 30, 40 or 50 percent on the bailout. Banks have to pay interest to depositors, people with CD's, they can't pay these unless they lend money to collect interest. You better believe that the banks won't be paying interest with their money.
BAIL ME OUT. Push a button and automatically drop all current home mortgage interest rates down to a fixed rate of 6% or lower effective 1 Oct 08. Drop lower fixed rates by .25%. Work out a plan for ARM lower then agreed upon rate. Float or loan money to banks for 6 months if they are required to offer foreclosed homeowners said fixed rate, if their incomes qualify and put them back in their unsold homes. A committee to check progress bi-weekly on defaulted loan status. Reevaluate in 6 months. This will put more money in our pockets, help home owners pay for or sell their devalued homes and help restore faith in our economy. Help us help ourselves.
Democrats should not let up and even get firmer on the stipulations of this bill. It’s absoutely absurd to let the Sec of Treasury to continue to has access to funds that he couldn’t even budget in the first place. And the President and other Republicans wanted him to have complete atonomy over 700billion dollars w/out any kind of check and balance system. 700 billion dollars breaks down to $7000 per taxpayer. They claim to have given us a economic stiumulus package in which we have to pay taxes on at the end of the year but wants us to help companies who don’t pay taxes by increasing ours!! You have got to be kidding me!!! Hold firm democrats on your desicion, as a matter of fact add more stipulations to the bill, if not watch the market tumble. Those of us who have been struggling on the ground will make it, those who have parachutes, be prepared!!!
I totally agree that the corporate thieves should be held accountable for what has happened to the financial world... bring them before the judicial system and force them to give back all their ill-gotten gains and pay for their greed. We have always tried to raise our family to be responsible and have incurred little or no debt; We have paid back what we have borrowed and try to live within our means. The rest of America is going to have to do the same instead of waiting for Big Brother to bail the system out. My vote will be for Obama............
Wow, now this makes sense. Can someone get this to the candidates?
maybe this government should start asking why most of r decent paying jobs have left this country, we already know the morgage and banking industry were handing out money n the 80s and 90s 2 anyone who was breathing, as far as iam concerned that there fault, maybe they can get back some of the big pay outs 2 there managers and ceos, if this country had half the jobs back that have left this country we might not b in the shape we r, Maytag 4 example left Galesburg ILL almost 1000 jobs gone 2 mexico, this problem has been going on 4 years and now we r supposed 2 bail out another problem r government has created,
Frankly I find merit in advocating bankruptcy. The risky business dealings have not panned out and it's time to stop rearranging the deck chairs on this Titanic. I would like to see a program to help both lender and borrower in home loans. And I would like to see the US Bankruptcy Code amended to grant authority to the court to modify home loan agreements to keep the family in the home and keep the flow of money to the lender. But to shore up bad loans without benefitting the victims of the lending crimes is not going to fix anything.
My three cents, adjusted for inflation.
This financial has proved what we should have known all along. Politicains are more interested in being re-elected than taking care of the citizens of our country. Obama is saying nothing. He is waiting to see which way the wind blow. McCain is in a position whereby no matter what he say Obama will attack him along with many of his party members. I do feel that McCain have the toughness to see us through these difficult times. I doubt that Obama has ever shot a gun. I think if he had more experisnce he would make a good president. He remind me of those talk show people who know just what to say to their audience. There must be someone who is concerned about the welfare of the people. Please stop worrying about the salaries. Money does not make a good manager it simply allow you to recruit a manager that can take you forward.
Profit motive, pure and simple.
If you want to tame greed, you've got to set up a system of incentives and disincentives (regulation) that discourages the worst excesses.
Would you run a pro-football game without a referee? Same idea.
We can & should do everything possible to help the economy
by buying American whenever possible. It can be foriegn as long
as it is made in America by Americans.
As an informed citizen, I concur with your observation and contacted my congressmen to inform them of my opposition to this proposal. As a Libertarian, I say "Here – Here!". This situation is deeper and older than anyone is willing to recognize, and now we're going to have to surgically remove the foot from Congress' mouth and place it in the White House's posterior.
funny how Fannie operated for nearly 70 years without a hitch and Freddie for almost 38 and all of a sudden they are to blame. Gee folks you don't think the deregulation of the industry changed the scenario?
Having a govt. that reduces regulation and doesn't enforce the regulations that exist couldn't possibly be the culprit now could it?
So let me open my history book,
1) an unregulated market caused the crash of 1929
2) a deregulated market caused the S & L debacle of the 1980's
3) further deregulation and the overturning of the Glass-Steagall Act
(put in place after the depression to prevent such messes) put us in this present mess.
you'd think we'd learn
luckily for myself, I've been paying attention and have my financial house in order, but I still may get stung
hey how about this? if our capitalism is so important to our democracy, let's try these folks for treason. You want folks to stop gaming the system? Execute the ones that do. Heck make it a pay per view event and get some revenue out of it. I kid, ...................
Credit unfortuneately is something the modern western world cannot live without – what is frustrating is that the people in the corridors of power don't have enough of a grasp on reality to realise what this means to the common man. We are probably only witnessing the beginning of the implications to come, this will roll on for quite some time and it will cost jobs, homes, businesses and will certainly ruin a lot of lives.
I am sickened by both parties posturing at the expense of the people who's shoulders they satnd on. They should be ashamed.....ALL of them.
Whatever the outcome of this crisis may be, there is one thing for sure – those well heeled Washington "servants" of ours won't lose THEIR jobs or THEIR Homes.......you'll see.
What good is your salary increase going to be when your employer can't meet its payroll because it can't finance its receivables to fund its working capital needs and shortly thereafter files for bankrutcy protection and lays you off? Have you spent a lot of time in your company's accounting office. LOL
Yes, the past is the past. Bush lost all credibility when he lied about the reason to go to war with Iraq! And now, that he needs credibility...... Americans do not trust and do not believe he is sincere! What a way to end a presidency! Shame.
Someone needs to explain to the people against the Bill, that today's 800 point loss on Wall Street IS JUST THE BEGINNING!
When people do not get paid, when they can't use their credit cards, when they their homes value drop like a rock..........maybe then America will shout at Congress ........BAIL US OUT!
PEOPLE DO NOT 'GET' THAT WE ARE WALL STREET AND WALL STREET ..........IS............US!
United we stand divided we fall....this country is facing its toughest financial challenge since the Great Depression. It is disheartening to say the least when our elected leaders cannot come together to solve this problem. When they were needed most they reverted to back to squabling. Pelosi should have left her constant Bush bashing at home during this crisis. I am not a Bush supporter however this was ill-timed and not productive. On election day we can send a message. Maybe the American people need to gather in Washington and protest what our government has become and send a message that we are watching and will not tolerate their continuous non-bipartisanship.
So the bill has failed; and maybe it should have. But it would have been so much better to have a well articulated objection to the legislation, as per Professor Miron, than this "petty" behavior. Embarrasing really.
700 Billion dollar bail out ...... WHAT A JOKE!
All Americans should send there bills to congress !!
(bail us out) not the fat cats who did this..
All people responsible should be put in jail for this !!
Politicians is any one for the American people??
or just for there selfs!
Its time to shake up Washington !! * Obama will get my vote !
( John M..... And Palin )
Are way out of touch!
What happens when everyones unemployment insurance comps runs out?... If this downturn extends into 2009-2010, how will extended unemployment insurance comps be paid for with this 700 billion going to the banks?
P.S. One more thing: I remember when Kruschev said at the U.N., "Your grandchildren will live under Communism." And, "We will bury you." Scares the crap outta me now!
The banks and lending institutions' extortionist lending rates and gross usury of the American public is what has caused this financial crisis for themselves. You can't bleed blood out of a turnip. The banks can't extort anymore money out of the middle and lower class in the United States, because there isn't any left to extort. The big banks can fail, file bankruptcy, and go straight to hell where they belong, for all I care.
Thank You, Mr. Miron & the others like you who signed a petition to Congress telling them why this mess won't be solved by throwing more money at it. BTW, the Dow dropping isn't as all-encompassing as every talking head would have people believe; it's the PERCENTAGE that's important, not the raw numbers. And just for the record, I remember when I was in college in the DARK AGES & studied the Depression of the 1930's. Two things stand out in my mind: 1. There were people who became millionaires during it & 2. We never really came out of it until WW2.
And one final observation: I don't know why everyone thinks Pelosi queered the deal. Millions of people jamming Representatives phone lines, & email have more clout that a partisian speach given by a mediocre politician. The outrage I saw & shocked my husband also who was watching with me was when the Pelosi Subutitute ( don't know her name) asked for an "oral" vote. Talk about railroading!
There are trillions of dollars on the side-lines waiting to be infused into the system. The system wil right itself quickly. Why? Because there will be new opportunities presented to make money. But it'll be in a less complicated way and it will no longer involve these complicated financial instruments. Obscene profits will be a casualty and that will be a plus. I would not bail these guys out. I would hold them accountable for all of their debt, but lend them money at a fair rate and make them pay it back....even if it takes years and years. Those houses will eventually become attractive and affordable for many. Write strict regulation into the bailout bill that will not let this happen again. These fancy financial instruments ought to be banned. Even the treasury secretary had a hard time understanding how they work.
Patsy, you don't get it. Less credit available means that your salaries decrease, not increase. Companies won't have as much money to spend on operations which means more layoffs, less pay as businesses try to keep as much money as possible in house. Simple as that...
My family is already in a depression. It is about time Wallstreet starts feeling it. Hopefully Bush & McCain won't be so clueless what is happening on Main Street. The wail the new bailout was written it didn't put a cap to the CEOs, it put a cap on what they write off for these golden parachutes. They need to give them zero AND investigate them. Put some of them on trial and find out what really happened. In the meantime more research is needed so we won't get into this mess again 6 months down the road. I will vote for those that vote NAY! Be tough!
I think the bailout was/is a temporary fix that ultimately would not work. They would only come back later and ask for another 700 billion.WHY? Because Wall Street is beyond the point of no return in the credit markets. 700 billion isn't going to be enough to energize a GLOBAL credit market. WAY too much debt!!!
If the credit markets collapse, it will mean real trouble for the American citizen. If their company cannot get credit, they might not be able to buy the things they need to run their company. If that doesn't happen, they might not sell anything. If they don't sell anything, they might have to cut payroll. You may lose your job is the bottom line. So your salary will NOT increase in all likelyhood if there is no credit market.
Couple that economic possibility along w/ a bunch of super rich ,super spoiled , super pissed off CEOs who get millions no matter what happens to the company and you have the recipe for the perfect market storm.
cindy this is an economic crisis, not a military or legal crisis. in an economic crisis, the experts are known as "economists". the guys in the room with congress and the president are the ones who are "just guessing".
id trust mr miron with a $700B decision about the economy before i would trust bush and pelosi.
Considering the Tres Sec's wall street background and the fact that we are part of a global economy and we are so far in debt that no politician wants to admit to Im sure this was his way of making them happy. I see no point in bailing out anyone if subprime mortgages arent outlawed and all the criminal acts on wall street outlawed. Otherwise it keeps happening. These people will know hey we can get away with it. I wish the FBI investigation could be completed asap but that is impossible. These people have destroyed the integrity of our system both in reputation but also in size. There is no way in hell people who lied about their income should be bailed out! They committed fraud. You cant have something from nothing. Sometimes it takes a life altering event for some people to learn their lesson.
I agree with Patsy. Credit should never be used for consumables. Credit inflated the price of goods and services. Perhaps the lack of credit will reduce the cost of goods and services. Bailouts are not all bad, recalling the Chrysler bailout as a positive process though I have always wondered why we, the people, only received some small interest payments instead of stock options for the money in the Chrysler bail out. Imagine if we, the people had become major stockholders instead of investor's. It didn't go down like that because it was a good bailout plan. Somehow this 700B plan promised future gains for we, the people. I am suspicous that it was to be set up that way because the plan will fail, otherwise investors would retain interest in the bailed out assets, not us. I say let the chips fall as they may even if they turn in to dominoes. Good times and bad times are happy times if well spent. Contrary to modern and popular social viewpoint, it's NOT all about the benjamins.
It's really quite entertaining to watch all this. The Fed and congress got us into this mess because of inflationary policies and easy credit and now we expect the same people to solve the mess with the same policies. I can only sit back and laugh at the idiots in Washington while I watch the value of my gold investments go up as politicians continually destroy the dollar. There have been plenty of investors (Jim Rogers) and politicians (Ron Paul) who predicted this fiasco years ago. If Washington had any sense they would be asking these guys to fix the situation... but that would be admitting that our monetary policy is fundamentally flawed and so are all of the politicians who either support it or don't understand it.
Jeffrey A. Miron is totally ignorant.
Fannie and Fradie didn't involve in Subprime. Those subprime mortgage does not qualify for "conforming" loans.
The whole abandoning of sound lending practices was initiated and conducted by non-public financial institutions - Bear Sterns, Lehman, etc. Remember that the first to collapse was Bear Stern, not Fannie or Fradie? These two are the big victims from the private institutions' subprime lending, since the subprime affects the housing prices.
By the way, if Fannie and Fraddie go bankrupt and stop lending now, the situation would be much more scarier.
So much for market aboslutist!
Mr. Miron is on target.
We didn't get to this point in the last eight years. It has taken decades of incompetent leadership from both Democrats and Republicans.
I don't care who wins the Presidential race. I do care deeply that all of us demand our elected representatives stop representing special interests of all types at the expense of the 'common good'.
This financial crisis is because of the partisan bickering crisis I have heard almost constantly for the last 30 years.
We've all been short changed by our so called 'leaders'. And we're all going to pay for it for a long time to come.
I am so glad the congress vote against this. This is another example of what this administration has been all about; cover things up. It is good some times to hit the bottom and see the true, THE REALITY. We need an administration that think, plan and act for the people and not for their own agenda. I hope the new administration investigate why we have this economic crisis; not only to point finger but reestablish new policy and regulation that we help to improved the economy and to ensure that this never happen again. Middle class is the true foundation of any society, if we allowed another administration conducted them self the way the current administration did. Rich get richer and poor people will get poorer middle class will disappeared.
A bail out is not the answer...sometimes we just have to suck it up and suffer the consequences. There is so much corruption,
how can we know that a large percent of bail -out $'s won't go into greedy pockets. It's like preparing for a catagory 5 huricane. We'll just have to see what happens...Throwing money at a problem this big is a joke. Bail out this time and 10 days from now they'll need more than more. The big car manufacturers are next then transporation. Bush and cronies came up with the estimated amount because it sounded sizeable enough to be of some help...hog wash. If it gets bad, it get's bad...we're Americans we know how to bounce back...we're at our best in desperate times. Pray for wisdom in Government. Love the USA.
Jeff Miron for President!
Thank you Jeff for enlightening us as to the truth in all of this.
Incidentally, how is it that Pelosi "torpedoed the vote" with a speech?
The GOP was so outrageously offended that they changed their minds that easiliy?
I always hear " the market will take care of its self " apparently the free market has been too greedy, so we all lose? Someone should pay for this and not us. Where is the marketeers to help this situation, just looking for a handout..........just brilliant! I don't know what the answer will be to this crisis, but something has got to change the way they do business. No thanks to them we are all in this mess.
Why not have ivy league universities with their billions in endowments pay the bailout; after all its places like that who graduated the idiots that have us in this mess.
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