Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cleaning Up the Financial Mess

How do we get out of the current financial mess without rewarding those who drove our financial institutions into the ditch? The New York Times reports that our national government is considering plans to take more toxic assets off the books of the Wall Street giants that got us into this mess in the first place:
WASHINGTON — Top officials at the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve began discussing with Congressional leaders a plan to buy up vast numbers of distressed mortgages held by ailing financial institutions.
While the details of the plan remain to be worked out, the discussions could result in the biggest bailout in United States history, and the most direct commitment of taxpayer funds so far in the worst financial crisis that Fed and Treasury officials say they have ever seen.
Some of the comments on my latest Guardian piece raise the question of how much of the current crisis is due to natural economic cycles, and how much is due to lax regulatory oversight. One reader referred to Galbraith's A Short History of Financial Euphoria and concluded: "Only a fool pretends they can stop this." I'm not sure Galbraith would agree.

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