March 27th, 2009
11:39 PM ET

Are those glimmers real?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/03/27/pm.geithner.treasury/art.geithner.afp.gi.jpg caption="Timothy Geithner announced his plan for taking toxic assets off of the balance sheets of troubled banks."]
David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

We have just come off the set taping the next CNN Money Summit to be shown Friday at 11 p.m. (and again on Saturday at 8 p.m.) As usual with Ali Velshi hosting, it was a spirited, often provocative conversation in which all of us learned something.

Clearly, as Ali explained, we are seeing glimmers of hope in the economy, and the country is breathing a sigh of relief. But is this the bottoming out that all of us have been looking for or is it a nice ledge that we are sliding across before we go over the edge again? I am not sure any of us could provide a confident answer on that question.

The stock market is up some 20% from its low earlier in March and housing starts are up nicely. Because both housing and investments are so critical to people's sense of well-being, these are very encouraging signs. Yet, as we shall see with the government's announcement on the Detroit auto industry - expected very soon - painful job losses are likely to continue for a while.

The scariest moment in the whole show came when Ali unveiled a graphic from the Congressional Budget Office predicting that the nation's unemployment rate won't return to pre-recession levels until 2013 - four whole years from now! Wow, that would be tough.

One question that I raised with the panelists is whether the glimmers of hope that we are seeing represent in any sense an "Obama effect." Several of the President's programs haven't had a chance to kick in very much yet - for example, that big stimulus package. But ever since the stimulus package was enacted, President Obama has shifted to a more optimistic tone about the economy and has been encouraging Americans to look toward a brighter future. Is that having some effect now upon home buyers and others who are trying to buy new durable goods for the future? The question brought an interesting response from the panel.

Now here is a second issue: the Tim Geithner plan for taking the toxic assets off of the balance sheets of troubled banks, so that credit will start flowing again, depends heavily upon enticing hedge funds, private equity firms and others to invest their money in those toxic assets. How will the government entice? By offering very sweet deals in which the government puts up most of the money for the purchases and limits the losses to the private investors. Private investors are now trying to decide whether to play or not. If they do, there is a chance that they could make double-digit profits - indeed, they could be making very big profits. Question: how do you feel about private investors making lots and lots of money if they decide to play? What if we wake up one day and find that a private firm, enticed by the government, has made hundreds of millions of dollars from these toxic assets? Do you think they should be able to keep it?

This is a really important question with real-world consequences. This is exactly the question that many of the private investors are asking themselves. If you think, well, we offered them a bargain, they took it and put their money at risk, now we should honor it - if that is what you think, they may decide to invest. But if you think, well, that just seems unfair for private investors to make a lot of money with government help and at a time when so many are hurting - if that is what you think, there is a real possibility they will decide not to play. That's why it is important to think through this issue up front.

So, as a member of the Money Summit panel, I would love to hear what you think.

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • Economy • Raw Politics
soundoff (486 Responses)
  1. victor

    The United States must conduct military operations in Mexico to stop those terrorist from killing and bringing drugs into the US. Hunt those terrorist just as we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and kill those terrorist. The cartels are taking no prisoners. We must do the same. Do not entertain the thought of legalizing drugs. Take a zero tolerance approach. Find the bad guys and kill the bad guys.

    March 29, 2009 at 3:39 am |
  2. david

    Psychology of the market is very important and that is what we are seeing. Remember when Bill Clinton said "we are going to focus on the economy like a laser"? or soetehing like that. The economy took off. Well not that in hindsight it was all good . The fact that we are acting and doing something and that we as a country are having serious discussion followed by thoughtful decisions with supporting rationale represents the very essence of what has historically helped make our country strong. America's strong point has been the capacity for self correction. However that capacity has been severely disengaged by political and influence peddling such as the "K street project" and the general empowerment of lobbying arms and their connected interests over the interest of the general public. One important item that has been more or less dismantled is our "free press". Conglomeration of media and business interests has resulted in mini monopolies of information control and flow. A company that owns 2000 radio stations has 1900 too many under the same banner. We need to disempower this information power concentration or the necessary economic and financial corrections we make can be quickly eroded through this type of influence.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Mike

    The meltdown and this recession are all about jobs. The Toxic Assets weren't toxic when we took them on. Most of us earned enough and were prudent when we took out the loans. Now we are under-employed or unemployed. When your income is reduced your ability to pay is reduced.

    Our jobs have been sent overseas or given to visa holders who help to send them overseas.

    Even though the U.S. is not legally required to issue a single H-1B Visa (Yes, that's right not a single one), we will give away another 65,000+ US high-tech jobs via next Wednesday's U.S. CIS H-1B Non-Immigrant lottery. U.S. workers and U.S. taxpayers will be the April Fools.

    Outsourcing and the High-Tech/Skilled Worker Visa giveaway have decimated our economy, our tax base, and our nation's future.

    Having a college degree and not being able to find a job is an intellectual asset gone toxic.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm |
  4. Helena

    Mr. Gergen,

    I do admire your journalism. It's great to see a level head during these choppy times.

    Actually, I think that the government shouldn't partner with private on these assets if they don't want to partner with us. These guys have an attitude problem. The old culture is shifting and a new culture is developing.

    Honestly, I would have the government sell those assets in a way that they would profit. At the market. Get the fire started and going. No one is going to be able to resist some of these prices for too long and I'm sure a feeding frenzy will begin. Then prices will settle at some point which we need to have happen.

    I think that some of those assets, like foreclosed homes, should be given in a lottery to some of the people who really need them.

    But I think that the vast majority of the profits from selling the assets should be set into a rainy day fund, that we desperately need to have in this country, and should be grown until we can run our government off the investments and thus lower our taxes.

    I think we've reached the point where taxes are getting too high and people are out of touch with that in many ways. There's no room to raise taxes to pay for all of the things that we need to in the budget. We have to get more savings going from replacing our oil and power in the government to cheaper alternative sources.

    I think that we should be selling bonds to pay for switching over our power sources to other than oil. The American public is so fed up with oil. Enough to give you driving and be really disgusted with the lot of it. This of course affects the car industry deeply. No one saw it coming. Public sentiment is get me out of here, I don't need to see $150.00 oil ever again. Don't need it.

    I think we stand to make so much money potentially from switching out of oil that we could get the injection we need to re-shape our economy. Enough is enough. The people have spoken. They want fewer bankers and certainly regulation in the financial industry. Reasonably priced housing. Accountability and transparency.

    But what's happening in banking also has to happen in healthcare. It's the same synrome. Premiums are going into the executives pockets. The bankers aren't the only problem, though they certainly need to get the message.

    Look at New York. We can't afford to see the public transportation get any more expensive. It's outrageous, and it's choking the local economy at the worst possible time.

    Sell bonds to re-tool the public transportation system.

    I think that the Feds should put out bids to back these types of projects if they are taken up my municipalities. The ones who don't take the money, they are probably the insensitive, boorish, out of touch types who only see their patriotic duties extend to themselves. They are destined to become more and more isolated and there's little we can do to change them really.

    But those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, they know we need some good ideas and forward thinking.

    I really would like us to start setting aside monies to run the government on its own, the way those great little machines do that keep running once you get them started. Other countries have done that. It would sure stop the argument that government is too big or too small one day, which I'm sick of hearing already.

    I'm sure it's got to be some particular size and we spend more time squabbling over its size than doing something about it, a complete waste of time in my view.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:47 pm |
  5. Jan

    There's not a thing wrong with Anderson. I watch Fox AND CNN, and you have to decide for yourself what you think. This is a democracy, and supposedly we should be smart enough to form our own conclusions. I believe you need to take in any information you get in order to arrive at a conclusion which you consider to be the "truth." There are going to be plenty more ups and downs in the market and in our country, but that doesn't mean we either have to give up or that we need instant gratification. Chill and keep trying. I'm getting about 2/3 the pay I was last year, and, yes, it's hard; but there are lots of folks worse off than I am, and I'm thankful to have a job. Life is what you do with the situations you're given. I pray every day that more people will see that. Don't give up. We, the people, are STILL the greatest country in the world. If you don't agree with something, vote, call, write, do something to change it. We are not impotent here, and we can't afford to just sit around and pass judgement. "You must be the change you want to see in the world." We can do this. We wouldn't have gotten this far as a country if we couldn't. We have to circle the wagons when there's trouble and then press on, together as a nation.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:44 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    If private investors choose to invest in the toxic assets they should get any profit that accrues – they were the ones that took the risk after all. Why risk your own money if you aren't going to get anything out of it?

    Job losses – we hadn't heard much of them in our area so far until yesterday when it was announced that the county's largest employer – the University of Alabama at Birmingham (school and hospital) were announcing "massive" layoffs. Any hope I had before that announcement was pretty well shattered with that one.

    One item I wish your panel would discuss and put the limelight on. According to a story on the CNN site IBM is asking for a bailout while at the same time they are planning on laying off thousands of US workers and shifting the jobs to India. So the bailout money would go to pay teh salaries of people in another country – That might help IBM but it certainly doesn't help Americans and I know that I for one am totally against a company being able to do this. The bailout and stimulus money is suppose to make things better for Americans – not for foreign citizens of other countries. To me this is as bad as the AIG bonuses.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm |
  7. Amy Ruppert

    Those investors should absoutely make and keep the profits if they take the risk. The American people have got to understand the importance of free enterprise and how it has made this country great and benefits all of us. Free enterprise with prudent regulation which ensures that investors who risk, risk with their own money, and don't jeopardize our entire financial system. Finding balance between free enterprise and regulation is our challenge now but I am confident that is exactly what will make us a financially strong and stable nation once again. We are where we are because we, the American people, were anaesthesized by comfort while we let Wall Street and politicians run amuck with our financial system. It's time to take it back people! Pay attention and do your homework!! Listen to opposing viewpoints and get a well rounded view of things before getting emotionally wrapped on the headlines. CNN's Money Summit is a great start!

    March 27, 2009 at 7:37 pm |
  8. Mike

    First Issue: Is it just me or is the glimmer dimmer today?

    Second Issue: If they are gamblers, let them gamble on their own. If the lose, they lose and write it off. If they win, we tax.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  9. Tim Clover

    I suggest that the government sell Mortgage Recovery Bonds to create a fund that could act as a party to these transactions. Split the investment with private investors 50/50 so that if there are decent profits, the purchasers of these Mortgage Bonds would share in the profits. It also would be a good way to get those of us with money to invest that are wary of the stockmarket something to invest in that might also help the economy and would feel patriotic as well.

    March 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  10. Frank Antonelli, Boston

    Why are we the only G20 nation without Universal Health Care?
    Why are we the only Nation where CEOs make 450 times the average employee while the rest of the G20 Nations average someplace between 10 to 20 times?
    Why are the tax rates for the richest Americans at half the rate (17%) vs. for the rest of us (30%) ? If the top 300,000 Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 150 million and pay half the rate in taxes what do you expect?
    When are we going to realize it is the gross inequity in pay and taxes between the Uber rich and the rest of us that is destroying this country?
    What business can remain solvent with such a business model? is it any wonder that Corporate America and Wall Street have gone BUST?

    March 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  11. stanley hollander

    Since a sad event has taken place at a place i was very comfortable at –which was CNN –You have now begun to sound a lot like Fox That terrible nut station –Is it because they are getting more eyeballs watching them ??Why has CNN taken away the true beauty that was always fair changed to Anderson a former I follow the bad weather or where their is a storm their is Anderson -So bad to change him purely for eyeballs -get Wolfe back in place to counter this terrible change Be ashamed CNN

    March 27, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  12. Timothy Gibson

    Can anyone say or spell Mirage. You think you see it but you don't, you think it's there, but it's not. We have yet to hear the fat lady sing, she is not even in the dressing room yet, however when she sings it will be the blues.

    If I only had a nickle for every time I have heard, this may be the sign we have been looking for, the turn around point, but we all know what happens when we get to that last house on the left. The only question is, will the story turn out the same as it does in Hollywood, or will it be so real to each of us that no one wants to see what is coming toward us like a frieght train loaded with toxic waste, no brakes, no conductor, and the rails lead into a brick wall at grand central station.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  13. Randy

    If we are a democratic society, based upon free enterprise, then anyone willing to invest in 'toxic assets' has earned the right to a fair profit. It is important to note that we must all 'band together' at this time. If this will help the overall economy, and get our people back to work, then by all means, I'm for it!

    March 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
  14. Dave in CO

    The GOP cheerleading for the USA to fail makes me wonder when they joined the Taliban. After the job the GOP did on us for eight years recovery will take a while. You can't fix an eight year old problem with a snap of the fingers. The whole has been dug for eight years I would give us at least three years to fill it back in to a good starting point. I am getting vested at bargain prices and I know it may take a while but I have seen the boom bust cycle before.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  15. Mike

    Our government should not insure the toxic assets and definitely should not bail out another AIG.

    The Mortgage Meltdown was triggered when the ‘real’ U.S. Job Market contracted. Under-employment and unemployment put us in the position that mortgages which were once only s reasonable portion of our incomes suddenly became the bulk of our ‘reduced’ incomes. The pursuant ‘lack of purchasing power’ has sent the rest of the economy into this tailspin from which we will never recover.

    It all comes down to Jobs. Jobs go to the lowest bidder. Those low bidders do not live in the U.S. We will never again have jobs that can sustain any real semblance to the U.S. we’ve know for the past 50 years. A 'green job' that pays well assumes that people have purchasing power–that's not going to happen again in this country.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  16. thanh

    1. This is not bail out money for new private investors.
    2. The government is asking private investorsI to participate.
    3. The profit will be splited with the government since both sides contribute equal equity.
    4. if you take risk then you need to have the right to get the reward. No GUT no Glory.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  17. Frank A

    Why is it that the Government on behalf of the tax payers (our money) can't put a cap on the amount of profit these private investors make? Allow them to potentially make a very nice profit, but not a god damned killing or they'll be raping the system all over again! Either that or you need to change the corporate and private tax laws for the wealthiest Americans so they pay their share in taxes. No more paying 17% on your income because you structure most of your income to be taxed at Capital Gains rates! If tax equality is not reached this country is doomed! We can't keep allowing all of the wealth to go to the top 1 to 3% of this population and having them pay half the percentage in taxes! Is it any wonder that we can't fix our infrastructure, schools, etc when the top 1 to 3% of the population have as much wealth as the bottom 175 million people but pay only half the amount in taxes?

    March 27, 2009 at 6:48 pm |
  18. tharriso


    I appreciate the manner in which you critique policy and the ability of politicians as opposed to the sliming so often done by contemporary "journalists".

    May I respond by posing a question to you. Both high inflation and deflation of any measure are detrimental to any economy. Very mild inflation is the ideal to most economists. Leaving imaginary "toxic debt" (these esoteric derivatives which no one seems able to accurately define) aside, many homeowners see the very real (as in "real property") toxic negative equity in their homes. Individual families are trapped, literally and figuratively, in their mortgaged houses. They cannot sell their homes due to depressed house values, and they cannot maneuver within their personal debt boundaries due to skyrocketing credit card interest rates allowed by the fine print in their agreements.

    Several years ago, Chairman Greenspan lowered the rate that the Fed charges on overnight loans to banks to almost zero in order to avoid having the economy begin slipping into deflation, the economic death spiral of the Great Depression. The current stimulus debt is being sold via bonds to foreign governments and to private investors. With housing values so deflated is there not the possibility of raising them through engineered inflation? I understand that prices of all goods and services would go up, but the price of all "real" property would as well. Rather than selling debt, the Fed could simply, yet also radically, increase the M1 money supply. Though consumer prices would go up for all (a shared burden), most homeowners would see an increase in the value of their homes, such that they would no longer be what is referred to as "upside down", i.e. they would have positive equity rather than negative. This might hurt the lenders who financed the current loans as the payback in real dollars would be less due to a devalued dollar. This, nevertheless, might be better for everyone than massive foreclosures. It would also free the majority of these homeowners from their debt traps, allowing them to sell current houses, move to new job locations, and have greater ability to pay down personal debt. Another seeming upside would be that it would not be debt which would have to be repaid by the government to lenders. Again, the obvious downside is a weakened dollar coupled to higher prices for all goods and services.

    I know this medicine is roughly equivalent to chemotherapy in terms of its side effects, however chemo, coupled with disciplined hard work, did bring Lance Armstrong from near death to the pinnacle position in his field. I would like to hear the thoughts of your panel, who are more well economically educated than I, regarding such a course of action.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  19. Steve S, Silicon Valley, CA

    I think in short we're between a rock and a hard place. We have to get the toxic assets off the books of the banks and we need private investor help to do it – no one likes the current level of deficits much less the one's we'd have if the government alone intervened. To entice the investors to play – no better way than capitalism. Unlimited upside is why people are willing to take the risk – that's what runs silicon valley.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  20. Marcus

    David, never thought I would be saying this about you, but you are about as big a baffoon as that Jack Cafferty or Anderson Cooper wannabes on CNN. I cannot believe that you act, react and judge trends on a day to day basis. It is simply pathetic. An no, Obama deserves nothing of the sorts (praise) which you allude to in your piece – at least non this early in the game. I didn't vote for him and will not vote for him in 2012 (still praying the Republicans get their act together and put up a challenger who can steam roll over Obama), but the economy is simply not going to turn on a dime. When are you so called "journalists" going to realize that. So Obama neither deserves criticism nor praise for what has happened over the past few weeks. It is NOT his policies – no, too early. It is not his words – no, too early on that too. Remember how he was using the word "crisis" about 20-30 times on each speech trying to get the public riled up so we could support his ill-conceived plans? Well, the eloquence in which he speaks, even the negative words, are not going to be sufficient to turn this ship around.

    Let's hope that CNN has left the airwaves and we elect a new president in 2012.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  21. 88s

    To clarify, I support our president and dare to hope our tax dollar investments end up increasing our revenues and things eventually balance out. I’m cautiously optimistic...

    Mr. Gergen, I respectfully disagree with notion of the "Obama Effect". This recession has been so long, deep and saturated with media coverage (not a bad thing, just technology marching on) the public has now become desensitized to constant bad news. Maybe we should call it the "Constant Bad News Desensitization Effect". What is occurring now is an event or announcement judged to be in a positive direction is over-amplified because we are hungry, almost desperate, for good news.

    Concerning the economy, we hear bad news constantly, but lately, it's not as bad as some invisible statistician expected, so that's positive, right? It’s what I heard on the .coms, and if you read it on the internet or see it on TV, it’s got to be true. (Blatant sarcastic editorializing)

    The truth may be that we could be setting ourselves up with a, NOT SO BAD NEWS bubble that may pop fairly easily with a very loud thud. It's not the "Obama Effect,” It’s the "Constant Bad News Desensitization Effect".

    My opinion of the “Toxic Assets”: (great name for a band) I think the 6%-loss to 50%-gain ROI is too sweet. However, an investor with huge amounts of money sitting on the sidelines waiting for the market to stabilize may respond to this incentive with no greater than a 6% share of the risk. If the results of this plan get cash flowing because banks are willing to make loan risks again, that’s great. Hopefully, the taxpayer realizes a 50% profit rather than getting stuck with 94% of investment loss. Again, I’m cautiously optimistic.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  22. Russell

    Any private investors who put their money up to purchase these worthless 'assets' should be allowed to keep every cent that they earn. In fact I would argue that the profits (if any) should be tax-free. They are doing the country, and our financial institutions specifically, a huge service by risking their money on this plan. If successful, they will have helped the government to save our economy. and should be rewarded accordingly.

    Reducing the wealth gap is a noble gesture, but we should not begrudge people their wealth. Especially when they take risks that could benefit the country as a whole.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  23. James

    In response to the efforts to protect existing homes in order to stabilize the market prices (advocated by John Thomas), I think the concern there is that those prices were inflationary at best, and based upon an informal Ponzi Scheme at worst.

    The idea was that the prices would always continue to go up, and the only way you get your money back is to get someone else next to pay more, and they would do the same. The idea of a Ponzi scheme is that the next investor pays back the prior investors. Often the ideas of how much those houses were worth was ... well crazy.

    If we get into a protectionistic view on this of the existing house prices, then we are also rewarding those people who spent foolishly on the homes (obviously not everyone did but that drove a lot of the bubble), and penalizing the late comers who have to pay a tax of sorts to get a home, as opposed to buying a newly built house that does not have the inflated prices built into the current market rate.

    While I understand the need to not let the entire market for houses fail, I don't think we need to prevent proper corrections in the market rates. Some of the home investors were also as big a part of the problem as the banks and financial institutions lending them the money. Again, a generalization, but one that must be recognized at some point by the market.

    The most foolish think on housing that I think is a problem is the solidifying the mortgages into bundles and into then CDO's on the bundles. In regular market activities, if a ton of houses were being foreclosed on, the market price would fail, and the bank (as the historical owner of the mortgage paper) could decide whether to foreclose, renegotiate, or do nothing – based upon their ability to sell the house on a market. If they did nothing or temporarily renegotiated the monthly payment, they could maintain a borrower in the home, who was paying insurance (which often requires a person to live in the home), taking care of the home, paying taxes, etc. When the market returned, the lender could always reassess its legal rights, but was not required to do anything.

    In contract, there is no legal flexibility in these devises since the "owner" of the home is not an entity – but a number of entities that might not have a "thought process." The right to service the mortgage is owned by one entity, and the paper itself was stredded – and divided up. The only way to renegotiate is to refinance the mortgage and a new entity is not likely to refi a loan already in default, and since it likely is not the "Same" entity, they have no incentive to clean up the mess for now.

    For John Thomas, I have to ask if you are stuck in home you can't sell and under water? If so, I can empathize, but I have to ask if you are asking to be bailed out on your bad choice? If so, you might state that bias. Just curious.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  24. Larry Kraus

    I have a question does anybody think Ruben Navarrette Jr. makes any sense? He now has labeled the Obama Presidency as a failure on the economic side of his administration. The President has been in office for 2 months and he is already a failure? Ruben you need to hold off for awhile his changes haven't taken effect yet. The current bounce is just because Bush is gone. President Bush did the same thing for the country that he did for every company he ran. His track record is terrible and now you want to label President Obama a failure? where was your labels for the previous administration? every time i try to read your articles i have to quit after just a few sentences. am i alone or are there others that believe the way i do?

    March 27, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  25. Steven S

    The Debt is the problem people should be talking about now. The US is broke the world is not going to keep buying debt for very much longer. Then all these issues mine nothing. The dollar will crash and the economy with collapse.

    March 27, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  26. Patrick Halonen

    How will the average American react to private investors making large amounts of money with governament assurance removing risk.

    I suspect much of that depends on how the media spins it in their reporting. Perhaps you should ask your bosses what story line will generate better ratings for CNN!!

    March 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  27. Yvonne, Los Gatos, California

    Operating under the presumption that everything must forever rocket upward and when gravity kicks in, we must prevent things from hitting the ground by throwing them back upward, neglects the very simple and fundamental concept of gravity – that it does exist and it pulls things downward, whethr we like it or not. At some point, some place, somewhere, we have to allow things to come down – simply because the upward trajectory is not the only outcome possible. The proposed actions are a proposal to extrapolate a trajectory that puts things on an upward course and maintain them there – because we have come to believe that the upward trajectory is the only acceptable trajectory for us, and we must make it the only possible trajectory, whatever the cost – even if it means we wipe out our future and that of future generations. We only like it when things are ballooning but refuse to consider the reality of a deflation. This is what began the housing crisis and set things in motion. How unrealistic have we become? I'm horrified to think of what we could be setting in motion next. ONLY AND ONLY, THE UPWARD TRAJECTORY. FOREVER THE UPWARD TRAJECTORY. Are we listening to ourselves?

    March 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  28. karen

    Hooray for the private investors! If they want to accept the risk of the toxic assets – bring it on! Let's hope those Wall St. folks have some money left to invest – helping to right to boat that they've driven off keel. Investments are all about risk – let them take it.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  29. Al Walburn

    I do not believe we can have it both ways. If we want private investors to get off the sidelines and buy these toxic assets for the good of the entire economy, then they should be allowed to enjoy whatever profits (or losses) they reap. Otherwise, I believe they will remain on the sidelines and the malaise will continue more or less as it did in Japan in the 1990's.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  30. GP

    Proverbs 17:18
    A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge
    and puts up security for his neighbor.
    A credit default swap is insurance one entity buys from another as security against default on a debt.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  31. Terrence

    I fail to see why this disposal process for these toxic assets should reward the private investor with ALL the profit and very little of the loss. It just seems like another cozy wall st./whitehouse agreement where the values are being controlled by the investors.

    The proposed auction is wide open to manipulation so that the banks/investors once again control the whole thing. For instance, what is to stop them bidding up the price of theses "assets" thru proxies to almost full value (sic) so that the taxpayer pays thru the nose for them and the banks are happy because they got their money. When the housing market comes back the investors rake in all the profit and kiss off the taxpayer.

    As for adding a 50% tax to the value of a new house has got to be the most regressive action possible. Just when people are buying you want to reduce the number of potential buyers. Doesn't make sense to me.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  32. Zac, Atlanta

    The money we are "giving" to private investors to buy up the "toxic assets" is actually a loan. What I do not know is if the government will see any gains in its returns if private investors make a ton of money off the loans, or if the government will merely break even.

    If the plan doesn't work and the economy tanks further, then obviously these loans will all be money lost...

    As a final note: unemployment is a lagging indicator, so it will be a while before it gets much better even if all else goes according to plan.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  33. alpineulberg

    Mr Gergen – my 2 questions to your comments would be: if the investors hold 7% (as I recall) & the government holds 7% – #1) doesn't the public that owns the 86% share also benefit, and #2) would not the government that owns the 7% also make $100's of millions?

    March 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  34. Ed

    America should be focusing on health care, education, and on becoming the world leading provider of energy. Creating buildings, bridges, and general infrastructure is the wrong choice at this point, because it just creates something that we'll have to spend even more money maintaining. Create industries that are successful and they'll cover the cost for new infrastructure if it makes sense from a profitability stand point.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  35. Larry Kraus

    I for one am playing the market. i try to sell before the closing bell if i can but there are days where i don't get that chance. I have good days and bad but the bad days are of my own making. I sell and the stock bounces upward in a vertical plane not a slope but straight up. While i regret selling to soon i still make money on those trades I just don't maximize my profits. The people who sell short are the ones that can have the biggest negative impact for now. I don't know what will happen in the next few years and nobody else does either no matter who they are. for now we have a market that is climbing and the funds that President Obama has released still haven't hit the market. I believe the next 12 to 24 months will be up and down after that it depends on the support President Obama gets from congress. The moral of the story is for now take advantage of the ups and downs the market will have and wait and see what the congress does in 2010. The Republicans want to give the top 5% a big tax break if that happens we all know how that trickled down for the last 8 years. If you want to complete the sellout of the middle class then elect more Republicans.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  36. Ed

    Dear Banks,

    PLEASE negotiate more and help people who are struggling by lowering monthly payments and adding time to the end of mortgages. The fire sales you've been having end up only recovering a small fraction of the value from each property anyway, so why not keep the property and maintain your cash flow at the same time?

    Stop using tax payer dollars to cover general operating expenses and bad loans. Use it to generate income with new loans – this should help offset any cash flow you lost from reducing monthly payments to keep people in their homes.

    Finally, take time to convince the American public that sending money your way is the smart thing to do. Because, right now, it really seems like we'd be a lot better of doing something with the money ourselves.

    March 27, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
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