by Martin Wolf Read more
By Lucian Bebchuk
Most immediate reactions to the defeat of the emergency legislation in the House of Representatives seem to assume that, facing a choice between approval and government inaction that could bring about a financial meltdown, the House irresponsibly and irrationally opted for the latter. But the defeat of this particular bill hardly leaves us with inaction as the only alternative.
The bill was defeated at least partly because of its inability to gather sufficient public support due to its evident flaws. Congress can and should adopt quickly a bill that would address these flaws and consequently enjoy strong public support.
There is widespread recognition of the depth of the crisis and the need for governmental intervention. Why was the bill nonetheless defeated? Because there is an equally widespread recognition that spending $700 billion on purchasing (and insuring) toxic paper would be a highly flawed form of intervention.
During the week preceding the vote, it has become evident that the government’s contemplated plans for valuing troubled assets would lead to a quagmire. Opposition to the bill grew due to expectations that purchasing toxic paper could well result in massive complexities, large giveaways, and substantial public losses. Read more
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