Sheila Bair--not Doing It After All...
June 29, 2009

A few weeks ago I wondered how FDIC chairman Sheila Bair managed to retain/grab so much authority for her agency amid Obama's regulatory overhaul despite the fact that so many of her fellow regulators and senior members of Obama's economic team seemed to dislike her: The item was based on early reports about the administration's then-unreleased proposal--particularly the part about "resolution authority," which it looked like the FDIC was largely going to get. The Wall Street Journal ran a typical account here: The goal is to avoid repeating a situation akin to the collapse of Lehman Brothers

When Overtime Is Illegal
June 23, 2009

Andrew Apostolou is a Senior Program Manager at Freedom House. Today, the Guardian Council, which has been swearing up and down that the election was without serious problems, asked for an extra five days for its investigation. Problem is, the request is illegal. Iranian electoral law (Chapter 7: Investigation of Complaints, Article 79) gives the Guardian Council between one week and ten days to investigate election complaints (they received 646 of them). So what did the Supreme Leader say to their request for extra time?

Too Big To Fail Or Too Complex?
June 22, 2009

I've been a little imprecise in discussing the merits of shrinking financial institutions that are "too big to fail." Bank of America, for example, is the biggest bank in the country--$1.6 trillion in risk-weighted assets, according to the stress test results. But a lot of those assets are pretty standard commercial loans, which are relatively straight forward to analyze and wouldn't pose an especially big challenge for regulators were the institution on the verge of failure.

Buyer Beware
June 12, 2009

One of the more promising signs for health care reform over the past two years has been the apparent support of the business community. Corporate executives and trade groups have repeatedly spoken out about the problems of our health care system. Even more remarkably, they have joined coalitions pledged to finding comprehensive solutions--the sorts of plans that would bring affordable insurance to all Americans while easing the financial burden many companies now face.

Summers To Chrysler Bondholders: Quit Yer Bellyachin'
June 12, 2009

This, from Larry Summers' CFR talk today, sounds about right to me: Mr Summers defended the administration’s handling of the Chrysler bankruptcy – in which union creditors received better terms than debtholders who had more senior claims, alarming many investors who see the order of creditor seniority as a crucial underpinning of finance. He said it was “standard practice” for providers of capital to bankrupt companies to favour some creditors whose goodwill was important to future business success.

Why You Should Be Short Newspapers, And Long The Nyt
June 12, 2009

In my continuing effort to catch up on items I meant to do this week, let me take a minute to riff on Lawrence Wright's fascinating profile of the Times' sorta sugar daddy Carlos Slim in the second-to-last New Yorker. (Full text not online, alas.) A major theme of the piece is the disconnect between the Timespeople's assessment of the paper's prospects and Slim's (apparent) assessment of its prospects. So you get passages like this one: And so when Slim began investing in the Times last year many smart people were dubious.

Will The Supreme Court Begin Ruling On Bailouts?
June 11, 2009

In what may have been an excess of exuberance, the White House issued a statement about the Chrysler deal Tuesday night. Attributed to an unnamed White House official, it included this assertion: "We are gratified that not a single court that reviewed this matter, including the U.S. Supreme Court, found any fault whatsoever with the handling of this matter by either Chrysler or the U.S.

Test Anxiety
June 03, 2009

What the banks still won't tell us.

David Brooks' Cultural Critique Of The Gm Bailout
June 02, 2009

Brooks raises several legitimate concerns about the government takeover of GM, most of them having to do with corporate culture and his pessimism that the new arrangement can change what was pathological about it. I don't share his pessimism, but he certainly could be right. This particular concern strikes me as off-the-mark, though: [T]he Obama plan will reduce the influence of commercial outsiders. The best place for fresh thinking could come from outside private investors. But the Obama plan rides roughshod over the current private investors and so discourages future investors. G.M.

Tnrtv: Will The Government End Up Running Gm?
June 01, 2009

Simon Johnson, professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and co-founder of, commends the Obama administration's GM bankruptcy plan, but warns that it will be difficult for the government to provide autonomy.   --Ben Eisler Check out the latest on TNRtv: Chait/Foer: Can Obama Win the Battle of the Budget? Just/Dick: If All Closeted Republicans Came Out, Would it Change Anything? Mann: What China Really Wants for North Korea