Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Candidates and Wall Street

With Wall Street in disarray after the bankruptcy of one giant and the takeovers of two others, the two candidates for President are struggling to reassure voters that they have the magic solution.

The good news is that neither has argued that the government should have stepped in to save Lehman Brothers. Although that may cause some short term pain, it's a road that can only lead to worse things if large firms decide that there's not a price to be paid for failure in the marketplace.

While Politico has this topic as their "Arena" question (where they ask their slate of experts for their thoughts), there's not likely to much useful to be found there as most respondents aren't economists or financial experts.
I thought it might be useful to link to some more interesting perspectives:

Here's First Trust's Brian Wesbury:
The US is moving through its deepest set of financial market difficulties since the 1980s and 1990s, during the banking and S&L crisis. The key thing to remember here is that the emphasis belongs on the word financial. These financial market problems are not a result of widespread economic weakness, otherwise known as a recession.

An international perspective from the London Times:

By deciding essentially to wipe out shareholders in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and acting even more harshly to the shareholders of Lehman Brothers this weekend, Mr Paulson has sent the clearest possible message to investors around the world: do not buy shares in any bank or insurance company that could, under any conceivable circumstances, run short of capital and need to ask for government help; if this happens, the shareholders will be obliterated and will not be allowed to participate in any potential gains should the bank later recover.

Here's Paul Krugman, who's always worth reading on technical economic issues even if his political commentary is off kilter:

Will the U.S. financial system collapse today, or maybe over the next few days? I don’t think so — but I’m nowhere near certain... The real answer to the current problem would, of course, have been to take preventive action before we reached this point. Even leaving aside the obvious need to regulate the shadow banking system — if institutions need to be rescued like banks, they should be regulated like banks — why were we so unprepared for this latest shock? When Bear went under, many people talked about the need for a mechanism for “orderly liquidation” of failing investment banks. Well, that was six months ago. Where’s the mechanism?
There are many, many more perspectives being offered. A good roundup is at Real Clear Markets, sister site to Real Clear Politics.

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