Monday, October 13, 2008

Krugman: Has Gordon Brown Saved the World?

by Bill McBride on 10/13/2008 12:12:00 AM

Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times: Gordon Does Good. A few excerpts:

The natural thing to do ... is to deal with the problem of inadequate financial capital by having governments provide financial institutions with more capital in return for a share of ownership.

This sort of temporary part-nationalization ... is the crisis solution advocated by many economists — and sources told The Times that it was also the solution privately favored by Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman.

But when Henry Paulson, the U.S. Treasury secretary, announced his plan for a $700 billion financial bailout, he rejected this obvious path ...

Meanwhile, the British government went straight to the heart of the problem — and moved to address it with stunning speed. On Wednesday, Mr. Brown’s officials announced a plan for major equity injections into British banks, backed up by guarantees on bank debt that should get lending among banks, a crucial part of the financial mechanism, running again. And the first major commitment of funds will come on Monday — five days after the plan’s announcement.

At a special European summit meeting on Sunday, the major economies of continental Europe in effect declared themselves ready to follow Britain’s lead ... And whaddya know, Mr. Paulson — after arguably wasting several precious weeks — has also reversed course, and now plans to buy equity stakes rather than bad mortgage securities (although he still seems to be moving with painful slowness).
As Krugman notes, many economists - like Krugman, Roubini, DeLong, and many others - were urging something similar to the Gordon Brown approach.

BTW, the UK announcement is expected very soon - around 7 AM London Time (2 AM ET, 11 PM PT).