Economy

There are three kinds of "bubbles"--a term often used loosely when asset prices rise a great deal and then fall sharply, without an obvious corresponding shift in "fundamentals." A short-run bubble. Think about 17th century Dutch Tulip Mania: spectacular, probably disruptive, but not a major reason for the decline of the Netherlands as a global power.  A distorting bubble. In this case, the increase in asset prices contributes to a reallocation of resources across sectors. Think of the Dot-com Bubble: fortunes were made and lost, the collapse was scary to many, and--at the end of the day--you'

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Last week, the Treasury Department quietly announced it was moving ahead with plans to purchase toxic assets from banks, but in scaled-back form. To my colleague John Judis, this must have been welcome news. For months now, he and I have debated whether President Obama’s efforts would be best spent fixing the financial sector or reviving spending by consumers and businesses.

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Cit Down

At the end of the day, CIT had nothing. Their asset quality was poor, their systemic risk implications seemed limited, Sheila Bair dug in her heels, and Jeffrey Peek (CEO) didn't have sufficiently strong connections to get her overruled. CIT had friends, but not enough--and maybe this tells us something about the shifting political sands. The Financial Services Roundtable (top financial CEOs) came out in force, the House Committee on Small Business reportedly made worried noises, and Barney Frank sounded supportive. But the American Bankers Association (the broader mass of bankers) publicly st

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Two weeks ago, President Obama offered to cut several hundred billion more dollars out of the Medicare and Medicaid budget to help make room for health care reform. This sort of gesture ought to appeal to conservatives, right? Apparently not.

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In mid-March, the administration proposed that toxic assets could and would be safely removed from banks balance sheets. I was skeptical, and the the PPIP now seems to have slipped into irrelevance (loans; securities). But the administration still put an impressive effort into persuading independent analysts, and broader public opinion, that they should do something clearly beneficial for banks. This was "all hands on deck," and it definitely had an impact on the debate, at least for a while. Now, the administration's major remaining initiative is its version of a Financial Product Safety Comm

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The G8 summit was obviously disappointing, even for those with low expectations. Usually, the substance is lacking but the public relations are well managed. This year even the messaging was messed up--they said some new things on climate change but not what we were told they could say, the food aid/development package was lamer than advertized, etc. So the whole thing looks like an expensive flop. But actually it was much worse. I've written elsewhere this week about the G8's broad decline in legitimacy and appeal relative to the G20 , and the specific pressing issue of cross-border resolutio

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Bank Shot

Congress's attempts to deal with the housing crisis this spring created surprising rifts within the financial industry, particularly between big banks and investors (at hedge funds and elsewhere).

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The G7 was originally conceived as a form of steering committee for the world economy (antecedents). Existing formal governance mechanisms, around the IMF and the UN, seemed too cumbersome (and too inclusive) during the 1970s, with the breakdown of fixed exchange rates, assorted oil shocks, and the broader shift of economic initiative towards Western Europe and Japan. And the G7 had some significant moments, particularly with regard to moving exchange rates in the 1980s. More broadly, behind the scenes, it served as a communication mechanism between the world's largest economies ("coordinatio

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Policymakers like to make particular kinds of statements at a "low attention" moment, e.g., right before a holiday weekend. This gets items onto the public record but ensures they do not get too much attention. And if you are asked about these substantive issues down the road, you can always say, "we told you this already, so it's not now news"--usually this keeps things off the front page. Released on July 3rd (a federal holiday), and buried inside the Washington Post on Saturday (p.A12): An important speech (from June 26th) by the New York Fed's controversial President, William C.

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How many times have you heard that the key to reviving the economy is fixing the banks? The thinking usually goes: If the banks are fixed--if bad loans are taken are taken off the books, and if regulations are put in place to prevent risky new loans--then they will resume lending to consumers who will buy cars and homes, and to businesses that will invest in plants and hire new workers. That's probably why Washington has spent the last six months proposing bank reforms, but not worrying about whether the first stimulus adopted is going to be sufficient. In my opinion, that's a mistake.

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