Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Obama the Financial Dubya?

Original Link:

By Umair Haque

"As part of its sweeping plan to purge banks of troublesome assets, the Obama administration is encouraging several large investment companies to create the financial-crisis equivalent of war bonds: bailout funds."


"As well as BlackRock and Pimco, Legg Mason, another big mutual fund company, and BNY Mellon Asset Management, a big asset manager, have said they are interested in starting retail investment funds to participate in the government's plan.

For the investment managers, the benefits are potentially large. These big firms can charge healthy fees to investors for taking part. They will also have the marketing prestige of being the firms the government turns to at a time of crisis to help sort out the country's financial mess."

Now, I'm pretty slow sometimes. So let me ask some stupid questions.

Is there a reason that people can't just buy equity and debt in the plan, well, directly?
Is there a reason middlemen get a guaranteed profit in a new segment?
Is there a reason that only one side of the table is represented in this deal — the sell-side?
How come the benefit to taxpayers is still not a part of the calculus?

Here's the only reason I can come up with — and it's a lot worse than America 2009 = Japan 1989.

Obama is the new Dubya. When it comes to finance at least, the parallels are way (way) too striking to ignore.


1) Obama has discarded the advice of nearly every eminent economist in the world.
2) To go with the advice of "his" team.
3) Because access to him is apparently controlled tightly by Summers and Geithner.
4) So Obama is bubbled from the growing disbelief at his lack of economic literacy.
5) A plan that is likely to result in massive looting is blindly sailing ahead.
6) Policy is clearly biased in favour of those who can afford to buy it. Hence, banks win — again.
7) And it doesn't matter if policy works or not — so we get perverse policy after policy.

You know what? Hiring some kids to revolutionize media is how Obama won an election. But the failure to do the same across the government is going to be how he blows his presidency.

Here's the point: the same toxic managerial dynamics that poisoned the Bush presidency are already at work in the Obama administration's economic policy-making. And that's not a very good sign.

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