Three Questions, and My Answers.....
(This should be up at REASON later today. I'll post the link. But, for now, an exclusive to KPC readers!) (UPDATE: Link here! Warning: Don't click on the link, in comments, that Naga Sadow put up. It's an obnoxious RickRoll. On the other hand, if you have never been RickRolled, go for it. You'll have to kill your browser process to get out, though)...
1. Outside of the obvious pork and special interest goodies, what are the biggest problems you see with the stimulus package?
The creation of new bureaucratic and regulatory structures, restrictions on creation of liquidity. The genius of the American system, for all its flaws, has been that we can mobilize LOTS of liquidity quickly. Silicon Valley exists because you could sit down, make a pitch, and get $10 million that afternoon.
If we start governing finance like we govern universities, or city councils, we are going to lose that. Having committees, and a bunch of forms to sign off on, and stamps.....Hernando de Soto wrote about systems like this. They strangle business, investment, and growth.
2. Is there anything in the stimulus package that you think will work? If so, what?
Keynes said that Y=C+I+G. Borrowing money to raise "G" (government spending) will work, I suppose. But the cost to future generations is enormous. I am amazed by the hypocrisy of both sides. John McCain calls the stimulus "intergenerational theft." Well, he's right, but he came LATE to this wisdom. The Republicans have been just pouring out new deficit spending since 2002.
And then Obama says he doesn't want to do tired old ideas, and failed economics. But he is doing EXACTLY what the Republicans did: huge deficit-financed spending on largely useless or irrelevant programs designed to reward political friends. The only thing that's different is the identity of the "friends."
So, some of the spending may increase measured GDP slightly for 2009. But the price is increased inflationary pressures in 2010, and the squandering of the birthright of our children for decades.
3. Obama says that doing nothing is not an option. Do you agree with that?
This makes me furious. Doing nothing is NOT an option, anymore. Because first Pres. Bush, and now Pres. Obama, have engaged in a completely irresponsible fear campaign. "We must do something, or you should cower in helpless fear, behind locked doors, in darkened rooms!" Presidents should not use this kind of fear as a weapon to pass their pet projects. Roosevelt, for all his flaws, got it right: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Well, not quite right: it turns out we need to fear fear itself, and also Pres. Obama.
The sensible thing to do at this point would be to make an offer, at 40 cents on the dollar, for the "toxic" assets, both the collaterlized debt obligations packaged by Freddy and Fannie, and also the credit default swap "insurance" derivatives sold by AIG (and some other firms, but mostly AIG). Since AIG wrote so many "naked" CDSs, even for people who don't own the underlying, or "insured" asset, they are going to keep hemorrhaging until someone puts a floor on the value of the assets.
So, a one-time, take it or leave it, offer. One big reason that credit markets are frozen is the uncertainty created by Treasury indecision and vagueness. Asset owners are holding out for a better price, and they are trying to negotiate through the Senate, not the Treasury. Obama needs to lead here, and say, "Take this partial buyout, or hang on to the asset at your peril. There is no better deal coming tomorrow."