July 16, 2010


Don't believe the populist hype (Becky Quick, 7/16/10, Fortune)

Beware the revisionists. It was bound to happen eventually, but here we are, less than two years after the U.S. faced its worst financial crisis in decades, and a steady stream of politicians routinely take to the airwaves to declare that the government overreacted with the $700 billion TARP plan and ripped off the taxpayer. That the incredible interventions by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury weren't necessary. That we should have taken our lumps and let the chips fall where they may.

Yeah, right. Jimmy Dunne, senior managing principal at investment-banking firm Sandler O'Neill, summed up my feelings perfectly when I asked him recently what he thought of those politicians: "They're idiots," he said.

Dunne is one of many who watched the meltdown from a courtside seat. "You had to be at your desk every day, but there was just this feeling of hopelessness, like there was nothing you could do," he says of those dark days in the fall of 2008. "You just had this feeling in your stomach that if the government didn't stand up and say, 'We will be there,' the whole thing would be crumbling down."

Why would things crumble? Because our financial system is one that operates on the idea of faith. Faith that institutions will back their promises, that people will pay their bills. And this nation went through a period where everyone questioned that faith. [...]

That's why the government had to step in and take such extraordinary steps, from backing the credit markets to insuring money market investments to raising the FDIC's deposit insurance to $250,000 per bank account. Combined, those moves helped stop the run on the banks and kept the panic from spreading.

It's peculiar, FDR prolonged the Depression needlessly yet is held up as a savior of capitalism, while W averted a Depression and gets no credit. Thankfully, he wasn't in the job for plaudits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 16, 2010 5:10 PM
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