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Take Over the Banks

I like the proposal for a central bank given in the NYT’s Anonymous Banker’s proposal. First of all, the analogy to a used car dealer is one I thought of myself. We would all think bankers were stupid if they bought cars that didn’t run; instead they bought obscure securities that didn’t have the value the bankers paid for them, which somehow seems less stupid, although it’s probably more stupid because bankers are supposed to be experts on securities, but not on cars. The idea of buying “toxic assets” is good for taxpayers only if the government pays what they are worth, which won’t help the banks. Bankers are screaming to get rid of the “mark to market” rule, i.e., the rule that makes them carry on their books only the actual value of their assets. They are saying that the current market value is too low. It’s like students complaining about grades. If you’re failing, you don’t want grades; if you’re doing well, you don’t mind grades; you might even want them, so that other people, e.g., your parents, will know how well you are doing. The bankers are like failing students.

I hadn’t really thought about shareholder value, but the idea of preserving shareholder rights, but keeping them on ice until the bank comes out of the “central bank” seems like a good one. I can see lots of bookkeeping problems, however, if the stock is on hold for 10 years. People will die, get divorced, etc., and figuring out who gets what when the bank re-emerges will be tough.

Since I proposed it earlier, I especially like the idea of limiting the size of the banks when they re-emerge and renewing Glass-Steagall, or something like it to prevent the banks from become too big to fail again. The government could create three, four or five roughly equivalent regions and then limit any bank to just one region.

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