Friday, September 19, 2008

Rolling out a red carpet of moral hazard for every financial institution to fail itself to success

Now everyone can make big bucks in the financial industry and walk away rich and happy. The brilliant minds that got us into this mess to begin with have given us the ultimate lesson in how unregulated, free-market economics plays itself out on Wall Street. Left to its own devices, the financial marketplace eventually begins to ever more closely appromiate a giant Ponzi Scheme, and like a Ponzi Scheme, its collapse is only a matter of time (all the more reason to get, and get as much as you can, while the getting is good). That's when they privatize the profits and socialize the risk. Unfortunately, the Ponzi Scheme threatened to take down our entire banking system with it, so the bailout was probably necessary. But what about the rest of us? And who's going to pay for it?

I have my own modest proposal: The conservative, free-market and/or libertarian think tanks grew fat and happy providing the ideological underpinnings for our fancy new, deregulated financial system. They systematically helped erase damn near every lesson we learned from the 1929 Crash and the Great Depression. How about if they chip in some of their sizable endowments to help out? I mean, we're all in this together, right?

As for the rest of us: Now that the Feds have socialized the risk for Wall Street firms, how about applying some of the same policies to the lives of ordinary Americans? For example, the feds are taking over bad mortgages. So why not apply the same principle of socializing the risk to take over the medical bills of the 46 million Americans who are uninsured? We even have a name for it: single-payer health insurance.

I'm not too confident that either of my modest proposals will be adopted, although Matt Yglesias does suggest Democrats should fight to put at least some money for social needs into the bailout package as it moves through Congress. Will this happen? Nah, says Atrios, who explains why he is far from optimistic. Neither am I.

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