Marketplace Off Air

Plenty of alternative ideas for getting out of this mess

Scott Jagow Oct 1, 2008

I’m looking forward to posting a few thoughts each day about the financial crisis. This is a trying time, but we will get through it. The question is, how?

I think the House vote against the bailout was a blessing, whether or not you support an intervention. I understand the sense of urgency, but we have to get the plan right. It does no good to rush a bill and then find out it was the wrong solution. Can you imagine the outrage then?

Based on my conversations with people across the spectrum, I’m pretty convinced we have to do something. It’s easy to say “let them fail,” and in fact, I’ve said it! But the banks have us by the you-know-what. There are just too many jobs at stake, and that’s the bottom line. Not just jobs in the financial sector, jobs all over the economy. There are good arguments against a “bailout,” but I’m not sure we really want to live with the consequences of doing nothing.

However, I’m not convinced Paulson’s plan is the best way to go – buying up the toxic assets. Two other solutions intrigue me more. One is: spend the taxpayer money on buying equity in the banks. The banks need the capital and this seems a better way for taxpayers to benefit in the long run. Determine which banks can survive and invest the money in those. Idea number two: hand the money to the FDIC and let the FDIC do its thing. So far, it’s done a great job brokering deals to salvage assets and banks going under – Washington Mutual and Wachovia, for example. Give the FDIC the financing to backstop the bank depositors (the people!) as opposed to bailing out the banks by buying up their bad assets.

We’re also getting a lot of e-mails from people wondering why this can’t be more of a bottom-up solution. Get the money to the people in default, for example. I’ve asked this question a couple of times on air and still haven’t gotten a satisfactory response. The consensus seems to be: We’ve passed a mortgage relief bill. We’ve done all these other things. We’re down to last resort.

But I don’t buy it. There are plenty of good ideas out there.

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