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Stiglitz: ‘Either in the Pocket of the Banks or They’re Incompetent’

April 17th, 2009 by selise

From Bloomberg’s interview with Joseph Stiglitz on the Obama administration’s economic policies:

“All the ingredients they have so far are weak, and there are several missing ingredients,” Stiglitz said in an interview yesterday. The people who designed the plans are “either in the pocket of the banks or they’re incompetent.”

“We don’t have enough money, they don’t want to go back to Congress, and they don’t want to do it in an open way and they don’t want to get control” of the banks, a set of constraints that will guarantee failure, Stiglitz said.

The Public-Private Investment Program, PPIP, designed to buy bad assets from banks, “is a really bad program,” Stiglitz said. It won’t accomplish the administration’s goal of establishing a price for illiquid assets clogging banks’ balance sheets, and instead will enrich investors while sticking taxpayers with huge losses.

“You’re really bailing out the shareholders and the bondholders,” he said. “Some of the people likely to be involved in this, like Pimco, are big bondholders,”

“The statement from Sheila Bair that there’s no risk is absurd,” he said, because losses from the PPIP will be borne by the FDIC, which is funded by member banks.

“We’re going to be asking all the banks, including presumably some healthy banks, to pay for the losses of the bad banks,” Stiglitz said. “It’s a real redistribution and a tax on all American savers.”

“America has had a revolving door. People go from Wall Street to Treasury and back to Wall Street,” he said. “Even if there is no quid pro quo, that is not the issue. The issue is the mindset.”

He called the $787 billion stimulus program necessary but “flawed” because too much spending comes after 2009, and because it devotes too much of the money to tax cuts “which aren’t likely to work very effectively.”

“It’s really a peculiar policy, I think,” he said.

The $75 billion mortgage relief program, meanwhile, doesn’t do enough to help Americans who can’t afford to make their monthly payments, he said. It doesn’t reduce principal, doesn’t make changes in bankruptcy law that would help people work out debts, and doesn’t change the incentive to simply stop making payments once a mortgage is greater than the value of a house.

Relying on low interest rates to help put a floor under housing prices is a variation on the policies that created the housing bubble in the first place, Stiglitz said.

“This is a strategy trying to recreate that bubble,” he said. “That’s not likely to provide a long run solution. It’s a solution that says let’s kick the can down the road a little bit.”

So, to recap, we have an a policy that won’t succeed in it’s stated goals, may succeed in creating another bubble and will succeed in giving away a vast amount of taxpayer money. If that’s true, guess I’m going to go with "in the pocket of the banks."

x-posted at oxdown

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