Monday, March 23, 2009

Another trillion for banks and Wall Street?

Here's the latest scheme out of Washington to get the economy moving again: the Treasury Department plans to use at least $100 billion and perhaps as much as $1 trillion to help private investors buy bad investments from banks. The hope is that with the government's money backing them, investors ranging from individuals to pension and hedge funds will feel confident enough to take the risk, and that banks will start lending again once they have risky investments like mortgage-backed securities off their balance sheets.

I know, I know: the requisite shock, awe and anger is coming right now. Who wants to see yet another dollar go toward helping banks and investors, right? It's an understandable reaction, but this plan is a perfect example of why and how the economy can't be fixed in the ways we've all gotten used to. That is to say, it won't be quick, it won't be painless and the solution won't come from a magic bullet; the government appears to be trying everything it can think of and thus far, nothing has restored confidence in the financial system enough to get lenders lending, consumers buying and employers hiring again.

Of course, that isn't to say that the anger isn't justified though. The money for this new program is supposed to come out of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, which is the Wall Street bailout program passed last year that so many are criticizing today. That the new money is coming out of TARP, which was a fund that was supposed to be used to take bad assets away from banks to begin with, raises the question of why this plan or something like it wasn't tried first.

No comments: