Marketplace Scratch Pad

Come on! Buy bailout bonds!

Scott Jagow Apr 9, 2009

I’m sure you’ve seen those old World War I posters – Buy War Bonds, Keep Us Flying! The government sold bonds to Americans as a way to raise money for the military effort. Well, soon you might see posters saying – Do Your Part! Save a Bank!

The Obama administration is reportedly encouraging several fund managers to create “bailout funds” by selling something akin to war bonds – financial crisis bonds, I guess. The funds would buy toxic mortgage assets from the banks. Most of the money would come from hedge funds and other investment firms, but Joe or Jane American could also buy in.

From the New York Times:

“It is really, really important to allow Main Street in,” said the official, who was involved in discussions about the plan but who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it publicly. “They are getting taxed for this problem. They should have an opportunity to participate in the recovery.”

There’s little doubt this move is motivated by the complaint that Wall Street’s being rescued but there’s nothing in it for the little guy. The question is — will people want to touch those assets? You could wind up making a profit. Or you could take yet another bath.

“If this turns out to be great but you have kept it away from Mom and Pop and the rich are favored, that looks bad, but it’s also bad if you have people who are burned,” said Jay D. Grushkin, a partner at the law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

What do you think? Would you buy these bailout bonds?

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