Watching it now, the thing that scares me most is that Paulson is asking for $700 billion, but a lot of the most important details will be determined down the road. We don’t know how the purchasing mechanism will work, how much risk taxpayers will be taking on, or how the government will price these securities — after all, a large part of the problem is that we don’t know what they’re worth. Bernanke said that we should purchase assets at their value if held to maturity, rather than the fire sale prices they are currently valued at given depressed housing prices. But, as I noted earlier, its scandalous Paulson speaks of “illiquid mortgage assets” that are cloging the system, when in reality government is stepping in to give banks a better deal.
Also, the Democrats keep asking about getting equity stakes for taxpayers in exchange for purchasing these troubled assets. Paulson insists that doing so would reduce company participation. But, as much as I shudder at the idea of government ownership of private companies, it’s sickening to think that taxpayers will bear all of this risk, and then if a few years down the road the market recovers and banking profits are soaring, taxpayers don’t get compensated beyond recouping the initial cost of the bailout, if we’re lucky.
One thing I will say is that, based on the questioning, it seems there’s a lot of bipartisan skepticism.