Monday, January 26, 2009

Why not Nationalize?

The New York Times discusses nationalization.  There is one good reason NOT to do it overtly -- namely the fact that you now "own" the problems in an entirely different way.
Moreover, Mr. Obama’s advisers say they are acutely aware that if the government is perceived as running the banks, the administration would come under enormous political pressure to halt foreclosures or lend money to ailing projects in cities or states with powerful constituencies, which could imperil the effort to steer the banks away from the cliff.

“The nightmare scenarios are endless,” one of the administration’s senior officials said.
Indeed.  One advantage of simply bailing out the banks is that they are still available as whipping boys.  Once you own them, you own all of their problems.  And they need to be merged, downsized, etc.  Once you own them and are committed to "creating jobs" -- how do you explain firing thousands of bank workers.  

The same dynamic is in play with the auto companies.  The absolute last thing the government wants is a jobs program that involves something like building and selling cars.  The Japanese can no longer do it profitably (for now).  Any direct government jobs programs need to be more like the WPA programs.  If the newspapers keep collapsing, a writer's project could be appropriate.  Pay bloggers.  For example.

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