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Wall Street bailout plan explained, universally reviled [Update 14 It's unanimous]

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Posted originally on Daily kos by New Deal democrat

    In the last 24 hours, there has been an explosive outpouring of analysis of and revulsion for the Wall Street Bailout plan, from economics professors to financial traders to laypeople.  And the verdict is in:  Paulson's plan can only "succeed" if the taxpayer overpays for cr***y securities, and then sells them at a discount to Wall Street.  Paulson alone gets to decide which Wall Street players win and lose; but it is a certainty that the taxpayer must lose, perhaps $1,000,000,000,000 (that's TRILLION).

    I have prepared a round-up of the econo-blogosphere opinion below. The detailed analysis by "Naked Capitalism" is particularly compelling.  Mish and Lee Adler (one a Ron Paul acolyte, the other an old fashioned progressive) both encourage a Senate Filibuster.  Finally, ex-Kossack Stirling Newberry says today and tomorrow will truly show Barack Obama's character.

    If you know of any other econo-blogosphere analysis I've missed, or have read a newspaper editorial about the bailout, please post it in comments below.  

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    Top-rated economics and finance blogger Calculated Risk says there is "no upside ... for taxpayers":

[T]he cost is still unknown, but there is no way that the taxpayers will profit. My initial estimate is that the direct costs of the Paulson plan will be $700 billion to taxpayers. That is about double the cost of the S&L crisis (compared to GDP).

....The plan only limits the Treasury to "$700,000,000,000 outstanding at any one time", so the total purchases can exceed $700 billion. In fact, every time the Treasury sells some securities, they will probably plow the net proceeds back into more troubled assets until the entire $700 billion is gone.

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Think of a drunk gambler at a slot machine. He starts with $100 and slowly loses. Every now and then he wins some money, but he keeps putting the coins back into the slot until he has lost everything. That is how this plan will work.

Unless there is a dramatic changes, there will be no upside participation in the financial companies for taxpayers, and the taxpayers will recapitalize the banks by, in Krugman's words, "having taxpayers pay premium prices for lousy assets".

Prof. Paul Krugman agrees, saying this is a con-game at taxpayer expense:

As I posted earlier today, it seems all too likely that a "fair price" for mortgage-related assets will still leave much of the financial sector in trouble. And there’s nothing at all in the draft that says what happens next; although I do notice that there’s nothing in the plan requiring Treasury to pay a fair market price. So is the plan to pay premium prices to the most troubled institutions? Or is the hope that restoring liquidity will magically make the problem go away?

The Treasury plan, by contrast, looks like an attempt to restore confidence in the financial system — that is, convince creditors of troubled institutions that everything’s OK — simply by buying assets off these institutions. This will only work if the prices Treasury pays are much higher than current market prices; that, in turn, can only be true either if this is mainly a liquidity problem — which seems doubtful — or if Treasury is going to be paying a huge premium, in effect throwing taxpayers’ money at the financial world.

And there’s no quid pro quo here — nothing that gives taxpayers a stake in the upside, nothing that ensures that the money is used to stabilize the system rather than reward the undeserving.

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    Even right-wing economist Harvard Prof. Greg Mankiw is aghast:

A Blank Check

A friend emails me a link to the proposed bailout legislation and asks,
Has more money ever been given with fewer restrictions on how it is used? Ever?
Update: Naked Capitalism's analysis of the plan is well worth reading.

    And here is the aforementioned analysis by Naked Capitalism.  If you truly want to understand Paulson's Wall Street bailout plan, this is the gold standard.  That the taxpayer gets cleaned out isn't a bug, but a feature of the plan, and Paulson has admitted so behind closed doors:

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